Artist and author Douglas Coupland collected plastics off the shores of Haida Gwaii for Vortex, an art project about ocean plastic pollution opening this May at the Vancouver Aquarium. (Ocean Wise)

Douglas Coupland sculptures inspired by beachcombing in Haida Gwaii

Moved by the sight of Japanese plastics on Haida Gwaii beaches, Douglas Coupland started a new art project opening soon at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Called Vortex, the exhibit will feature several sculptures made with washed-up plastic debris, including one that re-imagines the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” or “Pacific Trash Vortex” — a huge area of the North Pacific where currents trap a growing number of tiny plastic bits and other debris.

“Plastic is at once beautiful yet ugly, seductive yet toxic,” Coupland said in a press release.

A best-selling writer and artist based in Vancouver, Coupland has been using consumer plastics in his art work for 20 years.

Over the same time, he has been making annual trips to Haida Gwaii to go hiking and beachcombing. Following the 2013 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, those beachcombing walks took a turn.

“The plastics I once bought in Toyko began washing up on my home shores,” Coupland said. “It changed me on a deep level. It chilled me.”

“I knew I had to explore the strange new relationship humans have established with the planet.”

John Nightingale, CEO of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program, said Vortex will highlight ocean plastic pollution at an important time.

“Plastics are entering our oceans at an alarming rate — one dump truck full per minute — posing a grave threat to marine ecosystems and aquatic life,” he said.

“The only way to tackle this overwhelming problem and restore the health of our oceans is through increased understanding.”

Vortex opens May 18 at the Vancouver Aquarium, and will be on display for a year.

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(Ocean Wise)

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