Open House Press Sylvan Hamburger

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Sylvan Hamburger

Open House Press

The city is layering, devouring, accumulating form. I ramble over paved ground, savouring the last of worn surfaces as the cranes swing smooth glass into place. Red and yellow arrows offer direction to the neighbourhood’s newest property sale, and I wonder at the banality of an environment built for profit: what will be the nostalgia of tomorrow?

Open House Press is an act of gleaning. I collect, carve and print the floor boards of demolished homes in my neighbourhood of East Vancouver. The wood is often old growth Douglas fir, hard after a century of footsteps, with a history of use and life caught in its textured surface. Desiring an attentive moment with this texture, I carve the surface as a record of engagement; the resulting square of hatched cut lines reminds me of a painted canvas or a blinded window. The motif of the window repeats as I cut and remove the centre of another set of boards salvaged from a demolished home down the street. The flooring is subsequently inked and pressed with a wooden spoon onto used bed sheets, becoming a printed frame at the margins of the linen’s floral pattern. These prints hang as final impressions of the demolished structures; their forms reference the framing of lived space—a brief gesture amidst the city’s endless cycling of real estate.

Open House I

Open House 1, relief print of salvaged old growth Douglas Fir flooring on used bedsheet with dowels and inked floor boards, 108x87”, 2020

Open House II

Open House 2, relief prints of salvaged siding on used bedsheets with dowels, nylon rope and jars of sawdust, 92x83”, 2020. Side 1 left, Side 2 right

Vancouver Twilight

Vancouver Twilight, relief print of salvaged old growth Douglas Fir flooring on used bedsheet with dowels, 103x92”, 2020

Installation images

The Process

Vancouver Twilight - process images
Open House II - side one process images
Open House II - side two process images
Open House I - process images

Open House Press would not have been possible without the support of the Kwi Am Choi scholarship, Canada Council for the Arts, Adam Corneil and Jeff Johnson of UnBuilders, and Peter Braun of New Leaf Editions. I am grateful to them all.

Sylvan Hamburger, July 26, 2020

About the Artist

Sylvan Hamburger


Sylvan Hamburger works in printmaking, video and installation. He grew up in East Vancouver on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Watututh people, where his earliest memories involve watching, acting and stagehand work with his father’s local theatre ensemble. Informed by this early exposure to community theatre, the ubiquity of graphic imagery and the rapid gentrification of his childhood neighbourhood, Sylvan carves and prints found materials to examine the relationships between narrative, place and meaning.

Working in printmaking and installation, I consider how systems of communication influence cultural perception. The work begins with an interrogation of my own aesthetic sensibilities, where they originate and how they dictate meaning in my life. Informed by a childhood spent around my father’s theatre company and a fascination with the ubiquity of graphic imagery, I rely on the semiotics of print and theatre to examine the relationship between these two means of story-telling.

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For more information about Sylvan Hamburger please see his profile in the Artist Directory.

Sylvan Hamburger was one of two recipients awarded the Kwi Am Choi Exhibition Scholarship for 2020. The 2021 scholarship opens for submissions in late August 2020

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Sylvan Hamburger