"Ideas Are Not Always To Scale" #2 -- acrylic on canvas 12 X 12"

EMAIL: David Lester

Newtopia Interview by Tamra Spivey of Lucid Nation -- 2003

The Art of David Lester and the diary entries of Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King after his visit to Nazi Germany

From 1976 into the 80s David Lester worked on the collectively-run international anarchist newspaper Open Road. His artwork -- color portraits of anarchists Mikhail Bakunin, Sacco and Vanzetti, and the anarcha-feminist Emma Goldman -- were featured as pull-out posters. David's brother, Ken Lester, was D.O.A.'s manager in the eighties, and David designed the band's album covers, posters, T-shirts, and stickers.

In 1985 David formed the anarchist guitar and voice duo Mecca Normal with singer, painter and novelist Jean Smith. They organized a series of tours in Canada, the U.S. and England called The Black Wedge. They kicked off their first tour by selling out two nights in a Vancouver nightclub. Political poetry, in a nightclub, selling out shows, it was unheard of. As their poster declared: "We are anti-authoritarian poets and minimalist musicians reclaiming our voices, taking back culture, setting our wild hearts free!" Mecca Normal borrowed D.O.A.'s school bus and drove the west coast playing clubs, a soup kitchen, an alternative school, radio stations, parties, and a bookstore.

Everything that became known as the Northwestern scene, especially it's riot grrrl, indie rock, K Records Kill Rock Stars vibe, finds it's root in the live shows Mecca Normal played in Olympia and Seattle. What was to become Nirvana was in the crowd. The future Bikini Kill, too. Ten CDs in twenty years document the band's evolution. David's polyrhythmic guitar playing with its precise use of echo to create overtones and multiple parts is an artistic expression of great technical beauty.

In 1993 David started Get To The Point, to publish Jean Smith's first novel I Can Hear Me Fine. With Jean as editor the newly christened Smarten Up! & Get To The Point published a series of chapbooks of poetry, politics and artwork by community activists. Bud Osborn's Keys to Kingdoms, won the City of Vancouver Book Award. The Literary Network (Toronto) named Black Milk by Catherine Owen "One of the top 5 poetry chapbooks in Canada."

One of my favorite art works by David is Noir Canada, which illustrates the diary entries of Canadian Prime Minister MacKenzie King after his visit to Nazi Germany. The art has German Expressionist overtones that suit the message. I like the way Noir Canada suggests a latent fascism in people like MacKenzie (and therefore by extension T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Lord Chamberlain) and yet at the same time it portrays how men are duped.

Newtopia: In Noir Canada you never make explicit whether MacKenzie King is Hitler's fool or supporter. That poses a Zen koan about human nature and complicity. Did you set out to capture that or did it evolve from the work?

David: I think in an extremely naive way, Mackenzie King saw Hitler as just another very successful politician. I don't think he foresaw that Canada would be at war with Germany within a few years. Although his diaries prove he shared Hitler's racist views.

Newtopia: Tell us about Murals.

David: Murals presents an alchemy of observations and philosophies attributed to a stock of characters who opt for a layer of personal distance that ranges from aloof to self-involved oblivion. The men and women of Murals interact face-to-face in a freeze-frame solitude that reflects the disconnect of computer communication. Murals' technosumers infospeak while lusting after logos, but they seem perversely unwilling, or unable, to engage in meaningful discourse. As participants in both the technology and consumer revolutions, their roles in, and obligations to, society have been diminished to merely sorting through the glut of ever-shifting concepts confronting them.

Newtopia: On Mecca Normal's tour I was especially impressed by your Inspired Agitators. It's both a tribute and an inspiring history lesson.

David: Inspired Agitators is a series of posters outlining the philosophies of a selection of international activists. History is embedded with obstacles that must have seemed insurmountable. Yet, again and again, battles are waged in climates of indifference, hostility and brutality. This collection represents inspired moments in history when an Indian Nation wore down the U.S. government, an artist defied the Nazi party, women achieved the right to vote, a socialist government was elected in North America, universal healthcare was implemented, a union for all was organized, a woman was finally accepted legally as a person, a black man fought public lynchings.

Newtopia: Your series Drawings offers a series of vignettes that simultaneously provoke a chuckle and a shudder.

David: Drawings, my watercolour series, are observations on identity, culture and human interaction. They juxtapose opposites within wholes; details of the everyday conflicts we stammer through: the grays of our shadows. The attempt to communicate has been made easier with technology, but does it mean we understand each other any better? Does media depict us any clearer? Is diversity of thought any greater?

Newtopia: Drawings has an interesting technique which suggests charcoal or ink rather than traditional watercolor.

David: In these drawings paper is confronted by pen, pencil and water. It is a messy process, the lines are not straight and the water has its own direction. Though the meaning of an idea is not always clear, it should still be stimulating. The viewers' interpretation is necessary to 'get it' or 'get it their own way'. Knowing there is more than one interpretation,frees up our understanding.

-- Newtopia Magazine, 2003

David Lester's multi-panel Noir Canada -- a cautionary tale of how fascism spreads -- has been shown on Mecca Normal's tours, and featured in Broken Pencil, Canada's magazine of underground culture. His cartoons introduce a cast of characters who demonstrate the best and the worst of society. David is also guitarist for the underground rock duo Mecca Normal, whose latest CD The Observer, is out on Kill Rock Stars. He lives in East Vancouver, Canada where he is at work on a graphic novel.

Further painting, drawings and design by David Lester:

Powered by Blogger



<$BlogCommentDateTime$> <$BlogCommentDeleteIcon$>

Post a Comment

<< Home