What can one say about the relationship between art and science? I can’t speak authoritatively on the matter, except to say that I feel that the two have always sat, not across an insurmountable divide, but comfortably side by side. I could even say that I feel one balances and supports the other; one is stronger from borrowing ideas from the other. When I was taking Systems Design Engineering at Waterloo, one of my favourite educational experiences was a tutorial for a 2A Object-Oriented Programming class. The TA insightfully pointed out that OOP had a strong relationship to the ideas of Plato and Aristotle 2500 years ago. It was a real moment of epiphany.
I mention this anecdote, because I think Systems Design taught me the kind of lateral thinking that leads to new possibilities. Since graduating in 2002, my destiny has inevitably taken me down an unusual path, where since 2013, I’ve run a Vancouver-based commercial gallery called Wil Aballe Art Projects (WAAP). The gallery was named one of the best commercial galleries in Canada and one of the next generation in Canadian art. WAAP showcases exceptional contemporary art practices in Vancouver, where a number of artists have shown in major museums, including the MOMA, the Tate and the Pompidou. I also curate independent projects, the most recent being an exhibition at UBC, featuring notable Canadian artists, Douglas Coupland, Beau Dick, Christos Dikeakos and Germaine Koh, alongside Group of Seven painters, A.Y. Jackson and Lawren Harris.
Mine has not been the most obvious path from a Waterloo engineering degree, nor has it been an easy path, but it has been an instinctive, fulfilling path. My formative years at Waterloo have been instrumental to sculpting my world view. For five years, I went to school with some of the most driven, independent people I have ever met, and I have certainly taken qualities learned from my peers forward into my art career.
My Waterloo education taught me to look at the world with a nuanced view, instead of simply in binaries. The world is complex, we are all interconnected and there is a flow between the various typically compartmentalized aspects of the world that enriches each other. Over and over, my higher education gave me permission to break out of the strictures of what a graduate can and cannot do with an engineering degree to figure out simply how to contribute in larger society.
A lot of my peers in Systems Design are born entrepreneurs, and have started companies (a number founded from our 4th year projects). Just as they are figuring out how to get capitalization to break into new markets, I’m trying to get to the next level of the art world. This year, my gallery, WAAP, will introduce itself in 2017 to an international market, with planned exhibitions in art fairs like Material Mexico City, NADA New York, Art Toronto and Seattle Art Fair (where we hope to develop relationships with new collectors from tech backgrounds and buyers of corporate collections of major tech companies like Microsoft and Amazon). If any of you readers have connections to those who want to acquire contemporary art, please get in touch.
This may be a vast oversimplification, but how different is the creative spirit of a scientist creating in a lab versus an artist creating in a studio? Perhaps the key difference between art and science is that a great work of science arrives at an answer, while a great work of art asks questions. Otherwise, basically, we all strive to push things to the next level and endeavour to open up the world and make it more interesting than when we first encountered it.