In Flight: Simon Dick
For Simon Dick, birds and flight, with both literal and metaphoric significance, have long been a great influence in his life and in his art. As a child Simon questioned everything, including why there was a man on the back of the raven rattle. When his elders told him that the raven carried the man on his back to far away places, Simon's fascination with flying began. Simon taught himself to, spiritually, fly away during difficult times in his life and soar in joy during the good times. Simon found his freedom in flight.
Born in 1951 of Kwicksutaineuk descent in Alert Bay on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, Simon Dick grew up in the nearby village of Kingcome Inlet where he was immersed in the ancient Kwakwaka'wakw culture. Like his ancestors Simon learned how to hunt and fish and to rely on the natural resources of the land and sea. In this quite culturally intact environment he was raised speaking the Kwakwala language, being taught specific cultural practices from his grandfathers, both hereditary chiefs. He was instructed in the proper protocol for the elaborate winter ceremonies and feasts. One of the earliest memories he recalls is curling up in a massive feast ladle that had been created for a celebration. In order to participate in these important cultural events, Simon was taught the ceremonial songs and dances that have belonged to his family for generations. As an adolescent, he was initiated into the Hamatsa society, the highest ranking secret society amongst the Kwakwaka'wakw people. Being a Hamatsa, Simon honed his dancing skills and his knowledge of the language and culture by participating in innumerable ceremonies. In 1983 he hosted his inaugural potlatch and in 1989, he spent a significant amount of time further studying the intricacies of the culture and language with the late chief Sam Henderson. Later, he apprenticed under Tony Hunt Sr. for four years and also worked with Bill Reid on the carving of a twenty-four-foot canoe.
Simon Dick has traveled the world representing his people and educating others about the First Nations of the Northwest Coast. At home, he continues the tradition of apprenticing young carvers so that his wealth of cultural knowledge is passed on to the next generation.
Today, Simon Dick is regarded as one of the Northwest Coast's premiere artists and the Inuit Gallery of Vancouver is honoured to host his first solo exhibition. In Flight is a small but powerful collection of masks illustrating some of the supernatural birds belonging to the rich mythology of the Kwakwaka'wakw people. Simon Dick does not separate his culture from his career as an artist so each work is informed by his knowledge of how a mask is used in ceremony. His signature painting style of applying washes of rich colour is unique in the art form and admired by collectors worldwide. He merges this contemporary painting style with bold formline design and a strong, lyrical carving style.
We invite you to share with us the joy of In Flight.