A&E » Arts

New film documents life of psychedelic artist

Montreal-based Chris Dyer discusses life, philosophy and art in film



WHAT: Positive Creations , a dinner/movie night

WHERE: Elephant & Castle

WHEN: 7 p.m.


I told a friend at the Whistler Arts Council to consider exhibiting the work of psychedelic skateboard artist Chris Dyer at Millennium Place. I figured, hey, it's different from what's exhibited around town and will bring the disparate groups of hippie yoga types, the mushroom eaters and skateboarders that occupy this town. This friend responded, "Skateboarders? Since when do they like hippie trippy mushroom art?"

It's a good question and the answer, according to Dyer, is they don't. Not really. The skateboarding industry is still dominated by either the punk-inspired skull and roses art or the hip-hop aesthetic - the stuff that sells the most products possible.

But since 2001, Montreal-based, Peruvian-born Dyer has painted his own line of wildly psychedelic, deeply spiritual portraits for Creation Skateboards. These boards are not the usual shredding gear. This is art visualizing the spiritual progression of modern man, drawing on ancient Mayan, Incan and Hawaiian aesthetics among others, while incorporating lowbrow art in for good measure.

"In the skateboard world, it's not cool to be spiritual and in the visionary world it's not that respected to be this skater graffiti kid, you know?" Dyer says. "But you are what you are and you got to keep it real. You teach that there is spirituality in everything and in the skateboard world, I'm trying to bring out that it is a spiritual practice, that it is a meditation."

Dyer has his legion of fans and supporters from both inside and outside the skateboarding community. He's exhibited his work all over Canada and the U.S., as well as in Peru and Germany. Some hail him as a visionary. While he's all but ignored by the mainstream skateboarding community, his aesthetic is considered by some to be the future of skateboard art.

"I always try to find how to unite all these people who are similar but they just don't know about each other because they just stay in their respective boxes," Dyer says.

Dyer's life and art are explored in the documentary Positive Creations, premiering at the Elephant & Castle this Friday. In 2008, Arkansas production company Dreamtime Cinema contacted Dyer wanting to make a film about him. Instead of following him around for a year, Dyer offered to do all the filming himself and for the next year he filmed his travels around Europe, Egypt, the West Coast of America, and the Burning Man and Shambhala festivals.

In the film, he interviews friends and acquaintances, including artists Alex Grey (the well-known visionary artist who found notoriety designing album covers for Tool), Andy Howell and Xavi, to describe Dyer's personal philosophy and his life story, from his youth spent as a misanthropic soccer hooligan in Peru to his development into a prolific artist spreading a message of ecological and spiritual progression.

His art is extraordinarily trippy, using bright, neon colours in an almost cartoon depiction of the web of spiritual connectedness we all share. And, yes, psychedelic drugs were a big part of his art in the early days but he has since moved on.

"You learn from it, you get the message and you move on," he says. "I think if you get stuck and keep on doing them forever, it's like saying, 'I didn't learn the lesson because I need to keep taking that class over and over and over again.'"

Tickets for the film, and the dinner held before, are on sale at Hempire and Elephant & Castle for $20. Proceeds will go to support WMN.fm.