Saturday, April 21, 2012

New Design Series Is A Winner

It's always a pleasant shock to discover a new Canadian TV series that's resolutely Canadian and not heavily disguised for resale to the American market.
It's called Great Minds Of Design and premieres on CBC's documentary channel Monday night at 8.
"Our pitch was to profile six major and minor Canadian designers," says director-producer Ian Toews.
"We learned about them from various sources and actually had a long list. These six made the cut and if we're successful we'd like to profile six more."
The idea was to be as eclectic as possible and to look at both industrial designers and urban street artists based on the theory that design is everything these days.
"We shot from eight to ten days per subject," Toews says. "And very deliberately there's no narration. We let the subjects speak for themselves. In some cases that meant getting them used to speaking on camera--we also edited rather heavily. We wanted their enthusiasms to shine through."
The first half hour is pretty terrific as three Toronto street artists show how they cleverly redesign their city landscape. Sean Martindale reuses planter boxes in deep disrepair while Eric Cheung uses ice sculptures of hands which are frozen to buildings. And "Posterchild"  hangs tomato "art" from buildings.
They're fully aware their art won't last long which adds to the charm of the conceit.
In Episode Two Canadian designer Sarah Hall works in Germany on modern stain glass designs.
What makes her work unusual is this is solar energy collecting glass so far unavailable in Canada. She says she couldn't have gone as far in Canada where we're behind the times in renewable energy sources.
Episode Three looks at Canadian designer Patty Johnson's work in Haiti encouraging indigenous art products which can be exported to produce wealth. She says people don't normally expert Haiti to be such a bastion of art.
Episode Four has young architect Trevor McIvor and his designer homes literally built into the landscape so they are virtually one with nature. He wants design to be a part of the landscape and his houses are insulated with natural materials, cool in the summer and toasty in the winter.
Episode Five is my favorite one --thirtysomething Nicholas Kennedy uses the hand presses of the past to use the techniques of the past to produce books of starling beauty showing that letterpress deserves to exist in a computer age.
Episode Six profiles New York based urban designer Helen Kerr and her efforts to design the perfect modular chair.
Toews set up his boutique production firm 291 Film Company in 1998 shortly after graduating from University of Regina's film course. He's best known for his long running national arts series Landscape As Muse. Here he functioned as cinematographer, director and writer along with Mark Bradley who also created the concept and Jason Nielsen who edited and wrote segments and Cam Koroluk who directed the fifth episode.
The series works on several levels as food for thought but also a dazzling pictorial display.
However, Toews says the company is moving from its longtime Regina base because funding from the provincial Tory government has dried up . They'll relocate to British Columbia by the end of the year, a real blow for Regina film making.
MY RATING: ****.

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