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Retro-Perspective

Retro-Perspective by Drew Atkins

Artist: Drew Atkins
Location: Surrey Arts Centre (13750 88 Avenue)
Category: Public
Year Installed: 2018

About Retro-Perspective

Atkins’s design on the courtyard windows of the Surrey Arts Centre speaks to Kwantlen First Nation’s long history on the land where Surrey now sits. Among the many shapes, the artist depicts silhouettes of a 300-year-old feast bowl and a 3,500-year-old stone wolf carving. Also pictured is a figure with raised hands making a welcoming gesture and encouraging inclusiveness, as well as a canoe and paddle—a reminder that, historically, Coast Salish art consisted of objects made to be elegant but also to serve a utilitarian function.

Retro-Perspective draws on Coast Salish design elements such as circles, crescents, and trigons (a pinched triangular shape). However, a closer look will reveal that Atkins has stylized the shapes with a retro look, including rounded corners and muted colours in gradients and stripes. The grey shapes in the background—stars and overlapping rectangles—are reminiscent of wallpaper and linoleum patterns from the 1950s or modernist sculptures (such as those seen through the windows of the courtyard).

By combining the visual languages of Coast Salish and retro art, Atkins invites the viewer to recognize that there are many perspectives of time and history. The name of Atkins’s artwork further draws attention to this theme by playing off the word “retrospective”, a term that means looking back on past events, or, in the art world, an exhibition of an artist’s lifetime body of work. Atkins asks, “What is retro or old-fashioned? Is something retro when it is 60 years old or 600? Our answers will likely be based on our history on the land and that of our ancestors—something we need to keep in mind when we encounter different perspectives.”

About the Artist

Drew Atkins is an artist of the Kwantlen First Nation who works in many mediums including painting, drawing, carving, and sculpture. He was trained in the Coast Salish carving tradition while apprenticing with his dear friend and mentor Xwa-lack-tun (Rick Harry). Atkins owns and operates K’wy’iye’ Spring Salmon Studio in unceded Fort Langley, BC with his wife and fellow artist Phyllis Atkins.

His other public artworks in Surrey include Returning to the River.