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Pender Island artist finds peace in organized chaos

What: Luke Ramsey, Off Lines Where: Madrona Gallery When: Opening tonight, 7 to 9 p.m. Continues to Sept. 26.
Pender Island artist Luke Ramsey's show, Off Lines, opens at Madrona Gallery on Thursday.

What: Luke Ramsey, Off Lines

Where: Madrona Gallery

When: Opening tonight, 7 to 9 p.m. Continues to Sept. 26.


Most people with a computer can relate to the starting point for Pender Island artist Luke Ramsey’s latest series: an urge to take a break from the Internet and connect in real life.

“It’s so easy to go online and write something and communicate with people, but I find with art it’s so much more rewarding,” he said.

With visual art, he said, there’s more space for interpretation for the viewer. And creating the works offline, through a labour-intensive process of free-hand drawing, Ramsey also has space for reflection.

“That’s really apparent in the work in this show, too: just reminding myself that there is so much life in small details to pay attention to,” he said.

Small details are at the heart of about 25 ink works on paper that Ramsey has created for Off Lines. In a piece called Non-Prophet, tiny figures and symbols gather together to form a face, with a third eye for higher consciousness.

“Every little piece matters, just as we as individuals matter in a complex world,” Ramsey said.

The prophet’s features are composed of ornamental emblems and icons that transition from left to right to become the natural flowers and elements that inspired them. Miniature masks also bleed into the little animals and creatures that they mimic.

That chaos, he said, is a comment on how formulaic answers to life’s questions are rarely accurate.

“If a spiritual leader comes with a message they offer you, saying, ‘This is the meaning,’ it becomes too formalized,” said Ramsey, who is also a freelance illustrator for the Globe and Mail and Wired magazine.

“This is more a comment on the way life is constantly moving. … Life is a little more mysterious than that.”

In Made in Kanata, a drawing of a classically Canadian flannel shirt, Ramsey references the labour-intensive process that workers undertake to make our clothes, by meticulously drawing intricate patterns into the fabric. He also said it’s an acknowledgement of the role environments play in the formation of a work.

“Each pattern is different and what I’m trying to say in this piece is that it’s important where you live and what your environment is — it’s important to recognize that and think about why the person created that thing.”

In Ramsey’s eyes, Off Lines is a growth from his previous work. His earliest work reflected a process of self-discovery and introspection. Next, he created a series that acted as a commentary about the world around him.

“I feel like the next chapter is about bringing the two together. Not just making observations about what’s going on in the inside and not just making observations about what’s going on on the outside, but expressing something that is both,” he said.

At the same time, Off Lines is consistent with a theme that has driven Ramsey’s work throughout: organized chaos. While there are worlds of activity within the details of each work, they come together in a clean, unified way.

“Organized chaos appeals to me because when you start thinking about chaos, it’s overwhelming. You start spinning around in a cyclone of what this all means, what’s the point. Then when you organize it in this physical form, as a human being with a mind and a heart, it’s a lot easier to accept.”

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