Ed Varney  

“different titles” – Digital Works, Stamps and Postcard


“One of my most powerful passions in life has been making and collecting art. My taste in visual art is eclectic, but as an artist and curator myself, I recognize really good art. And for some reason, it just seems to migrate to me like refugees cast adrift in a world that doesn’t really care about art. I do care about it and art has an important place in my being.

I purchased my first art work when I was 17, a lovely etching, which cost $12 – at a time when $1 an hour was a decent wage. When I was at university, I edited a literary magazine called “Poems and Prints” and I bought, for very reasonable prices (since I was working my way thru my education), many of the prints that found a place in the magazine. Collecting art is not only for the wealthy – particularly if you purchase work from artists at the beginning of their careers.

Over time, I continued to buy art and to trade my own work to artists I knew. I never paid very much, my intention was to later sell early works I acquired to fund subsequent purchases.  As it turned out, I never did sell any of my collection.  I almost always knew the artists whose work I collected, that was one of the reasons I collected it. Owning their work sometimes helped them out financially. Trading or purchasing work was a statement that what they were doing was valuable, and was part of an ongoing relationship with them. In the 80s, my printing business (which I founded in 1969) prospered and I often dealt with artists who wanted their work printed. I sometimes traded printing for art and was able to continue purchasing modestly priced work.

When you are in the midst of your life, you don’t notice the big picture as it develops around you. Social and artistic trends come and go and barely register. It is only later in retrospect that you realize the tide of history has carried you along and what remains is the flotsam and jetsam that has washed up on your beach. Each piece of work has its own story to tell. The art that I collected in the 80s, I now realize, loosely defines a sort of post pop neo punk surrealist sensibility which infected artists of the era.

So my collection reflects who I knew, where I lived (Vancouver for nearly 40 years) and what I could acquire on a budget. It also reflects what those particular artists were thinking and doing. I was just a small eddy in the turbulence of the times where a bunch of art ended up in my possession. My collection also reflects a continuing ongoing commitment to the process of collecting.

Needless to say, I really love my collection. Every work evokes a memory and tells a story. Together it is a visual feast. I don’t know what the collection is worth and I don’t care since I don’t want to sell it. However, I do eventually have to find a home for it – hopefully one that will be able to keep it intact.

Born in New Rochelle, New York, Ed Varney received his BA and MA from Syracuse University where he studied with poets Delmore Schwartz and Donald Justice and printmaker Robert Marx. He came to Vancouver as a draft evader in 1968. In Vancouver, he joined the multimedia artists' collaborative group Intermedia and founded Intermedia Press in 1969 as its publishing arm. He was one of the founding members of the Association of Canadian Publishers and the Literary Press Group. In 1971, he joined forces with poet Henry Rappaport and, between 1969 and 1981, Intermedia Press published 55 books of poetry and 50 novels, short story collections, anthologies and trade books. Intermedia Press played a significant part in the explosion of interest in Canadian Literature in the 1970s, publishing poets such as Beth Jankola, Tim Lander, Stanley Cooperman, Pat Lowther, Mona Fertig, Judith Copithorne, bill bissett, Rikki Ducornet, Cathy Ford, Nellie McClung, Avron Hoffman and Maxine Gadd. Varney was also founding editor of the Poem Company (1970-1974), a member of the Vancouver Poetry Front (1970-1971), one of Canada's earliest collaborative poetry performance groups, and the founder of the Intermedia Video Band (1970-1972). His interest in sound and concrete poetry led him to explore various and innovative approaches to the visual presentation of poetry which found a receptive audience in South America and Europe. His work has appeared in numerous magazines and exhibitions.

For more information about the artist, check out: evarney@shaw.ca