Rod Quin, VHS 1970 Artist, Innovator, Inspiring Imagineer
By Linda Baker, VHS 1969 May 2023
Vic High’s art teacher 1966 – 1988, Michael Hemming, would be thrilled that yet another of his students, Rod Quin, VHS 1970, has made their way in the world of art, though perhaps in a way that Michael might never have imagined. Rod’s groundbreaking Ombrae, an extraordinary fusion of art and technology, has produced innovative sculptural images on over 90 commercial buildings around the world. As a scalable technology it has applications on fabric, watches, cars, and so much more. Earlier this year Rod was finally able to bring his technology home to a Vancouver Island building, the new Amazon Distribution Centre in Sidney, (dubbed Cascadia Junction).
3D pixels or Optical Tiles are precision-cut into a base material to create Sculptural Images. His initial application uses anodized aluminum panels as the base material for large-scale architectural art. Each Optical Tile is set at a precise angle according to the image to be displayed, and catches and reflects the changing light and viewing angle so images are constantly shifting and appear to come alive. Rod’s technology has almost limitless potential to reduce our energy use as the panels create a cushioning envelope that buffers environmental effects and insulates a building, thus reducing costs to manage interior air and temperature by upwards of 40%. In addition, of course, applying aesthetically pleasing art to large building surfaces definitely enhances our environments, and inspires the imagination to expand the boundaries of what’s possible in the world. Read more in this March 12, 2023 Times Colonist article: Panels create natural scenes on bare Amazon warehouse walls – Victoria Times Colonist
Rod wasn’t that interested in school, and at S. J. Willis Junior Secondary he was mostly into sports. His father was an engineer, artist, and photographer so Rod learned photography at an early age and he and his father worked on many art projects together. He could draw but likely took the skill for granted, until an astute teacher at SJ Willis suggested he enrol in Michael Hemming’s new Art Specialty program when he got to Vic High.
“Michael’s program rescued me,” says Rod. “He took me under his wing and mentored me, encouraging me to explore my ideas and a lot of different mediums. He let me use his darkroom to develop and experiment with my own images, and helped create a very safe space for my experimentation. I ended up winning the Arts Specialty scholarship that year and enrolled in the Vancouver School of Art in 1970.” After a couple of years, Rod and future wife Nonie James, VHS 1970, spent a year travelling in Europe, then married in 1974 and moved to Comox. He designed and hand-built them a beautiful home where Nonie still lives. “We were married for about ten years,” says Rod, “but we’re still the best of friends.” Rod learned various skills like masonry and carpentry by doing them, an approach that often contributes to innovation as you better appreciate how things are constructed.
In 1980 Rod enrolled at Emily Carr University in Vancouver as a third-year student, and opportunities there also opened his eyes to various mediums and provided opportunities to explore. With the movie industry really taking off after Expo 86, Rod ended up spending 18 years designing and constructing sets, as an art director, sculptor, props builder, and special effects technician for major movie and TV productions like I, Robot, Seven Years In Tibet, Legends of the Fall, and the X-Files, X Men. More info here – www.rodquin.com.
In 1993 he spent several months as Artist-In-Residence at the Computer Science Lab at the University of British Columbia, experimenting with various ways to integrate art and computer technology. His Optical Tile idea had great potential, but it would be 10 years before technologies like 3D modelling and manufacturing machinery could turn his ideas into actual prototypes.
While working in the film industry, he also ran his own studio in downtown Vancouver creating architectural sculptures and continuing to bring together his skills and experience in (now) digital photography, science, math, and art. By 2003, his work in film special effects had shown him a way to finally put his Optical Tile idea into practice, and in 2005 he set up Quin Media Arts and Sciences to develop this innovative new technology, initially for architectural installations. Ninety buildings later, he’s also developing applications for his technology such as watch faces for Rolex and Cartier, swimsuit material for Speedo to create more hydrodynamic performances in the water, and vehicle applications for the likes of Lamborghini, Ferrari, and McLaren. The Ombrae surface in the McLaren Speedtail seats can be programmed in the design phase to allow the driver and passengers to ‘slip’ into the seating position, but once there they are held by the ‘grip’ direction of the Ombrae 3D pixels.
Read more about his Ombrae technology here. Ombrae Studios: Vancouver Art, Design, Technology
Rod has manufacturing partners around the world – United States/Canada, Turkey, Italy, New Zealand/Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Mexico,and is excited about the potential for his technology to really change life on this planet. Landscape architects are contacting him about applications for sun and privacy screens, and the potential for residential applications awaits, not to mention the potential for this technology to change the course of energy use on the planet.
Michael Hemming was an extraordinary person who saw potential in students, who encouraged and supported them to experiment and learn, to stretch their imaginations and creativity and open up to possibilities. His influence is incalculable, but if ever we wanted proof of it, we need only look to Vic High alumni like Rod Quin and his creative, innovative, and very functional art, and be grateful for teachers like Michael Hemming and their dedication to empowering students to be the best they can be.
Read more about Michael Hemming here.