Local artist challenges the Canadian entrepreneurial narrative
Unpacking Imagery and Meaning in Allan Andre’s “A Burgeoning Future: At Bayview Yards”
Supporting local artists has been a priority for Invest Ottawa and Bayview Yards since the facility opened in 2016. Art has the power to inspire and motivate change and to challenge conventional ideation. Recognizing the potential impact, our team partnered with Allan Andre to create a 20’ mural that now encases the building’s main foyer.
At Bayview Yards, anyone who climbs the building’s central staircase meets Allan André’s work. We hope that it encourages viewers to pursue their goals, whether it’s launching an entrepreneurial venture, scaling a small business or deploying a national organization internationally.
The digital art piece entitled A Burgeoning Future: At Bayview Yards, completed in the winter of 2020, holds many layers of meaning. The collage of imagery and nuisances of meaning speaks to the viewer differently and calls to audiences historically underrepresented in the Canadian entrepreneurial narrative. By marrying traditional and modern techniques within one piece, the artist intends to infuse racialized communities and minorities into the future of technology and entrepreneurship.
Allan André, The Artist
Allan André is a Canadian-born, multi-disciplinary artist of Haitian / Caribbean descent. His work has been featured in exhibits in New York, Orlando, Toronto, Montreal, and in galleries and restaurants across Ottawa. Most notably, André’s installations were included in Ottawa’s Nuit Blanche, a city–wide exhibition and event that viewers attended from dusk till dawn.
Although he has embraced many mediums throughout his career, his primary passions are drawing and painting. As a young adult, he experimented with urban design through cartooning, street art, and graffiti. André is predominantly known for his graphic realist works exploring the human form in relationship to colour and pattern. Throughout the years, the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements informed his practice and inspired his creativity. The use of pattern and colour paired with figurative work is referenced throughout his paintings and drawings, along with his love of comic books and digital art, which come through in the pieces’ formal elements (strong outlines, bold colour choices, and graphic elements).
Such themes of science, technology, and evolution have been the subjects of many works throughout his practice. A common theme weaves within his work, communicating that creativity, positivity, and an open mind are integral resources to the progression of society. Inspired by his travels as well as the personal connections he has made along the way, Allan believes that art is the fuel that drives mankind in all facets of life. Within his most recent work, his message remains true.
“I want the people of Bayview Yards to see something that is optimistic that inspires them to create something new and encourage progress. My intention was to create a sense of awe and hope for the future. This work illustrates the way humanity lives in a collective masterpiece. We are all artists who leave our signature on the canvas we call the human experience. Through art, we challenge our own spheres of influence in a way that ripples through future generations.”
– Allan André, Visual Artist
A Closer Look at Imagery & Symbolism
With this piece, it was important for André to include elements that would resonate with the Bayview Yards’ community, including aspiring entrepreneurs, small business owners, product developers, and anyone who identifies as a dreamer or creator. What surrounds the viewer is a visual collage of who we are, what we have, and ultimately where we can go.
Autonomous cars, rockets, circuit boards, molecules, wildlife, birds, and foliage show a robust, balanced vision of future innovation that is environmentally responsible. Andre has placed a large rocket symbolizing the launch of an entrepreneurial effort or small business in the foreground. At Ottawa’s Innovation Hub, the mentors and programs guide entrepreneurs through their journey from concept to reality. The act of launching an idea into motion and thereby achieving their goals is represented within this detail.
References to Ottawa, André’s native city, has been pridefully included throughout this work by referencing notable landmarks such as the canal, the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, the Parliament buildings, etc. He hopes that by depicting places of familiarity, the viewer will recall their own fond memories and experiences within the city that will help to form a deeper connection with the artwork.
The depiction of a woman riding a unicorn leaping through space is a focal point within the piece. The symbol of a unicorn has historically been coined within the business world as a start-up that has achieved monumental success (a small business that has grown to value of over $1 billion). This image is meant to inspire the entrepreneurs within Bayview Yards to reach for the stars, realize their dreams, and believe in themselves.
The Creative Process – Technique & Execution
Sketching and drawing ideas and concepts on paper separately allows Andre to build the details of each element independently. The artist then used graphic design software to collage these illustrations together in a way that allows for experimentation of colour and placement that isn’t possible through traditional techniques.
By embracing both traditional and innovative techniques, the artist creates a juxtaposition of formal elements that adds interest and tension, while further emphasizing the intention and deeper meaning. Formal elements of shading and linework are not compromised and call to a deeper sensitivity that is appropriate for the subject matter. The softness of a child’s face, the texture of a woman’s hair requires the sensitivity of an artist’s hand and are drawn on paper. In comparison, the linear patterns of a circuit board, the precision of a perfect sphere, and the intricacy of clusters of triangles creating a 3D form are collaged afterwards using graphic design. This marriage of hard and soft elements produced through varied techniques echoes the age of modernity in which mankind remains delicate and soft amidst the development of technology.
This video is a time-lapse of Allen André drawing passages of the artwork A Burgeoning Future: At Bayview Yards. Once complete, he then scans his drawings and manipulates the aesthetic qualities using graphic design software.
Diversity & Inclusion
Women and underrepresented groups have been an intentional and integral component within this piece. It was important to represent visible minorities and women as lead characters within this artistic narrative. As an artist, Andre feels he has a responsibility as a storyteller through the arts to communicate messaging that will impact society in a positive way. He believes it is important for the audience to see themselves within this story. By thoughtfully injecting underrepresented groups into his work, he hopes these people will identify as future creators who can impact the world and make a difference not only for their communities but for society as a whole. He believes the entrepreneurial space and journey towards innovation has room for everyone, and these groups provide a valuable and unique perspective.
“In terms of this project and many I’ve worked on, having women protagonists is important. Showing women choosing their destiny, making their own decisions, becoming and succeeding as leaders, is critical for young women to see. I like to encourage them to dream big and take the lead. I believe it is important to see that type of imagery within the workplace specifically. As an artist, it is my responsibility to find the voices that may not be heard and tell their story.”
– Allan André, Visual Artist
Young women are shown mounting the symbolic unicorn, symbolizing the women-identifying entrepreneurs’ rise within the modern age. They gaze up towards the sky in anticipation of the future and smile curiously at the technological imagery surrounding them. Their expressions of awe and wonder speak to our future’s untold possibilities and the power of creation through imagination.
“I wanted to show inclusive and diverse imagery depicting women and other underrepresented groups in society. It is my wish to make creative innovation feel accessible and transformational to all who can sense it as a force for change.”
– Allan André, Visual Artist
The inclusion of underrepresented racial groups within this artwork was essential to both the artist and patron. A South African woman is shown pointing at a celestial asteroid form in the sky. It’s as if she’s educating the curious young girl on her lap of the wonders of the universe. A young indigenous boy is illustrated inquisitively reaching towards an autonomous vehicle. André purposefully placed the indigenous boy directly beside the Parliament Buildings with elements of technology surrounding the figure. He believes it is his responsibility to depict indigenous communities within modern narratives. The artist believes indigenous people’s historical narrative has often been romanticized, and the central focus of messaging and imagery communicated through mass media. He asserts that the story of this community’s future is equally as important to tell as its history.
In the same way, André challenges the predominant, mainstream depictions of African American communities. He states that “it is important for me to show black people engaged in science and technology because we are, we have been, and we will continue to be. I need to show that kind of optimistic and inspiring imagery to combat any negative narrative that may exist in people’s minds currently. The arts have the power to predict what the future may look like, and it is our duty as creators to paint a picture that includes everyone.”
Future generations are presented in a way that appears hopeful and captivated by innovation and technology. If we plant the seeds of our imagination and creation today within younger generations, tomorrow will see the fruit of our investments.