Theatre as 3-D sculpture: Art Lab exhibits the work of Stephen Osler

Stephen Osler with unfinished drawing of Kipawo

Stephen Osler with a work-in-progress drawing of the former Minas Basin ferry Kipawo at his exhibition in Parrsboro’s Art Lab.

Stephen Osler’s new exhibition in the Community Gallery at Parrsboro’s Art Lab features work from his long career as a set designer, artist and print maker.

Osler, who was the resident designer at Ship’s Company Theatre for six years, is showing several drawings of set designs including his work for the 1991 production of Cat Lover by Janis Spence.

“I’ve always thought of theatre as being sculpture, 3-D sculpture,” he says pointing to drawings depicting large birds and a lobster.

“What these were intended to do is serve as body costumes…It’s drawing on a flat surface with the vision of these things being three-dimensional and being capable of moving with an actor inside them.”

Osler’s show also features examples of intaglio etchings or prints in which acid bites into a zinc plate before ink is applied.

“You would put on one layer with more ink in it and then the top layer would have less ink and they’d bleed through together,” Osler says. “Depending on the viscosities of the various colours, you’d get this serendipity of tones and one ink pushes through the other so it’s a nice blend of colours.”

Osler's etching of The Kipawo with Cape Split in background

Osler’s etching of The Kipawo with Cape Split in the background

Osler describes his years at Ship’s Company as formative ones that, among other things, led to work at Neptune Theatre in Halifax and Stratford in Ontario.

He is currently in his 19th season as art director with the Halifax-based CBC show This Hour Has 22 Minutes. He says the weekly satirical program sets a hectic pace.

“Three-and-a-half days a week our feet don’t touch the ground,” he says. “It’s like that.”

Osler is proud of the helicopter he helped create this year as one of the sets for the show. And there are other highlights too.

“One week we did a submarine,” he says, “and some of our friends in the business said, ‘How on earth did you guys get in a submarine. We’ve tried to do that and it was just absolutely impossible.’ And we said, ‘Well we made it.’

“So, we fooled some of the best of them,” Osler adds with a laugh.

His show runs at Art Lab’s Community Gallery, 121 Main Street, until July 30.

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