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North Vancouver large-scale tile art installation first of its kind in Canada

The installation is hoped to offer passersby upliftment, positivity, and creative connection during a time when it is most needed. 🎨

A large-scale public art piece created during the pandemic and inspired by the beauty of the North Shore now graces the walls of a North Vancouver building.

In the heart of the Lonsdale neighbourhood, a uniquely abstract art installation encompassing four 16’ x 10’ hand-painted tile panels can be seen at Crest Adera development at 108 Eighth St. East, between Lonsdale and St. Georges avenues.

The colourful art piece that features striking turquoise, warm yellows, and earth tones was an international collaboration between British Columbian artist Deb Chaney and Viuva Lamego of Portugal.

In an overview of the project, Chaney said she was approached by Canadian representatives of Viuva Lamego, who had been following her art career, and suggested they apply for the Adera Developments art proposal with the idea that they would render her artwork in hand-painted tiles on the building's outer facade.

“Since 1849, Viuva Lamego has worked with artists worldwide to recreate their artwork into tile; bringing protection, beauty, and longevity in the form of public art installations to buildings and metro stations all over the world,” Chaney explained.  

“I was beyond honoured to be considered in this partnership.”

Chaney, an award-winning Vancouver-based contemporary abstract artist, is inspired by her mission that “creating art is healing and self-empowering.”

When it came to creating the artwork for the proposal, Chaney first looked at the building, designed by Integra Architecture, to decide what would be a good fit.

“Looking at the small-scale model in their showroom, I noted the dramatic rooflines, learned about their use of mass timber and extensive natural materials, and understood this building would become a stunning landmark “fin” design element with cascading water features complementing the North Shore Mountains, Burrard Inlet and Vancouver Skyline setting,” she said.

“As I saw it, my job as an artist was to create paintings that would not only bring vitality and beauty but also work in synergy with these elements and integrate this building with its surroundings.”

To get inspired, she said she headed off to Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, located about a 10-minute drive from the property, and sat by the river in the forest.

“Soaking up and being in nature for my inspiration, I watched the river with its clear-flowing turquoise waters, felt the smooth natural stones, and observed the earthy forest colours and textures surrounding me,” she said.

“The movement, colours and textures combined with my love and passion for painting became four small mixed-media abstract paintings – Take it Away I, II, III, and IV – that were proposed for this installation.”

During the pandemic, she worked with Viuva Lamego to render her West Coast Abstracts into the four original hand-painted tile panels.

“The painting process took three months for the artisans and craftsmen at Viuva Lamego to painstakingly match the colour, line works, texture, and strokes of every nuance of the original paintings," Chaney said. 

“The overall effect and accuracy is stunning and a true testament to this collaboration.”

On April 17, 2021, four palettes, weighing a total of 750 kilograms, of 2,000 tiles from the Vivua Lamego factory arrived and the installation process began.

By June 18, the installation was complete. 

The two-year project is the first of its kind in Canada. Unlike many of the smaller tile public artworks, the newly erected multi-panelled art piece differs in it being non-representational abstract art in the style of Rothko, Kandinski and Pollock.

“This project is very special to us, as it was done remotely, with a synergetic connection between the artist and Viúva Lamego artisans and painting masters,” Catarina Cardoso of Viuva Lamego ceramics based in Lisbon, Portugal, said.

The installation is hoped to offer passersby "upliftment," positivity, and creative connection during a time when it is most needed.

“We all want to live in vibrant communities with dynamic public spaces that enable connection and conversation,” City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan said.

“This pandemic has highlighted even more what public art adds to our sense of wellbeing and community.”

Elisia Seeber is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.