PROFILE: Meet artist Eric Chan, better known to his fans as Eepmon

PROFILE: Meet artist Eric Chan, better known to his fans as Eepmon

He’s an artist, a teacher, a scholar of the digital age. And a bit of a monkey.

Photograph by Christian Lalonde,

Eric Chan came up with the concept for his alter ego, eepmon, while doodling in class one day. While he insists he doesn’t pay much heed to horoscopes, when he researched his Chinese zodiac sign, the Year of the Monkey, something clicked. Eepmon, a mashup of ape man, emerged as a way to remind himself to stay positive in work and play.

These days Chan spends time at the front of a classroom, teaching computer foundations and design at Algonquin College (where he attended just four years ago). Born and raised in Ottawa, Chan also manages an online store, collaborates on public art, designs corporate promotional material, helps promote Ottawa to the world as a digital arts capital — the list goes on. Not unlike a playful primate, he swings between these pursuits with ease, in part because he’s a pro at parlaying good ideas into bigger things.

For example, his City Lights art series shows how a series of photos from an inspirational walk in a foreign city (Tokyo) can give way to large-scale art (on show at the Mercury Lounge) and, most recently, the posters and programs for the 2010 Gemini Awards.

“Some people tell me that I have to focus on one thing,” says Chan, “but I think you have to be multi-disciplinary, and I enjoy that. I want to do so many other things.”

Another recent endeavour saw Chan open an exhibit at the Ottawa Art Gallery with a performance that used algorithms from Google’s weather service to create art. While visual art, let alone digital art, isn’t often associated with performance, get Chan talking about live events, and you get a glimpse of his inner philosopher. Performance, Chan says, is “a very rich element that brings out my creativity.” And music — an element he calls “the invisible colour” — is integral to his process, his product, his imagining of an audience.

It’s hard to know what’s ahead for the prolific artist — Chan himself admits 2010 was one heck of a year. Watch for his designs in the metalwork installation soon to be mounted on Hazeldean Road.

1. Inspired by the Tokyo lights, Chan took photographs of advertisement panels in the Shinjuku district to build a library of nearly 1,000 images.

2. He then imported all the photos into his computer and converted each panel into a graphical digital format.

3. Using a program he developed, Chan generated collages from his panels. These served as pieces that he manually assembled into the grand composition shown above.