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Coupland's Warflowers

As you continue to check out the Contact photo shows over the next couple weeks, be sure to keep an eye out for some rather strangely outfitted bus shelters scattered along the Queen West strip. More precisely stretching from Shaw to Gladstone, Douglas Coupland's Warflowers will be taking over these usually bland structures for the duration of this year's Contact festival.

Playing off of this year's theme of The Constructed Image, Coupland combines photos of Japanese ikebana arrangements with military iconography to create these almost hypnotic combinations of line and plane. The symbols are inspired by decals from plastic model airplane kits, and this childlike and obviously playful sentiment comes through, like most of Coupland's work, quite strongly.

The flower arrangements are from the rikka school of ikebana, which is supposed to be the most challenging of all styles. Coupland explains that, "the contradiction of rikka is that an extraordinary amount of artifice is used to create a natural aesthetic. They evoke landscape but they're about as natural as microwave ovens." A large part of what I love about Coupland's work (and of course his writing) is the subtle irony he always manages to implant in a way that never seems forced, but always very necessary.

At the end of the day, I suppose they are just simply posters on bus shelters. But he has stated that this series is about as close to self-portraiture as he's ever come, so please forgive this rather obvious fan for perhaps diving a little deeper than necessary into the meaning behind Warflowers. I tend to get carried away with the things I love.


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