March 23, 2007 Features & Images » Feature Story

Hot like Chili 

Whistler’s Renaissance man Chili Thom adds TV host to his credits

By Cindy Filipenko

The logo on the door of Chili Thom’s studio space suggests that Creation Station may not be just another warehouse space in Function Junction. The studio’s name, spelled out in a ’60s-style balloon font, is wrapped around another iconic hippie-era symbol, a daisy. But wait, that’s no seed pod in the middle of the flower, it’s a stylized skull recognizable to anyone who’s feet have ever hit the deck of a board. Now meets then.

Inside the lofted warehouse, the theme of dual cultures continues, in large part due to the Whistler artist’s visual imagery that adorns everything from high-end snowboards to canvasses in progress.

Thom’s surreal landscapes take the familiar and elevate them to the otherworldly through his dramatic use of colour and an aesthetic that owes as much to Dr. Seuss as it does to ’60s pop art. Whether breathing life into sedimentary stones jostling for position in a river bead or capturing the frenetic energy of a packed dance floor, Thom’s work is startlingly original.

Sporting a set of impressive mutton chop sideburns and unruly hair, he’s got a sexy boyishness that suggests casting him as Wolverine’s younger brother should the X-Men franchise run out of ideas.

What should come across as a culture clash, presents itself as an amalgamation of complementary cultures, as complex and open and — well, friendly — as Chili Thom himself. His philosophy is simple: stay positive and keep your eye on the prize.

“When I decided to be an artist instead of a waiter who painted everything changed,” he says, with a tone verging on awe.

A big part of the change was acquiring Creation Station.

The primary sitting space in the studio consists of a couple of long, orange sofas, covered in their original fabric, a substance so inorganic and indestructible that it seems strikingly at odds with mountains visible from windows along the top of the loft’s roll-up metal door. Against that door is a futuristic banquet that looks like it could be Tim Burton and Helena Bonham-Carter’s dining nook. Consisting of indigo, orange and purple seating, the back of the banquet climbs six or seven feet before protectively hooking over. Above the top of the banquet a twentysomething–foot long fabric and feather dragon looks down from the ceiling, a slightly menacing expression on its face as if to say, “Who are you asking to have a ‘Gung Hay Fat Choy’, white girl?”

Workspace competes with DJ space in the warehouse’s primary loft, which features some great superhero elements. A quick offside conversation with his assistant ends with her zipping off to do some errands, hitting the floor below with the help of a fireman’s pole.

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