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 Back  Vignettes | British Columbia | April – May 2014

By Robin Laurence

REWILDING VANCOUVER Museum of Vancouver, Feb 27-Sep 1 This exhibition uses taxidermy specimens, 3-D models, soundscapes, videos and digitally altered photographs to expand our understanding of what is “natural” to Vancouver – past, present and future. Guest-curated by writer J.B. MacKinnon, the show is inspired by his latest book, The Once and Future World, and plays with the presence and absence of wild animals, indigenous vegetation and salmon-bearing streams. Images, objects and text prompt us to reconnect with what has been lost, and to imagine the reconstruction of our natural environment in the future.

EDWARD BURTYNSKY: A TERRIBLE BEAUTY Vancouver Art Gallery, Mar 1-May 26 Edward Burtynsky is internationally renowned for his highly detailed and monumental photographs of the human-altered landscape. This exhibition of 44 works from the VAG’s collection provides a survey of his dominant subjects and themes, including open-pit mines and quarries, the impact of oil production and consumption, and our uses and abuses of water. From nickel tailings in northern Ontario and extraction facilities at Alberta’s tar sands to massive aquaculture networks in China, Burtynsky’s images both astonish and alarm us.

SCOTT WATERS: THE KEEPER OF NOTHINGNESS Vernon Public Art Gallery, Mar 20-May 22 Drawing on experiences and observations while serving as a war artist with the Canadian Forces in Kabul, Afghanistan, Scott Waters has created a stunning series of psychologically fraught oil paintings. He explores the complexities of feeling that arise from military service in a hostile land, and contemplates a series of binary conditions: “anticipation and aftermath,” “safety and chaos,” the enduring human condition and the constant threat of death.

ARNO KORTSCHOT: IN AND BETWEEN Jennifer Kostuik Gallery, Vancouver, Apr 3-May 4 Working in the minimalist tradition, Dutch-Canadian artist Arno Kortschot produces elegant freestanding and wall-mounted sculptures featuring his favoured material, zinc. He augments the naturally evolving patina of the zinc panels on the exteriors of his box-like forms by coating their interiors with alkyd paint, creating a luminous effect, as if the works were lit from within. His intention: “to recognize, to appreciate and to be inspired to change the way of looking at things.”

VAL NELSON: BEING THERE Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, May 3-17 The gestural painting style of Vancouver artist Val Nelson is inspired by several sources, including the 19th-century realist painters Adolph von Menzel and Edouard Manet, contemporary practitioners of drawing such as Ann Kipling and Cy Twombly, and her own experience as a ballet dancer. Nelson’s new paintings are based on photos taken during her travels, with subjects ranging from Baroque palaces and Renaissance cathedrals to quiet country lanes and the book-filled interior of a sunny English room.

BARBARA HELLER: FALLING FROM GRACE Maple Ridge Art Gallery, May 10-Jul 26 One of this country’s most accomplished tapestry artists, Barbara Heller is represented here by selections from her 30-year career that feature birds as both image and metaphor. Heller’s bird works symbolize numerous pressing issues and ideas. War, terrorism, oil spills, floods, global warming and our reckless use and disposal of plastics are all woven into images that initially seduce us with their colours and textures, and then challenge us with their political and environmental messages.

KAREN YURKOVICH: HERBARIUM SPECIMENS Beaty Biodiversity Museum, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, May 16-Aug 24 Best known for her exquisite paintings of fruits, flowers, branches and other botanical subjects, Karen Yurkovich has long examined the ways in which culture constructs an idea of nature. During her Beaty Museum project, she studied specimens from the UBC Herbarium, exploring their aesthetic, symbolic and scientific histories. The resulting show proposes a new kind of “taxonomy” and includes Yurkovich’s beautiful paintings, her research materials, and a selection of Herbarium specimens.

ROSALIE MATCHETT: WHALEBONES, BLUBBER AND OTHE RELICS OF FIRST OIL Duthie Gallery, Salt Spring Island, Apr 4-27 Born in Toronto, educated in Halifax and London, England, and now based on Salt Spring Island, Rosalie Matchett paints compelling works in encaustic with oil pigment on birch panels. In this show, she looks at the slaughter of the right and bowhead whales, hunted to near-extinction between the 17th and 19th centuries. Juxtaposing images of whale carcasses, bones and blubber with images of the living, swimming creatures, Matchett examines irreplaceable loss and human exploitation of the natural world.

DIRT AND NOT COPPER 221A, Vancouver, Apr 4-May 10 This two-person show features new work by Zin Taylor, a Canadian artist based in Brussels, and Lorna Macintyre, a Scottish artist based in Glasgow. The overarching theme links art-making with the construction and strategies of storytelling. Employing two-dimensional images and three-dimensional objects, Dirt and Not Copper suggests how narrative elements may be obscured or served by art. Either way, it is from the “slippage between idea and form” that entirely new narratives may emerge.

EVAN LEE: ELDERS AND ROOTS Richmond Art Gallery, Apr 26-Jun 15 One of the acclaimed inheritors of the Vancouver School of photo-based art, Evan Lee expands his repertoire in this show. His drawings of elderly, stooped Chinese women walking in Vancouver’s back lanes are juxtaposed with high-resolution scans of ginseng roots, whose shapes eerily evoke human figures. Together with a new video, Manual Labour, which speaks to immigrant experience, these images address the post-colonial movement of peoples and cultures and the globalization of foods and medicines.

Rewilding Vancouver
Rewilding Vancouver

Edward Burtynsky
Edward Burtynsky

Juan Carlos Alom
Scott Waters

Phyllis Schwartz
Arno Kortschot

Paul Wong
Val Nelson

Hans Sebald Beham
Barbara Heller

Karen Yurkovich
Karen Yurkovich

Rosalie Matchett
Rosalie Matchett

Lorna Macintyre
Lorna Macintyre

Evan Lee
Evan Lee

 Sun, Apr 6, 2014