Cobblestone view from cyclist’s handlebars inspires art

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, August 1, 2012

When first viewing Rick Ducommun’s intriguing art pieces currently on exhibit at Cochrane’s Java Jamboree coffee shop, it’s not immediately clear what all the dots are about. An abstraction of an animal? Just random? However, a conversation with Rick (at right) about his other passion, cycling, provides a clue. Photos by Warren Harbeck
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When I paid my usual afternoon visit to Cochrane’s Java Jamboree coffee shop recently, there was intriguing new art hanging there. The 13 pieces consisted almost entirely of clumps of random spots and pen strokes, with a few bits of colour, but mostly black and white.

I couldn’t make much sense of it, although the first work I came to suggested a horse and rider. I knew the artist, however, and I knew he was much more an avid cyclist than a rodeo cowboy.

So I asked Rick Ducommun what his exhibit was all about.

Rick is not only an artist and cyclist. He’s also a financial counsellor who thinks deeply about the beauty of detail. (See my Jan. 16, 2008 column, in which he draws parallels between long-distance cycling and responsible retirement planning.)

Well, his explanation about this show revealed that same sensitivity to beauty in often-overlooked details.

His many years of long-distance cycling, sometimes as much as 535 kilometres a day and occasionally over painfully rough roads, have helped him identify with competition cyclists who accept the challenge of European endurance races, such as the Paris Roubeaux and the Tour of Flanders.

For hours on end, those cyclists are bent over their handle bars staring at the road. Sometimes the ride gets very rough – ancient cobblestone roads that date back to the days of Napoleon and even Caesar.

Cobblestones, that’s what those cyclists feel; and that’s what dominates their view from their heads-down posture on their bikes. Exhaustingly long stretches of rough, jarring cobblestones.

But here’s where the artist in Rick redeems what other cyclists grow to hate. What some see as just bike-and-body-rattling experiences to be endured, Rick sees as an invitation to imagination.

It’s that cobblestone detail that inspired Rick’s current exhibit.

If you look carefully at many of his pieces, you’ll see cobblestone shapes coming together in patterns reminiscent of ancient roads. For example, consider the photos accompanying this column, and in particular, the picture next to Rick’s face in the photo at the right and in the detail from that picture in the photo at the left.

But the fact that he was thus inspired when he started the series “doesn’t mean that you must see them (that way) to appreciate the work. Let the drawings stand on their own merits,” he says.

“This show is too simple and too much fun for explanation. There is no depth this time around. There is no social statement, just a bunch of shapes bumping into one another over some nicely done other shapes.”

Nevertheless, “this is the toughest show I have ever had the challenge to hang,” he says. “The art is human scale, is done for the light and colours of Java Jamboree, and includes thought about preceding shows” by other artists. The show is about taking on “the energy of the room.”

Oh, about that horse and rider I saw in one of the pieces? I mentioned this to Rick and later he told me:

“I had another look at the ‘horse’ picture, and there is no question that what you saw exists right there. I saw it your way, and it looked pretty cool.”

I asked Rick what he’d like me to tell our other coffee companions about this exhibit, and he said:

“These are just a bunch of little drawings by a guy who helps everyday folks with their personal finances, loves cycling, and drops in often at Java Jamboree after long rides.”

Well, folks, if you happen to drop in at Java, take a look at this “bunch of little drawings” and see for yourselves how one artist made something beautiful out of life’s rough roads.


© 2012 Warren Harbeck

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