Ever feel like someone’s watching you?
Pause on the stairwell in the centre court of the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts, and you will.
The stairway offers an ideal viewing place for a new mural by artist Daniel J. Kirk, painting on the circular second level that surrounds the stairs. “The performing arts centre is a big part of my life and a big part of the city’s cultural fabric so when you first walk in, this stairwell, to me, becomes very much a stage. It’s sort of its own little amphitheatre,” says Kirk. “It was a little intimidating because it is so grand. I’ve never really painted ‘up,’ to have that interaction with the viewer where things are above them.”
What you’re looking at from this stairwell — and what’s looking back at you — is a series of giant faces, plus a smattering of woodland creatures. “The majority of people coming through this space are audience members, and maybe administration and the behind-the-scenes that makes this place really function,” explains Kirk. “I wanted to put them in the role of performer, for a change, put them in the centre of attention.”
Of the faces themselves, he says, “There is a moment here that’s not defined in what these expressions are. I made a conscious effort to not include mouths and to really limit the amount of overt expression in the eyes and in the gaze.”
Look carefully and you’ll see elements of the building’s architecture, such as columns and windows, reflected in the mural. Look carefully, and you’ll see that the stairwell itself is painted in a gradient from the floor to the mural itself. Look carefully and you’ll notice the word ‘LOOK’ split across the stairwell’s entrance.
And if you look around the corner to the Arts Learning Centre, you’ll see another artistic landscape unfolding, crammed full of Tim Burton-esque figures. Knowing a lot of children would pass by and into the room, Kirk says he wanted to “creat[e] a sense of whimsy and fantasy and an open narrative. There’s a story here but it’s undefined.
“There’s a lot of little subtleties in this one, and I think it’s in the subtleties that I feel there’s some success happening,” he says.
So the next time you’re passing through the Epcor Centre, take a minute to explore this latest piece of art. “This is a very big confluence of things — people coming for lunch, people passing through all the time after a show,” says Kirk. “I wanted to create something where people have the opportunity to stop and look and reflect a little bit.”