Sixteen years to the day after being unveiled for the first time, a refurbished version of the Nil/tu,O mural at the corner of Beacon Avenue and Resthaven Drive will once again be presented to the community on National Aboriginal Day.
Artist Ice Bear (Chris Johnson) has been working hard over the last month to give life back to the mural he created and unveiled June 21, 1997.
The mural was commissioned in 1995 by B.C. Tel and completed the following year. The refurbishing has been supported by Telus, the current owners of the building on which the mural is painted.
“Essentially this mural was dying and I’ve been working to bring it back to life,” explained Johnson. “It’s tricky because you don’t want to add or subtract to the existing work. It’s about maintaining the dignity of the piece as well as maintaining the consistancy and continuity.”
Johnson also said that one of the challenges he faced in the project was the fact that he’s no longer the same person he was when he painted the mural 16 years ago.
“It’s an interesting process in that respect,” he said. “I am no longer the same artist I was when I painted it and I have to respect that. I’ve definitely moved on since I worked on walls and my work has evolved over the years. So to come back and work on something I created that long ago, that’s challenging because I don’t want to disrespect the original.”
Johnson explained he painted the mural in layers, giving it more depth and colour as well as making it last longer. One of the most complex parts of the process, he said, was working to refurbish the 3D elements of the mural which are constructed out of fibreglass and foam.
“A lot of the pieces had begun to collapse and detach from the wall, so they had to be pulled away, repaired and reattached,” he explained, adding he used expanding foam in some sections to fill voids caused by breakdown.
Johnson also noted he was thankful to the handful of Telus employees and the vice-president who turned out to wash the wall at the beginning of the process.
“They did it on their own time and it was such a help. It was nice to see them come out and be a part of it,” he said.
The process of refurbishing a piece of Sidney’s history is complete and will be unveiled today, June 21, to mark National Aborignal Day.
Johnson said he may add some minor touches and will apply a coat of UV protector after the unveiling and the tarps come down, but said he is looking forward to showing off the completed mural during the ceremony at 11 a.m.
For details on Johnson’s work, visit www.icebearstudios.com.