Thursday, 19 April 2012

Chinatown/Gastown - Wandering through Vancouver

Gastown is the oldest area of Vancouver, a city that can otherwise seem to be a gleaming clutch of skyscrapers held between the mountains, forest and ocean. Like areas in many cities where there is poverty and homelessness, low rent also means the growth of an artistic community. 

We took an early evening wander down Main St, through neighbouring Chinatown, then explored the three parallel roads that form Gastown: Powell Street, Cordova Street and Hastings Street. The extraordinary thing about this trio is that whilst Powell and Cordova seem to be succumbing enthusiastically to gentrification, West Hastings had enough openair drug taking, prostitution and street selling to make it seem like Hamsterdam in The Wire. 

Instagallery at Kee's Laundry

There are sides to the area to be celebrated, however. Our first stop was Kee's Laundry, where Instagallery, a very timely exhibition of Instagram images of Chinatown opened today. The exhibition is interactive - images are pulled from the #ChinatownYVR hashtag - and they are already showing over 600 entries.

Just around the corner was The Board of Trade, a great new independent clothing shop. It had a really minimal layout that made it feel like an exhibition space, and co-owner Eunice Quan is rightly proud of their menswear offering, much of it handmade by business partner David Lin. It felt a lot like what Liquor Store are doing in Birmingham, but with more of a focus on small designers. A favourite in womenswear was the collection from Priory of Ten.

The Board of Trade
Heading into Gastown, Gallery Gachet was showing Drawuary, the result of 14 artists making one drawing every day in February. The results were reminiscent of the work of Guo Fengyi we saw at Vancouver Contemparary Art Gallery last week. Collected together, the drawings were like pages from a scrapbook, with the timescale of the project making them seem like cryptic diary entries.

Drawuary at Gallery Gachet

 Finally, we pressed our noses against the Royal Canadian Snowflake Factory. Housed in a heritage building on East Cordova Street, Robert Chaplin casts snowflake shapes in silver, and just like real snowflakes, each piece is unique.

A Royal Canadian Snowflake

What seemed to link Instagallery, Drawuary, the Royal Canadian Snowflake Factory and even The Board of Trade, was a real clarity of vision; each is a simple concept executed with quiet confidence and style.

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