Andrew Tavukciyan: A Street Artist Unbound by Scale
Canadian artist, Andrew Tavukciyan breathes new life into neighborhoods with his ornamental street art. His unique projects can be found all over Vancouver, as well as in Nelson and Toronto. The muralist—who often translates his highly aestheticized visual language to smaller utilitarian objects—has been awarded public art projects, and he has realized private commissions, too. His work is at once organic and mechanical. His style is partly reminiscent of Superflat, the art movement hailed by Takashi Murakami, and steampunk. He creates a visual language ripe for the urban landscape.
Andrew began working on large-scale projects in 2015, by submitting entries to artist calls for vinyl wrapped cars and painting small murals for friends. His first public art piece was a mural for the art room of his old high school. At the time, he was still completing his degree in Industrial Design at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, BC. He describes his final year at the university as “… a real push and pull between what they thought I should be doing and what I wanted to do.” Weary of the technically focused program, he became determined to find his own way and manifest a visual art career. After graduation, Andrew was looking for any opportunity to paint large-scale work, so he volunteered for the Vancouver Mural Festival, assisting local and international artists with their murals. What was once his extracurricular artwork, soon began to envelop utility boxes, planters, and other municipal fixtures all around Vancouver.
When asked how he prefers to work, Andrew told us that he prefers for his artistic process to be improvisational. “I usually just start working on something, making it up as I go. I find that you get the most interesting results when you don’t have any expectations or preconceived notions.” He often creates digital murals on his iPad. “The digital murals started out as a practical way for me to draft out and visualize real murals I was going to be painting … I found it to be a great way to experiment and keep my portfolio updated.” The immediacy of the medium allows him to satisfy his impulse for improvisational work while creating a foundation for more permanent large-scale artwork.
He uses the skills he developed while studying Industrial Design to think through the execution of his large-scale work. He has often had to work alone to complete his murals thus he has developed a system to translate his preliminary drawings on to large surfaces. He uses a projector to magnify layered elements onto walls or creates a grid system using existing features from the wall before memorializing them in his signature painted black outline. The magnification process requires several methodically planned steps to ensure a seamless translation of the final image. “…not all situations allow for full improvisation, clients need to see drafts and deadlines need to be met,” he acknowledged.
Some of his most noteworthy projects include the murals he’s created for the Vancouver Mural Festival, the Nelson International Mural Festival, and Capilano University. “In terms of scale, they’re my largest murals, ranging from 830–1,500 square feet.” His colorfully twisted systems are informed by nature, technology, Brutalist Architecture, biology, and music. He also considers his exposure to the traditional ornamentation of Armenian rugs, illuminated manuscripts, and ceramics, to have been impactful in the development of his signature style. He considers all of his influences as resources in a visual bank of sorts. “For me, a style is just a collection of formulas, rules, and elements that you develop and then apply in varying combinations for the desired result. I don’t really know how to describe the specifics, other than that I’m just trying to fill space in a way that makes sense to me.”
In the future, Andrew looks forward to completing more public and private commissions. “I would love to paint a mural in Armenia. I’ve never been before, so when I do go, I’m hoping to line something up.” He adds, “If money and resources weren’t an issue, I would love to have a warehouse where I can produce huge sculptures, furniture, and ceramics.”