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Sid Dickens

As a child the remoteness of Sid’s surroundings allowed for personal freedom and private curiosity. Prince Rupert, a hardy coastal town in Northern British Columbia, provided a place to foster imagination in a rugged, natural world. A gift from his maternal grandparents; a 16 volume children’s encyclopedia set sparked his early love of reference material. Being raised Catholic he was also spellbound by the language and imagery of this faith.
Displaying Memory Blocks
Sid’s father and grandfather made their living from commercial fishing, to which Sid was introduced at the age of thirteen and went onto become a skiff / winch man. Working at this on and off for over a decade earned him a stringent work ethic and the funds he needed to follow his true passion: art.

As a teenager in high school Sid found his comfort level in art classes. Experimenting in all mediums he made lush and intricate watercolours, figurative drawings, kinetic sculptures and soapstone carvings. Just after his graduation in 1981 he booked the ballroom in the Crest Motor Hotel and hung a full collection of original images and also a few portraits-this was his first exhibition. Following this first show, he went back to work on the boat with his father.

During the off season, Sid saw an ad for an art school, The Emily Carr College of Art and Design, in Vancouver and made the decision to apply. After submitting a portfolio of work, he returned to fishing in Prince Rupert, awaiting the decision that would introduce him to formal art college.

At Emily Carr Sid took classes on the history of art, sculpture and the principles of painting and colour theory for a year. He combined elements of sculpture and utilized mediums in untraditional ways; often affixing scraps of canvas and other material to paintings.

“A short stint at Vancouver’s Emily Carr College of Art and Design literally set my blood on fire”. -Sid

He returned to Prince Rupert with a show of pen and ink drawings of local buildings which was well received. He returned to fishing for some months and the wages from this combined with the money he earned from a stint flipping burgers on BC Ferries enabled him to book an open ticket to Europe for 6 months. Starting in 1986 he traveled through England, Italy, the former Yugoslavia, Greece and its surrounding islands and Turkey.
“Six months backpacking through Europe turned out to be the key that unlocked a door I hadn’t even known existed-Suddenly I found myself working with ancient imagery, ancient documents and feeling a sense of connection to it all, even though I was a fisherman from Prince Rupert.”-Sid

Upon his return to Canada Sid paid a visit to his mother in the Haida Gwaiii , a group of islands several hours off the north coast of British Columbia. He immediately felt at home in this sparsely populated place, thick with ancient trees and mythic stories.

“In this wilderness that is for me, quite mythic, I abandoned myself to the artistic process, building organic structures that I called assemblages out of salvaged metal, wire, leaves and whale bones, all held together with Haida Gwaii mud mixed with paint.”-Sid

In the Spring of 1989, Sid enrolled at The Instituto Allende in Mexico to apprentice under a master sculptor. He spent 20 months at the Instituto in Miguel de Allende and became immersed in working with wax and re-visiting the religious imageries of his youth. He produced three completed bronzes and also forged some lifetime friendships including a lasting connection with a Vancouver sculptor and her daughter.

His return to Vancouver in 1991 saw him able to open a studio in Vancouver’s East End and focus 100% on his art. There, he began a series of large panels and painted screens featuring classical figures and floral images. During this time he also made a number of smaller game boards similar in their appearance to church panel paintings. It was at this time he also began to experiment with plaster.

Sid was experiencing a measure of success with screens and panels featuring renaissance style images, when a Hong Kong designer visiting his studio in 1994 became drawn to a random grouping of small pieces. These were the result of Sid’s challenge to contain many ideas in one piece. He was using the 6” x 8” format of the smaller pieces to help him communicate his ideas clearly - his personal “storyboards”. The designer saw them individually as unique objects and ordered 400 of them along with a selection of his game boards.

“Through arrangement, super imposing, embossing, blurring, layering…I reanimate the two dimensional world and make it three dimensional again, bringing places and times and face s and feelings to a tactile reality”. -Sid

Following this commission for his Hong Kong client, an upscale retail store in Vancouver agreed to display a wall of tiles on consignment. As the local demand quickly grew, Sid began the daunting task of marketing himself and his fledgling company. He solidified the Memory Blocks as an art form and began looking for artisan assistants to help fulfill his vision.

Today, Sid divides time working on his collections at his studios in the nurturing soft green focus of the Haida Gwaiii and Vancouver. He continues to work on other pieces and experiment with the ancient symbols, natural textures and botanical themes that make up the resounding elements of his style.

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