Skate and Create

Art Exhibit ‘KICKFLIP’ Showcases Montreal Artists’  Work on Skateboard-Canvases

photo by Yann Meurot.
photo by Yann Meurot.
photo by Yann Meurot.

Skateboarding: a throwaway pastime of potheads and punks, or a creative craft of athletes and outcasts? Ask any skater you see on the street, hucking themselves down stair sets or waxing up ledges for the perfect slide, and you’ll ultimately hear the latter.

To a skater, the rumble of wheels on pavement is like an urban orchestra; the perfectly caught tre flip, a graceful pirouette (or with “steez”—style and ease). Skateboarding can be an act of solo or collective artistic expression, just like any of the more socially acceptable arts.

No one knows this better than New Brunswick-born artist and skater Pascal Leo Cormier, who is curating the exhibit KICKFLIP, named after the foundational skateboard trick, at Montreal’s Galerie Abyss in Griffintown this month.

“It’s a liberating sport. The only rules that apply are the laws of physics, and you have to rely on your imagination as to what you can do with your given environment,” Cormier told The Link.

“That was always appealing to me—no uniforms, no coach, just friends trying things out together. It creates bonds and a sense of encouragement between friends and pushing one another to do better,” he continued.

Cormier says his first exposure to skateboarding was seeing Bart Simpson shredding on his TV and an older friend doing wall plants and old-school tricks with a clunky board from the ’80s. After that, he was hooked.

“My entire youth and teenage years were spent with a skateboard by my side or beneath my feet. All I did in high school was draw, skateboard and play in punk rock bands,” Cormier said.

“I am certain that I would have gotten myself into much more trouble as a kid if I didn’t have my skateboarding, art and music to focus on,” he continued.

Praise the Board
For KICKFLIP, Cormier recruited over 40 artists around the city to create works of art on a unique canvas—blank skateboard decks. Galerie Abyss, a tattoo parlour and contemporary art gallery rolled into one, co-sponsored the exhibit by providing low-cost decks for each artist to create on.

“[They were] able to provide all the skateboard decks to the artists for very cheap, which made it all possible. The downfall was that I had to sand and prime all those suckers,” Cormier said.

The result is Galerie Abyss’s open-air space being lined wall-to-wall with innovative skate decks hung up on display. According to Cormier’s website, the boards’ designs were created with tools from across the artistic spectrum: acrylic, ink, coloured pencils, oil and more. Not to mention the boards designed using three-dimensional mixed media, with the boards seeming to jump (or ollie) off the wall into art-goers’ faces.

Cormier is more than just a curator for KICKFLIP, however—he has a number of his own skate deck artworks hanging in the gallery, bridging the well-travelled gap between artist and skater.

The spheres of art and skateboarding do often collide. Famed director Spike Jonze co-owns the skateboard company Girl and has directed a number of their videos. Hollywood actor Jason Lee was a professional skateboarder before entering the limelight. Many legendary skateboarders are visual artists themselves, such as Steve Caballero and Mark Gonzales.

Cormier says skating has actually taken a backseat to his art in recent years—but this show is reviving his love to shred.

“It’s probably due to the fact that whatever little extra money that I make goes mostly towards art supplies. Everything costs too much nowadays, even toilet paper,” Cormier said.

“The whole experience [of KICKFLIP] has been extremely inspiring to get back into skateboarding, for sure.”

And if passersby find themselves attracted to a particular board on Abyss’ wall, they can bring it home—all the boards are up for sale, with many having been sold already.

“It makes for a great gift for anyone who likes skateboarding, art or both,” Cormier said.

After the Sesh
For future shows, Cormier plans to keep operating under his curator alter ego—head of the Unique Corn Artistic Initiative, “unique corn” referencing the mythical equestrian animal with a head protrusion. He’s curated five shows already under this fantastical guise.

Cormier wishes to continue working with Galerie Abyss, which he said has a “beautiful space.”

“I personally am working on a solo show for June of 2015 at Galerie Abyss. I will also be part of the group show XL, all large format works, in April of 2015 at Espace 40, in which I will have a big five foot by five foot painting,” he said.

But for now, he’s content with hosting KICKFLIP, and showing the city a creative new side to skateboarding culture.

KICKFLIP // Galerie Abyss, 1520 Notre-Dame St. W. // Nov. 15 – Jan. 15 // Wednesday – Saturday, 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. // Free admission