Looking back to see the future

For a young man, Chris Foster is an old soul. The interdisciplinary artist, who obtained his Bachelor degree in Fine Arts from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2008, finds his aesthetic cues in old books and obsolete technology.

He feels that his generation is the last of the analog era, and is fascinated with how old technology was built to last.

“Everything now is built with the idea of obsolescence,” he says.

Foster likes looking to the past for cues and insights into the future.

“There is lots of doom and gloom in contemporary culture,” he says. “The youth today don’t seem to see a long term future — it’s very bleak.”

Foster is trying to come to terms with this feeling of hopelessness in contemporary life by contrasting it with a dark sense of humour and optimism in his work. His themes have come from social conditions in urban centres, the inflated economy and lack of opportunity.

“These are themes that I find I’m attracted to and are a driving force in my work,” he says. “It’s a critique of contemporary society and culture, but it also embodies a kind of aesthetic retro.”

As a result, his work is an escape into a simpler time.

Foster’s latest exhibition, Frontiers In Real Estate, is a travelling exhibition now showing at the ODD Gallery in Dawson City until Dec. 13.

The first component features six miniature, three-dimensional scale model trucks, grouped under the title Convoy. They have been altered to include traditional wooden dwellings, complete with shingling and architectural embellishments common to houses found in Eastern Canada.

The idea, says Foster, comes from the hippie era of the 1970s, when dwellings such as these were known as rolling houses. He feels they are the antithesis to the mass-produced aluminum campers we see today.

The second component is a series of silk-screened prints, one of Foster’s favourite mediums. These prints depict imagined makeshift dwellings set into remote Northern landscapes and industrial ruins. Foster manually cut each individual colour separation using a light table, before scanning and integrating them into the final screen for print.

The third part of Foster’s exhibition, entitled New Civilizations, is a series of collages of photographs that he cut and pasted in order to meld past, present and future. His creative process is motivated by production-based projects, mostly using old fashioned, traditional methods.

“I enjoy working with my hands,” he says. “Labour is process-oriented and very satisfying.”

Foster hopes to focus more on printmaking in the future. There is a long history and tradition to it, he says.

“I’m trying to explore new avenues and opportunities, and want to surround myself with new things,” he says.

He doesn’t know when he’ll do another show, or where he’s going to go next with his art, but he’s going to keep at it.

“No matter where I end up, my creative practice will always be a dog’s breakfast,” he says.

Frontiers in Real Estate will be at the ODD Gallery, located in Dawson City at the corner of Princess St. and 2nd Ave., until Dec. 13. For more information, contact the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture at 993-5005, or go to www.KIAC.ca/ODDGallery.

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