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Geocaching for Art

Arts & Culture
Christine Huang
  • 3 august 2007

Not everyone will see Andrew King’s art – and that’s the way he wants it. King, a painter from whose paintings hang in homes from Barrhaven to Belgium, is tucking three original works into weatherproof boxes and stashing them in different locations throughout the Ottawa Valley. If you find one, it’s yours. No charge. But it won’t be easy — you’ll need an Internet connection, a GPS receiver and a knack for solving puzzles.

Andrew King is wrapping three original paintings in weatherproof packaging and stashing them in different places in the Ottawa Valley. To find them, and keep them for free, you’ll need a GPS, the Internet and an ability to solve puzzles.

On Feb. 2, the Cube Gallery is hosting an event entitled Canadiana. King will have seven pieces on display, three of which will contain clues to the GPS co-ordinates of the hidden paintings. “It will be kind of like The Da Vinci Code,” King said in an interview.

Each week, he’ll post an image or phrase on his website (andrewkingstudio.com) that contains an additional clue to each painting’s co-ordinates. Anyone who can find all the clues for a particular painting will possess its exact location. Punch the co-ordinates into a GPS receiver, go where it tells you, and you’ll have an original Andrew King to hang in your living room.

King, 33, moved to Ottawa from Kingston, his hometown, in 1991 to study industrial design at Carleton University. After three years, he tired of the program and began dabbling in cartooning. (His Off The Wall comic strip appeared in the Citizen from 1993 to 1997.) Later, he completed Algonquin College’s animation program and became a freelance TV animator. It was during a lull in his animation work that be began painting. “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to pay bills,” he recalled thinking.

He first showcased his work in 2003, at Winterlude’s Art on Ice. He brought three paintings; they sold quickly. After paying his bills, King had enough left over to buy something he and his wife, Stefanie, had long coveted. “We bought Maggie,” he said, as Maggie, a long-haired chihuahua, sat at his feet, tongue out, tail wagging.

King’s paintings run from whimsical (giant pink robots looming over an isolated home), to melancholy (a man, alone on the bank of a frozen river, gazing longingly upon a group of skaters) to a combination of both (mourners being swept into the sky upon leaving a church).

Sometimes, King just paints something he finds interesting, like late-day shadows stretching across snow.

The idea for the art hunt, which he’s dubbed the Accession, came to him after one of his wife’s relatives introduced him to geocaching, a treasure hunting game played by thousands around the world.

In this game, which an Oregon man created in 2000, players hide waterproof containers housing logbooks. They then post the GPS co-ordinates of the containers on a website.

Fellow geocachers, armed with GPS receivers, find the containers, sign the logbooks, and put them back for the next player to find.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this is cool,'” said King. “But it would be even cooler if you got something you could keep.”

And even if someone beats you to a painting, and you don’t get something you can keep, King says at least you’ll get out of your house and see parts of Ottawa you’ve never seen. “And you’ll get some exercise,” he said.

King has no control, of course, over who finds his paintings. But he hopes it will be people who appreciate his art. He’ll be disappointed, he said, if he turns on his computer one day and discovers: “Hey, they’re on eBay!”

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