A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

Chris Dahl - Golden Age of Elegance In Design
Monday, November 24, 2014



Little Richard - oil on canvas


Last Thursday I went to the opening of Chris Dahl’s show, The Golden Age at the Harrison Galleries on the corner of Homer and Smithe. You can read up on the show here.

But I think I am in the position to tell you more than any bio you might read about Dahl.

I first met him in the early 80s when I was popular free lance photographer with Malcolm Parry’s exuberantly interesting Vancouver Magazine. The art director Rick Staehling had been lured away to another magazine and Dahl came in directly from having been a designer at Maclean’s in Toronto. It was his expertise in working for a weekly that brought a sense of order to Parry’s monthly. It was during Dahl's watch that Vancouver Magazine was voted the best magazine in all of Canada in the National Magazine Awards.

Dahl was an early convert to digital technology. A few weeks after Expo 86 closed in Vancouver Derik Murray (Murray/Love Productions) and Dahl published a book (one in French and one in English) The Expo Celebration - The Official Retrospective Book in record time using first generation scanners and computers.  While art director of Equity Magazine he digitally manipulated a few covers that brought the magazine much fame (and a touch of infamy!).


Chris Dahl & Jane Edwards-Griffin

It was for Chris Dahl that I performed the best photography of my life. He insisted, over and over, in coaxing me into doing something differently. If I had shown him a photograph in which some highfalutin New York City photographer had used back or front projection I was to do my best to find a way of shooting in Vancouver with limited equipment.

In short, and Dahl would approve of this sort of briefness, he was the best art director/designer I ever worked for.

All the above translates into the important reason why anybody reading this should make sure to see the show before it closes on November 29. Or you can always explore his work at his site here.

Chris Dahl, right, Photograph by Jane Edwards-Griffin

That important reason is that rarely in any show I have ever seen in Vancouver can I attest to the artist’s work as being sparse, elegant, neat and beautifully designed and framed.

Dahl’s mantra in magazine design was the use of big, uncluttered photographs or illustrations. Dahl is a talented typographer so legibility was always supreme. Somehow his choice became something beautiful, easy to the eye and always, to repeat that word, elegant.

His exhibition is about musicians, cars, circuses, hockey teams, vintage electric guitars, surfing, etc but always in that golden era of the 50s, sixty years before you could self-design your business card and have 500 of them delivered to your home for under $10 including postage. Design has become flat and most of it amply proves that the masses need a bit of heavy-duty schooling before they can call themselves designers.



I sometimes wonder about Dahl’s parents and what they might have thought (or even worried about) of their long-haired son who drummed for psychedelic bands before he drifted to design.

All of us can thank whatever road it was he took to Damascus (driving his Rolls or his Bentley) saw the light, and how, finally, here he is all elegance at the Harrison Galleries.





     

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9/18/16 - 9/25/16

9/25/16 - 10/2/16

10/2/16 - 10/9/16

10/9/16 - 10/16/16

10/16/16 - 10/23/16

10/23/16 - 10/30/16

10/30/16 - 11/6/16

11/6/16 - 11/13/16

11/13/16 - 11/20/16

11/20/16 - 11/27/16

11/27/16 - 12/4/16

12/4/16 - 12/11/16

12/11/16 - 12/18/16

12/18/16 - 12/25/16

12/25/16 - 1/1/17

1/1/17 - 1/8/17

1/8/17 - 1/15/17

1/15/17 - 1/22/17

1/22/17 - 1/29/17

1/29/17 - 2/5/17

2/5/17 - 2/12/17

2/12/17 - 2/19/17

2/19/17 - 2/26/17

2/26/17 - 3/5/17

3/5/17 - 3/12/17