Artist touched by complexity

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, December 9, 2021

Artist Rick Ducommun explores complexity. Photo by Warren Harbeck

Cochrane artist and longtime coffee companion says his latest exhibit is all about you and me! Huh? I think we better look into this.

Rick Ducommun has been touched by complexity – in fact, that’s the theme of his latest exhibit, Touched by Complexity.

We’ve enjoyed Rick’s artistic endeavours in previous columns. In our Aug. 1, 2012 column, for instance, we experienced his cobblestone view from his handlebars while he was cycling in Europe.

But complexity? What’s that all about?

Rick has been quite taken with complexity theory, the examination of complex systems in dynamic change, unconstrained by linearity and shaped by their interplay to bring about the unpredictable. The universe is an example, as are corporations, but so are you and I in our life’s journeys – our encounters, our choices, and our responses, he says.

To be sure, Rick himself is a vivid example of such complexity. Yes, art was his childhood passion. But he went on to become a carny, draftsman, banker, financial counsellor, show dog trainer, long-distance cyclist, and in recent years, an artist in his own right. And that’s what brings us to his special interest in complexity.

He has interpreted this complexity with intricate interplays among straight lines, circles and shadings.

He’s able to draw straight lines freehand, he says. But “my drawing isn’t just lines.” It’s more than that. Even after a cup or two of coffee, “I can hand draw straight lines better than expected. It matters, because I can focus on creating deviations from the norm and not worry about technique.”

When he does the hatching that becomes grids, he’s focusing, not on how to get those lines perfect, but instead on how the people he’s associated with over the years have responded to their life situations: the shabby ways staff treated their lesser lights on the job, or, he asks, do I instead empathize with the front line of the biggest economic crises until just recently?”

While Rick was studying engineering in his earlier days, his calculus professor urged him to “drop engineering and pursue what came more natural” to him, he says.

“I draw, not from ignorance, but to reconsider the way math people look at all around them. I draw from respect and remembering that prof. Complexity? I know the visual representations of complex math and the statistics and programming it drives. I do it out of respect, not personal angst.”

Yes, in a sense, Rick’s art is indeed about you and me. And now we have a chance to see whether he’s got our stories right. From Dec. 9, 2021, through Jan. 22., 2022, Touched by Complexity will be on display at Christine Klassen Gallery, 200-321 50th Ave. SE, Calgary ( Of special interest is Rick’s afternoon reception and artist talk on Saturday, Dec. 11, 1–4 PM. Hope to see you there.

“My art sings to me when I get these stories right,” complexity artist Rick says. “It fails when I don’t think about the people whose stories are so important to them and to me. I figuratively am best when I again return to the floor and ‘hear’ what you try to tell me.”


© 2021 Warren Harbeck

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