THE ART FORM
The Art Form
A distinctive Northwest Coast First Nations art style can be traced to ancient stone carvings that have been accurately dated at roughly 2,500 years of age. These naturalistic carvings gradually evolved into the graphic, two dimensional art that has gained worldwide notice.
Though traditional Northwest Coast art did serve an aesthetic purpose, its primary functions were social and ceremonial. With the arrival of Europeans to the area in the late 18th century, Northwest Coast art became commercially desirable, and by the late 19th century, museums throughout the world had collections featuring carvings, craft and prints. Despite the social difficulties faced by many First Nations peoples since contact with Europeans, this artistic tradition has survived, largely due to a renaissance during the 1960s and 70s. Silkscreen printing made commercial reproduction inexpensive, and the success of many
First Nations artists renewed an awareness of the culture, both internally and externally. While there are many variations on the style, the primary characteristics of the graphic prints are the use of primary and secondary formlines, repetition of certain stylistic elements, and a common colour palette that was initially limited by available natural materials but later incorporated industrially-produced paints.
The Northwest Coast First Nations art style was chosen for the UBC Division of Plastic Surgery logo because it speaks to the location of the program in Vancouver, British Columbia.
There are 2 primary aspects to the logo: the salmon/trout head, and the stylized hand. In Northwest Coast First Nations art, the salmon/trout head is a fundamental artistic element. The salmon is known as the “giver of life” and in the context of this logo it symbolizes the themes of metamorphosis, renewal and beauty. It is also an apt symbol of strength and perseverance: both of the patients who overcome great obstacles in the healing process, and of the tireless dedication on the part of the surgeons. The hand, while not traditionally represented in this manner, is nonetheless drawn using the formlines and smoothly tapering curves common to Northwest Coast First Nations art. The hand symbolizes the practical goal of plastic surgery, which is to restore function and natural form.
The rich red and black colours are the fundamental palette of the traditional art form. A third, more contemporary colour – pale blue – references the colours of Vancouver's sky, mountains, oceans, and architecture