We Are Ships At Sea Lawrence Weiner, Paradigms Suitable for Daily Use, 1986.

Lawrence Weiner


Chosen by: Laura Minta Holland, Family and Youth Coordinator for the Vancouver Art Gallery.


“I first saw this work in 2005 when it was featured in the Text festival at Bury Art Gallery and Museum, a gallery in northern England where I worked before moving to Canada.

The Bury exhibition displayed the whole Weiner poster archive – which is part of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s permanent collection. Grant Arnold of the Gallery travelled with the archive and stayed for a week whilst the installation was taking place. I had the opportunity to assist with the installation. 

The artist, Lawrence Weiner, came to Bury from New York to attend the exhibition opening, and I got the chance to meet him and talk to him about his work that day. I was a little star-struck, to be honest. But Lawrence was so friendly and laid-back, he put me at ease. He talked about how he had started making posters early in his practice, and how he saw these first posters as street art. He said he saw his works as instructions that other people could use to create art works of their own.

While we were chatting, he noticed the snowflake tattoo on my writst. I like the snow and often travel to cold places. So, when I graduated from university, I got the snowflake tattoo to mark the occasion. ‘Cool ink,’ he said, and we began comparing tats. Lawrence said he saw his art as something he ‘put out there’ for other people to do with as they liked…. that he’d be happy, for instance, if people put his posters on their walls, or had his text tattooed on themselves.

I really love how Lawrence uses text, simple shapes, colour and line to convey a multitude of possibilities. I like this piece in particular so much, as for me this is a set of instructions for life. We chart our course, we face the storms, and rest on calm seas… and most importantly, enjoy the journey. And it is a reminder to a special day, years ago… before I ever knew I would be working one day at the Vancouver Art Gallery, of meeting an artist who liked my ‘ink’ as much as I do.”


Lawrence Weiner, Paradigms Suitable for Daily Use, 1986. Offset lithography on paper. Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Gift of Moving Pictures Archive. This poster will be on display in the upcoming exhibition, An Autobiography of Our Collection.

Laura Minta Holland is currently very busy planning programs for families and young people to explore and enjoy this work and many others in An Autobiography of Our Collection, amongst other activities.



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