The sordid lust for the blood of our species is long and well documented – from the natural pressures imposed by the meeting of disparate peoples to the spectacles that have confined these urges to stadium and television, we’re a competitive lot. To challenge and to accept challenge, to dominate and in return resist domination, such is the age-old way of things. As we have calmed and made taboo the more basic and brutal pass-times of our forebears, the fighting spirit has lived on and thrived. Where once it was the modus operandi to expect blood on the battlefield, the cultural domain is now our killing field. In Vancouver particularly, a city with one of the highest densities of students and artists of any in North America, there is a constant and growing struggle for intellectual recognition. It seems only natural, then, that the conflict for fame be elevated to spectator sport. It is with this concept in mind that Kevan Seng and J Won Suh founded Battle of the Brush.
The game is simple: four teams comprised of two artists each compete by way of self-expression according to the event’s particular theme. At the end of the event, the best piece is voted on by the eager on-lookers. Like any good game, however, depth comes from dynamic. The artists paired together are not necessarily complimentary; a struggle between the teams but also between the egos of teammates. According to J Won, things don’t always go smoothly.
“There were… times when we thought they could blend well, but in the end… the artists decided not to see each other again.” Artists painting over each-others’ strokes, clashes of style and substance, these are the challenges the competitors face.
With such a diversity of talent on display, it’s not uncommon for things to get heated. “Fifty per cent of the artists are battling each other instead of the other teams,” added Kevan.
Kevan and J Won have taken great care to emulate the spirit and structure of professional sports. Between the two 40-minute painting sessions is an entertainment-packed halftime. Food and alcohol, the hallmarks of good competition, are in abundance. The teams have cheering fans, dressed as eccentrically as any hockey nuts. Pulling in such talent as Raymond Chow and Brent Fraser, the local art power is a major draw. The commitment to the spectacle is impressive. At a previous Battle of the Brush, J Won even got married. With long-term plans for global expansion, the founders want to see this event go the whole nine yards. Over 200 attendees in years prior and still growing, their aspiration for regional, national and international competition is not so far-fetched. With viewership of professional sports in decline, combat-oriented art seems ready to jump into the arena. While the organizers have assured me the event is PG-13, so was Casino Royale, and I think we all remember the rope knot scene.
If, like me, you are bored to death of the impassive commercial art scene in Vancouver, this may be the new blood you’ve been waiting for. Given the “Angels and Demons” theme of this next battle, the fight should be fierce if not apocalyptic.
The warriors form up for battle at The Heritage Hall May 30th. You can find more information and buy tickets at www.goldenbrushart.com.
By Spencer Powell