Please allow us to specify that Arne Gutmann is not paying for editorial space in this here paper.
Yes, he's taken up a great many more columns than most other local artists (with the possible exception of Ali Milner). Yes, it might appear that we favour Mr. Gutmann over, say, Laurel Terlesky but we can assure you that we don't.
The fact is, whenever an artist has a strange new idea on display in or around Whistler, we're likely to write about it. It just so happens that Gutmann (creator of the much-beloved Poo Font) is executing some strange new idea on the regular. His latest is "Paper This," on display now at Millennium Place until Feb. 9.
For the past few years, Gutmann has been making his own paper out of a variety of recycled products: socks, credit cards, cigarette packs, sales receipts and so on. Last year, he decided to give a sheet of this homemade canvas to Sea to Sky artist sto see what they could come up with. He gave one to Chili Thom, to Taka Sudo, to Lauren Ritz, to Dave "Pepe" Petko and to Scott "The Incredible Amoeba" Johnson. He gave one to about 25 other artists and the results are now on display at Millennium Place.
"Paper This" is both a showcase of the Sea to Sky's most offbeat artists, as well as a direct statement about how art can be produced and consumed
"It shows people that you don't have to go to Michael's and spend $50 on one particular piece to use as a canvas," Gutmann says. "You can use alternate materials, still have a great show and also some great results."
His papermaking experiments began several years ago, partly as an act of necessity (really, what artist can afford $50 per canvas?) and an experiment to see what he could do with recycled materials. The results are works of art in and of themselves. The artist's works simply add another dimension to the work.
Some of the artists made literal references to the materials that canvas was made on. Others did what they do best: Chili Thom painted one of his age-friendly, evergreen hallucinations while Taka Sudo painted some angry beast and splattered it with neon spray paint.
"I wanted to see what people would come up with on the paper that I created," Gutmann says. "It was more of an experiment to see what everybody's idea would be for the art."
He'd done another paper show previously, in which he gave many of the same artists seven-inch canvases. The works were on display briefly at the former Millar Creek Café. This time around, Gutmann gave the artists a bigger space to work with. He debuted this set of paintings at a show in Vancouver and exhibited it in a few galleries throughout Vancouver, Whistler and Squamish. The Millennium Place exhibit will be the last one before Gutmann retires this collection and moves on to something else.
In May, he'll bring the so-called "wooden box show" to Millennium Place. It's a similar concept to "Paper This," where each of the artists was given a wooden wine box on which to offer their own interpretation of Gutmann's set theme, "What is Your Issue?"
He also has a plan for another show called "Garbage." Details are scant right now but it will involve artists creating something out of a piece of relatively clean refuse.
A theme is emerging here: recycled materials for papermaking. Wooden boxes and garbage used for canvas. Gutmann says that the entire world's recycled materials, be it garbage or excrement, is ripe for artistic expression.
"You don't have to buy your medium," he says. "I've paid for nothing. Absolutely nothing. The whole show (Paper This) is pretty well free except for my time. That was the only thing that cost me anything, and indirectly that's not any real cost."
Of course, all of this is a round about way for us to hammer home the fact that Arne Gutmann is alive and well and impossible to forget, no matter how much we try. We blame that cursed Poo Font. Gutmann persists in our memory because of it. Like a stain on your Prodiges, he persists.