The work of Stanisław Lem is now represented on a wall in Vancouver.
That's not the artist; hardcore sci-fi fans will recognize the name of Poland's most famous science-fiction writer. First-time muralist Dimitri Sirenko, who shares something in common with Lem, was tapped to paint the massive piece of art.
"I was commissioned by the Polish Consulate through the Vancouver Mural Festival, which in part found me through a few of my artist friends," says Sirenko.
Originally from Ukraine, Sirenko pursued a career in illustration for video games and animation in Vancouver for more than a decade. However, after spending years working, he decided it was time for a career change.
"It really felt that towards the end of that journey it was becoming too much of a job; too much like it was killing my creativity," he tells Vancouver Is Awesome.
That was two-and-a-half years ago. He's been painting in a more traditional manner since then. Often, he likes big canvases. It fits his style and is a comfortable way to work. Up until a few weeks ago the largest piece he tackled, though, was four feet by six feet.
When he accepted the mural project (24 feet by 13 feet), it was obvious it'd be different.
"Just in terms of the size, there are so many different challenges with the mural, but I was prepared for that," he says. "I knew it was a different type of beast."
Before putting paint to brick, though, he met up with Polish representatives to figure out the subject matter. Lem is one of the most famous Polish authors ever; this year was declared Stanisław Lem Year by the Polish Parliament, marking 100 years since his birth.
Honouring the influential writer with a mural made sense and Sirenko fit, since both men were born in the same city: Lviv, Ukraine.
"His most famous for his piece of work Solaris," Sirenko says. "A lot of critics don't think it's his best, but somehow it's his most famous."
Two movies are titled Solaris. A film based on the book starring George Clooney came out in 2002; prior to that, a Russian film based on the story won the Palme d'Or at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival. There's also a TV movie, four operas, multiple theatre productions, and many audio versions. There's also now a star named Solaris.
Given the fame of the work, Sirenko's painting is a homage to the story, which involves astronauts trying to communicate with a planet where the ocean is a single living entity and the difficulties therein.
"He's one of the most successful writers of Poland in terms of a global scale," Sirenko says of Lem. "What separated him from a lot of western sci-fi writers is he was one of the few exploring the more psychological and philosophical ideas at the time."
Included in those philosophical ideas were what life may look like and if humanity was looking for reflections of itself in its search for interstellar life.
That reflection on reflection is reflected in Sirenko's piece, 'The Reflection'.
"[The quote about reflections] really resonated well with me and the Polish Consulate," he says.
Sirenko, who likes painting water scenes, looked forward to using the living ocean in his work.
Along with the scene depicted, he added other references in the final mural, which is located at 61 East 5th Ave. The astronaut is standing on a platform with a section that looks like a menorah, for one. Another is a constellation in the sky, Leo. That's connected to Lviv. There's also the patch on the ocean astronaut's shoulder; it's the Polish flag (Sirenko got help with that part from a consulate member's children).
There's a raven and salmon near the bottom, as well.
"The wave turns into a raven-like bird, it almost looks like it's grabbing the fish," Sirenko says. "It relates the mural and festival to the fact we're on the First Nations' land."
As a first-time mural painter, even with preparation, there were some challenges.
"When working on it, I ended up working some of those heat wave days," he says. "It was getting to 36 C, 38 C. It's not just the sun hitting my back, but it's also the paint heating up."
Along with the uneven brick surface and more liquid paint, Sirenko had some challenges to overcome but says it was worth it and he'd definitely paint another mural if given the opportunity to.
"I can confidently say it's something I'd be looking forward to doing again," he says.
It doesn't hurt that it's already gotten lots of attention. On Reddit, a post of his about the piece has garnered nearly 100,000 upvotes and plenty of praise.
"It's great to see this one get the attention," Sirenko says. "It's not a work I can sell, so it's really more for people who know that it's there."