A Window on Vancouver Artists: Pierre Leichner

Artist Pierre Leichner is exhibiting his altered books in the Window in Seotember.

Artist Pierre Leichner is exhibiting his altered books in the Window in September.

During the months of September and October, you can see Pierre Leichner‘s artworks on display in the Window, an exhibition space at the Roundhouse where Vancouver artists are asked to explore the link between community and creativity.

How long have you been a practicing artist?

I was a psychiatrist and I stopped working in 2010. I went to Emily Carr to get my bachelor’s degree then I went to Concordia University in Montreal to get my master’s degree in Fine Arts. Since 2011 essentially, I’ve switched to full-time art practice.

What is your artistic medium?

I am an interdisciplinary artist. I use a variety of media depending on the topic of research. For the exhibition in the window, the medium is altered books.

 

Pierre Leichner hand-carved this representation of the Timmins Gold Mine into a book. Photo courtesy of Pierre Leichner.

Pierre Leichner hand-carved this representation of the Timmins Gold Mine into a book. Photo courtesy of Pierre Leichner.

How do you connect with community in your work?

My art is socially engaged practice as much as possible, which means I do projects involving the community as much as possible. Usually, I am inspired by the community to participate as the artist and make their own work. It’s a collaborative model, where I, the artist, am more of a mentor or guide on the project.

One upcoming example is on August 16th, I will be at Contour, the first of three installations for Conduit, at the Dr. Sun Yet Sen garden. Conduit is a year long project inciting conversations on nature by the Art is Land Network. The participants make environmental artworks in the park, using all natural plant materials. I will be setting up the sites where they will do these installations and giving them advice on how to do the project, so they will be doing the work on the paths of the park. In this project, the artist is just a facilitator.

I have also been involved in mentoring the two artists for the upcoming Who’s Afraid of Outsider Art exhibit at the Roundhouse through the Community Arts Council of Vancouver. On the one hand, we arranged for gallery tours and visits for the two selected artists so we could look at other people’s work. On the other hand, we worked on the artists’ websites and so we coached them on how to run the workshops they will be running during the exhibition. Then, in the end, the artists will have the show which is meaningful to them.

How did you consider the Window and the act of “looking in” through the glass on the art?

Artist books are often shown in windows, in libraries, or in community spaces. The choice of the books and the show is I think are very current to the issues that are being talked about in BC around mining, Alberta Tar Sands and the pipeline. The books themselves are all pharmaceutical accompaniments, large texts published by the pharmaceutical industry listing all the drugs that are available in Canada. They are given free to hospitals and physicians who want to have access to that information.  It is somewhat promotional in some ways because they don’t have all the information on the drugs; they just have the basic information.

And there is, in a way, a similarity that can be drawn between the pharmaceutical industry and the mining industry.

The texts that Pierre Leichner uses for his art pieces are English, French and Spanish pharmaceutical compendiums.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

The texts that Pierre Leichner uses for his art pieces are English, French and Spanish pharmaceutical compendiums. Photo courtesy of the artist.

It’s not a black and white issue because both are necessary, and it’s not like humans need to stop mining or humans need to stop taking medication, but the industries are set up to a number of inequities because, all around the world, miners are not looked after adequately, and also because the environment is often not adequately managed, so there are problems. The pharmaceutical industry is somewhat the same way. Sometimes the industry promotes things that are more in favour of the stockholders of the pharmaceutical companies rather than the population.

Too much of their focus has been more about making lots of money for very few people.

The issues that Leichner explores in his artwork are very current to issues being talked about in British Columbia.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

The issues that Leichner explores in his artwork are very current to issues being talked about in British Columbia. This piece shows a representation of the Alberta Oil Sands. Photo courtesy of the artist.

How do you hope the viewer will react to your exhibition in the window?

I hope people are intrigued by the artwork itself and some find it interesting because they are a miniature representation of an aerial view of an open-pit mine. I hope the viewer will ask themselves why it is represented in pharmaceutical texts and what are the implications of that, and maybe start thinking about what are the connections between these two industries.


By Lindsay Glauser Kwan, Roundhouse Blog Team. Lindsay is a creative writer and blogger specializing in arts, culture, fashion and lifestyle. She has written for Vancouver Is Awesome, emerge, The Liar, The Blind Hem and various blogs. A graduate of The Writer’s Studio at SFU and active in Pandora’s Collective, she features regularly at local literary events.

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