|THE OPENING is all about delving into the fascinating, quirky and wonderful visual arts in Vancouver. Each week we’ll feature an artist, cover an exhibition, discuss a lecture and everything else in-between to delve deep into who and what makes art happen!|
I met up with Todd Francis on the last morning of Knowshow, where he was working on a long scroll drawing of pigeons doing dirty things. Grappling over a grimy sock, pecking at spilled pharmaceuticals, or waddling away with a medical syringe under one wing, they were comical in their sheer hopelessness and yet poignant in the context of marginalized urban areas, such as Vancouver’s own Pigeon Park. This, I learned, was Francis’ signature approach: dark humour served up with serious social awareness at the core.
Like the characters that embody it, Francis’ work is strong in its gutsiness and adaptability. With subject matter ranging from warming oceans and flooded ecosystems to cops getting their faces bitten off by their own dogs, it’s funny, irreverent, and darkly serious all at once, tapping into the underlying cultural anxiety that occupies these near-apocalyptic times.
Francis was easygoing and friendly to everyone who approached him as he worked and didn’t even bat an eye when somebody accidentally knocked a (thankfully sealed) bottle of Smirnoff Ice onto a stack of his drawings. With a lack of immediate seating around, we got comfortable on the floor and talked about his motivations, activism, and artistic process.