This article will take a slightly different format than usual. It's about both a person and a place. I met Rob where his creative mind works but didn't realize I'd be walking into such an interesting place. Call it a 2-for-1 deal, if you will.
Rob is very insightful. He is quite reserved, especially when it comes to talking about himself, and he contemplated saying no to meeting me. So glad he didn't. Rob has a really interesting story to share. He speaks slowly and thoughtfully, and my meeting with such an insightful, intelligent guy like Rob reminded me why I started The Noteworthy in the first place. That is, to meet people like him.
We'll start with what he's up to these days. Rob is a steel sculptor. He works for months and often years on each piece of art that turns otherwise scraps or junk parts into a timeless piece of beauty. His art is three dimensional and incredibly heavy to move. Besides the ornamental, his fabrication skills have also been used for functional pieces like tables and bars in Edmonton hotspots. He is occassionally commissioned for a piece, but mostly works on whatever he wants to make. Often times you can catch him behind the coffee bar at Iconoclast or tinkering on some of the equipment in Iconoclast's shop. His familiar face at the hidden gem coffeehouse leads a lot of people to believe that Rob is the owner, but he's not. Though he did help build the bar and turn the space into what you see today. Rob is also an instructor at University of Alberta lending his wisdom to the fine arts undergrads studying figurative sculpture.
Let's talk about his art. Mostly metalwork, Rob's sculptures could be described as abstract or figurative. Steel is typically thought of as being hard and unforgiving, but with the right tools and process, it is actually a very malleable material. You can add to it, carve it, bend it, smooth it. Rob loves that the creativity with this art form can be in solving the problem of how the pieces are physically connected. Once connected, the challenge lies in making the form work from all angles as you walk around the sides and back. His goal is to make something so good that no one will want to throw it out. Something that will last for 1000 years with care. Think about that. What are you doing in your lifetime that will last that long? If you knew you were, how would that change the way you think about and see your work?
Rob made his way to Edmonton after growing up in Kamloops. A serious accident on a motorcycle landed him in the hospital for eight months and cost him one of his legs. I can only assume how an experience like that would change one's perspective on life and permanence (hence, the 1000 year art pieces, perhaps?). Rob was heartbroken that he wouldn't be able to ride his bike anymore. Determined to get back into biking, Rob altered a bike so he could ride it, which opened his eyes to a new passion for bicycle mechanics. When he moved to Edmonton, he started doing just that at Red Bike. He attended U of A where he received his Bachelor and then Master degrees in fine art. Now, he mixes all of the things he loves working out of the studio and gallery space called Common Sense.
Common Sense Gallery
The space used to be a small kitchen appliance repair place. The word "art" that is on the window is what remains of "cuisinart" from days past. The front of the building, where you walk in, is an open gallery space with large sculptures by Andy French, one of the sculptors at Common Sense. The back of the building is a large open workshop with scrap metal, equipment, works in progress, and a lot of creative juices flowing. Rob, Andy French, Ryan McCourt, and Steve Pardy (all steel sculptors) share the workshop. In the yard behind the building there is what some would call junk, that the artists see as a healthy supply of material for their work. Upstairs above the gallery, a painter/drawer named Nola Cassidy has her work spread out amongst the many 1950s style office spaces.
Common Sense hosts exhibits on occasion, and you can learn about upcoming shows by following them on twitter: @commonsenseart
Common Sense Gallery - 10546-115 Street
Redbike - 10918-88 Avenue
Rob made their steel sign outside! Two Noteworthy worlds collide: Andrew Ference peeked through this sculpture for a noteworthy photo! It's also one of Andrew's favourite places.
Instead of scribbling on a Noteworthy postcard like everyone else, Rob chose to show a piece from one of many of his personal journals. Some pages are intentional notes, poems, technical drawings, and others are just scribbles that turned into beautiful art. I was in awe. Every page in those journals could (and should) be sold as art. I feel honoured to share one of the pages on The Noteworthy.