From Free from Easy
Snowboarder Susanna Howe describes the origins of the sport as “the ultimate concept signifying youth, freedom, glamour and the future; rebellion against the established and relief from the mundane. Boarders were alternately praised as negotiators of the future by zeitgeist-watchers and damned as degenerate derelicts by the old or the uninitiated.”
Borne of an adventurous spirit and resistance to complacent attitudes, much has been made of late about the industry spawned by skate and snowboarding culture as it has shifted from its rebellious subcultural status into the mainstream. Irrespective of its growing populatirty, this culture has simply been a way of life for artist John Antoski since he was young. “My close friends and I all made stuff growing up, and never for a second did we think we were making art,” he says. “I still skate, snowboard and make things, but now the things I create turn up on snowboards and run in magazines.”
At first glance, Antoski’s body of work seems split into two camps: fine and commercial art. By earning a degree in drawing from the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) and exhibiting in galleries throughout Canada and the U.S., Antoski’s practice is situated within a fine-arts context, while his designs for Class5 Snowboards are divergent, residing within the commercial arena. To the artist, however, his personal work and commercial work are not mutually exclusive. “My artistic practice and commercial design are directly related,” he says. “I believe fine art stimulates design and vice versa.” Antoski indeed finds his creative muse within the juxtaposition of fine art and craft, evident in his recent solo exhibition Free from Easy, on display at the Artist Proof Gallery (located in the Alberta Printmakers’ Society facility). The exhibition is a collection of works that revel in the space where form and function collide. In fact, these works, which are the fruits of Antoski’s recent three-week residency at Alberta Printmakers, are solid illustrations that one can easily imagine on the underside of a snowboard.
Antoski says this recent work is emblematic of the shift in his creative process after leaving art school. “Out of school, it can be very difficult to practise the same rituals that once came so naturally.” With it being graduation season, Antoski speaks about the challenges artists are typically faced with when leaving the scholastic environment. He describes his process after graduation, where artists are given the luxury of time, resources and peer review to work through ideas, as an endeavour more firmly rooted in trial and error. For Antoski, Free from Easy marks a rite of passage from student work to his independent practice, one that finds him recently relocated from Calgary to San Francisco, beginning a career at, appropriately, the magazine Transworld Snowboards.
Free from Easy contains elements of Bauhaus art theory that emerged in Germany during the early part of the 20th century. Bauhaus proponents aimed to bridge the gap between art, craft and technology, and it has been highly influential in many areas of art, most notably in architecture and graphic design. The exhibit greets the viewer with the title piece, free from easy — a bold, layered pattern on a skateboard, making a literal reference to the marriage of form and function and providing a context for the rest of the exhibit.
Antoski’s works employ a graphic approach to printmaking. The vibrant colours and playful figures that construct the landscapes of his new body of work beautifully encapsulate the energy of skate and snowboard culture. A series of small prints rests on the back wall, made up of abstract designs. Their geometric patterns criss-cross and play with the eye, giving life to the surface. These prints are then mounted onto thick wood, further referencing the boards that they could indeed end up on, and by association the subculture that this style has evolved from.