COMOX VALLEY, BC Tim Gardner and I met more than ten years ago, while working as artist assistants at Attila Richard Lukacs’s studio in New York. Recently, Gardner said to me, “It’s funny to think back on all the studios I’ve had.” I can recall one of them, on 5th Avenue in Brooklyn. It was a small apartment with an empty living room that Gardner converted into studio space. Unfinished watercolours were taped to boards around the room, depicting youths carousing during spring break, or Canadian mountain ranges, or portraits. Gardner’s obsessive use of watercolour was intimidating; it challenged all my ideas about painting. These watercolours soon became his first solo exhibition at New York’s 303 Gallery. In 2001, Gardner and his wife, Veronica Schreiber, moved from New York back to Victoria, British Columbia.
Their apartment was located in the quaint Oak Bay neighbourhood. At that time, Gardner worked in his living room, making pastel drawings from family photographs. It struck me that he was comfortable working at home, rather than isolated in a studio space. Later that year, he rented a separate studio in the Fernwood area to work on large-scale pastels. He moved studios again that summer and rented my space, located in Chinatown, where he worked on another show for 303 Gallery. Gardner then bought a house, converting the basement into a studio for the watercolours and pastels that were bringing him recognition. On the horizon: a major exhibition and residency at London’s National Gallery, and a showing at the Frieze Art Fair courtesy of 303 Gallery. In preparation, he needed an even larger workspace. He rented a former bookstore on lower Johnson Street that soon became a sprawling studio. He measured and taped off the floor to mimic the space he would show in at the National Gallery. Underway at the same time was work for an exhibition at London’s Stuart Shave/Modern Art.
Currently, Gardner and Schreiber live in the Black Creek community in the Comox Valley, a three-hour drive north of Victoria on Vancouver Island. They’ve recently welcomed a second child. This time, Gardner has a house and a separate studio building. His work now attracts a madding crowd, but this quiet studio is a long way from those distractions.