Douglas Coupland 2018

Vancouver Aquarium
Vancouver, British Columbia,


Material: EPS, Polyurea, Scenic Paint, 
Industrial Coatings

Titled Vortex, the piece is described as an “imaginative interpretation of the Great Pacific garbage patch”, a swathe of plastic and other floating debris in the Pacific Ocean that, as of March 2018, is estimated to be three times the size of France. The exhibit also explores Coupland’s relationship with plastic, a material that makes up a large part of the Vancouver-based artist’s past sculptural works. 


Coupland was inspired to create Vortex after finding a plastic bottle washed up on the shores of Haida Gwaii in 2014. The bottle originated from Tokyo; Coupland knew this because he bought dozens of the same ones for an exhibit during a trip to Japan in 2000.


“I began working with plastic thinking it was eternal, shiny, and happy,” said Coupland. “Finding that plastic bottle on the beach was like being on the receiving end of an ancient curse warning me, ‘Be careful what you find seductive. Be careful the things you desire.’ I knew I had to do something to change this. We can turn this around.”

Part of a new initiative from Ocean Wise that tackles the plastic-pollution crisis, Vortex will be displayed at the Vancouver Aquarium for one year. It is accompanied by interactive elements which detail the ways in which disposable plastics are negatively impacting our environment and waterways—and what we can do to help.

Portions from an Original Publication by Lucy Lau on May 2nd, 2018 www.straight.com


The Bobble Heads, which were fabricated and installed by Carvel, were conceived as part of the centerpiece of Vortex. Each large-scale replica was based on a single Japanese designed toy found by Coupland in a dumpster while traveling Japan. To achieve the vision set out by the artist the smaller scale toy, which was well used and somewhat damaged, was scanned and recreated digitally using the 3D modelling software ZBrush. As Douglas 
needed both a male and female figure the Carvel design team set out to create the new female version using the original toy as a bases for the digital sculpt. Once complete each sculpt was milled, sanded and finished to replicate the plastic finish the artist needed to seamlessly blend with the aesthetics of the Vortex installation.

From digital design to the final painted sculpture, each step in the process of fabrication was carefully planned and executed to deliver the highest quality artwork for the Vortex installation.


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