Artist Interview: Introducing ARC resident Mir Agol

As pre-lude to the Eastside Culture Crawl this upcoming November 2011 (mark your calendar!) I'd like to share with you some of the amazing resident artists here at The ARC at Powell @ Commercial in East Vancouver ... Join us here and visit this blog from now until November and each month I will feature a new artist. See what we do, where we live, inside our studios, and what we create. Hear our stories. Join us in our journey here at the ARC and leading up to the Crawl.

For August I'd like to introduce ARC Resident Artist Mir Agol (birth name Elia Mishkis). Mir is one of the most capable, skilled, talented, and extraordinary artists and human beings I have ever met. Let me tell you a little bit about Mir and then let's ask him some questions and see some images of his work and go deeper into his creations.

Mir is graduate of The College of Art and Design with Excellence in Kharkov, Ukraine and earned a BA in Fine Arts and Design. Mir describes himself as an experienced artist and designer, a colorful and dynamic individual who possesses a unique combination of crafting skills and computer design experience. He has over 20 years of project experience involving corporate identity development; sandblasting, stained & leaded glass design, exterior design of modern sculpture gardens, teaching arts and crafts, exhibit design; and casting, modeling, and molding. Mir also has training and experience in classical drawing and painting (water color, acrylic, oil), Graphic Design, Photography, Typefacing, and is proficient in Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand, Corel Draw, and Fireworks.

He is fluent in three languages; English, Hebrew, and Russian. And, to top it off, he is a certified ski and snowboard instructor, avid rock climber, and unicyclist.

Mir, please tell us about your extraordinary childhood…about your childhood mentors and share with us some memories of your early experiences as a child growing up in art.

One night, when I was 7 years old, on a *Sylvester night, I wandered across the street from my home in Kharkov, Ukraine to the Design Academy located directly across from me, and befriended a couple of students form Design Academy.

I was a very easy communicative kid and joined them in a night of art, music and dancing. That night one of the artists, named Alyona, was very kind and danced with me. I met her boyfriend later that night when he asked if it would be possible for him to have a dance with his girlfriend. A friendship was formed and I fell in love with both completely.

[* Sylvester night: The night of the Holy Sylvester, the last night of the year, has always been the night of fools and a funny good time. The saint of this day, Pope Sylvester I, according to legend is the man who healed from leprosy and baptized the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.]

Eugene Zavarzin and Alyona - Each one was a personality – they let me follow them around the Art Institute, help out, and learn from them as they went about their studies and projects. I managed to become their small brother, apprentice, little colleague… I started by washing his paint brushes and then moved into helping to build small miniature 3-D building models because at that time there were no computers. They taught me how cut paper with exacto knife, use an air brush, juggle, play guitar… and later – how to make stained glass panels. It was an amazingly rewarding experience for me…. How lucky was I – it was an indescribable world of fun with two amazing human beings who were happy to have me around.

In your studio I notice many small metal sculpture which you said were models for your bigger installations, can you please tell us about these large metal installations that you do…

The first sculpture I would like to share with you is called Unity. It stands nine (9) feet tall and is made of steel and stained glass. This Piece was positioned on the patio of “The Perch” The ARC Cafe for 2 years. Then it was relocated to Peace Arch for the 13th annual Peace Arch Sculpture Exhibition. Here is a You Tube video showing other sculptures at that exhibit. Currently it’s displayed on the campus at University of British Columbia. Unity was also included in Public Art in Vancouver - Angels among Lions A book about Vancouver Public by John Steil and Aileen Stalker.

Unity was created from the inspiration of an infinite beauty and flow of opposite natures. The indescribable of an unknown from within a vortex of coexistence of feminine and masculine beginnings. It all comes from relationships through out life. With myself growing within relationships with many amazing friends I’ve been lucky to have in my life. It is a tribute to all those who generously shared with me some beautiful moments. Also – it is about Twin Flames.

Looking back, once I started to build this piece here in Vancouver… I realized that the very first sketch was made in Palestine in a little village of Sa-Nur, which was once an Artist Village where I lived, and in ruins now…

The first model was made of black and white paper. It was 8” tall. As I say this it brings tears to my eyes as so many of the people I knew back then aren’t alive anymore – I wish this piece to commemorate them too!

Once I have made Unity in its full size and in my the real full scale – my final vision of it - I feel like then I can die peacefully. For now, I have to say that it is not yet made the size I had envisioned it. The current sculpture you see in these pictures was built limited by the size of the workshop doorways… it is always a way of thinking with sculpture… how you can make it happen, with what you have around.

What is it like to work with metal?

I have these moments of an inspiration flow, as I get to play with little pieces of steel. Once I would get to weld – the pieces would just appear - much themselves…and there is that amazing feeling that you co-create… you let the creation flow through you… this is where art begins I believe… you are most happy being if you can just let it happen … through you. So – I call it metal sculpting metal origami often… I gathered a bunch of those smaller models that are in my studio, and I make them into their true size.

Can you tell us about the process of creating a sculpture this size and also how you would go about installing it…

As I mentioned before– I usually begin with a paper model. The very first sketch is a paper. This is where I listen to my inspiration… once it is heard, the rest is a simple magic of leaving the life in this dimension of materials around us…and a bit of a luck of that feeling of ‘resistance of materials ‘… some people have it… than it is possible to play with 3D art.

There is never an easy way – for me there isn’t – I’m not looking for one… I will always push my limits, and the limits of materials I play with – this is my time of pain and glory. And this is how I can hopefully make the viewer to stop and say: ‘ wow – this is cool!’ – and this is my best reward by the end of it all…

What made you choose to do this form -large metal and glass sculpture - of art work considering your broad background and training in so many other areas of art?

Thank you for your compliments, I actually think that I’m not nearly trained enough… but am interested in interconnection of medias…

I majored in Graphic Design and have always been fascinated with Font Building and Calligraphy for example… and I hope it comes through in my work with metal and glass…

Since computers took over - I realized – I cannot be in front of one more than 4 hours… so I had to look for other playground – fire is my nature – so it was quite easy to get to know to weld metal, fuse glass.

For glass I had a long time love… started when I was yet a kid. My first stained glass panel I made (with a lot of help of my blessed mentor – Eugene Zavarzin) when I was about 10 years old. It is an amazing material - latest research suggests – it is not even solid… as we perceive it….if we would of taken a piece of an old stained glass panel – say – a thousand years old… and look at the little piece from a side – we would see that the top is thinner than a bottom… - it is flowing! fact it is flowing in hour hands! We are just not meant to be quite synchronized with THIS flow….yet – we can play with this material, create beautiful things of it – isn’t it amazing?

(Yes, it is! By the way, acrylic paint flows as well, as it’s drying but also afterwards!)

What are art projects are you currently working on?

Just as I usually read quite a few books at a time… - I work on few projects at a time always…

Currently, I preparing to build one of my next pieces “Dialog’. It has a base of a ball about 4 foot diameter, and I am looking for an old Marine Buoy for the base.

I am also working on one commission – it is inspired by my piece which was exhibited in Havana Café – “Tall Ship Shadows”. A collaborated project with fellow artists – Gabriel Morosan and Sol Diaz – it is promising to be big scale and intriguing – lots of photography, nude, motion and…glass.

As well – I’m sketching out a new model – a piece which is about our current situation on the planet – relative proximity of apocalypses with an option of taking care of a place where we live… the name just came to me recently - “Requiem for the Earth”.

If someone reading this blog would like to see more of your work, visit an upcoming art show, or get a hold of you, how would they do so?

Mir, Thank you so much for taking the time out of your very busy schedule the to partake in this interview!