(Another) Portraits of Brief Encounters: Exhibition and Gallery Game

Cole Nowicki is, among other things, just some random guy standing in line with you at a coffee shop. What makes Nowicki different than all the other people waiting for their medium drip is that, supposing he sees you do something ridiculous or weird, he will write about you, and definitely publish it on the Internet.

Nowicki began creating his Portraits of Brief Encounters as a writing exercise, eventually making small drawings to accompany them. Along with his personal Instagram, which is the original site of POBE, SAD Mag has been featuring his work online since February of 2014. “They are all based in fact,” says Nowicki of his micro-nonfiction portraits,“they all have to have some sort of jump-off point: whether it’s an interaction with someone, or just an idea I’ve had. The story comes first and then [I create] the visual.”

In the portraits, Nowicki combines his love of writing with his comedic sensibility. The portraits can be simultaneously emotionally provocative and laugh-out-loud funny. His humourous, quotidian take on the human condition attracted the attention of Yashar Nijati, founder of thisopenspace. “[Nijati] commented on one of my Instagram portraits a couple years back, asking if I wanted to be friends,” recalls Nowicki. “Eventually we met up, and we talked about doing a show based on POBE.” The two developed a kind of gallery game in which a few local artists would take each of Nowicki’s stories and create an image based on one of them. Visitors to the gallery would have to match each image to the story it was inspired by, with the chance to win a discount on any of the pieces in the show.

The first show was a success, and so was Nowicki’s practice of creating the portraits. This lead thisopenspace to show his written portraits once again at the gallery, in game format, but this time paired with visuals created by eleven different Vancouver artists. “I like the collaborative aspect, I like seeing what pieces [the artists] pick out of the story and deem worthy to put their creative energy [into],” says Nowicki, who chose the artists (some of whom are friends) by scouring Instagram and artist listings he found in the online archives of Hot Art Wet City.

“If you come to the show,” says Nowicki, “it will be the most fun you have ever had in your life. And if you’re not already in love with someone, you will find someone that you will fall in love with...You’re not going to get your money back if it doesn’t happen, because it’s gonna happen.”

While Nowicki can’t guarantee that your newfound love will be requited, the show promises to be a great way to see a bunch of talented Vancouver under one roof. At the very least, it might make a good story.


The second annual Portraits of Brief Encounters Exhibition and Gallery Game takes place on Thursday, October 22 at thisopenspace (434 Columbia Street) at 6 pm. Learn more about Portraits of Brief Encounters on the official website.