May 4, 2018

Manifesting Peace

by Darya Kosilova

One of the 184 wishes sent to
Imagine Peace Tower, Reykjavík

Over the six-week run of our Yoko Ono: Mend Piece (March 1-April 15, 2018) exhibition the Education Program at Rennie Museum hosted 184 young visitors from ten Vancouver schools. The diverse groups, ranging in ages five to eighteen, learned about the interdisciplinary career of Yoko Ono and participated in Ono’s instructional artwork MEND PIECE, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York City version (1966/2015).

In groups of ten, students sat at a table and were instructed to mend pieces of broken ceramic cups and plates using provided materials such as glue, tape, twine, string, and elastic bands. As students mended, they were asked to consider how the act of mending related to a greater conversation about change, notions of perfection, and the individual process of problem-solving. Students shared their experiences of having to overcome the pressures of perfection whether that meant achieving excellence in their academic performance or succumbing to peer pressure. Other times we simply reflected on what it meant to reconcile a mistake. Students also voiced their concerns about recent social issues such as gun violence, the Me Too movement, and the marginalization of ethnic and racial minorities. When the mending session came to an end, the students placed their creations on the shelves surrounding the mending table. Students often agreed that, although far from perfect, what they had mended was complex and unique. One educator noted, “I loved seeing how everyone created a new piece that was a representation of who they are.”

Gilmore Community School student poses with
mended cup

The Education Program is designed to prompt investigations between contemporary art and other subjects such as Social Studies, Literature, Critical Thinking, and Science. For every exhibition, our programming offers customizable activities and workshops pertaining to the themes of the exhibition and to class curriculum. The workshop for the Yoko Ono: Mend Piece exhibition encouraged students to consider how positive affirmations could manifest individual goals for social activism through discussion of Imagine Peace Tower (2007), another artwork by Yoko Ono.

Imagine Peace Tower (2007) is an outdoor work of art conceived by Ono in memory of John Lennon. The tower, located in Reykjavík, Iceland, symbolizes Lennon and Ono’s continuing campaign for world peace. Buried underneath the tower are over one million written wishes that Ono gathered in an ongoing project titled Wish Tree. In honour of the tower being lit during the Spring Equinox (March 20-27), students were invited to write a wish on a provided postcard. During this writing exercise, students considered the kind of positive changes they’d like to see in the world. One student wished to see society embrace disadvantaged individuals, “I wish this world can show more love and empathy towards the people that stand on the weaker side of our society.” Another wished for gender equality, “I wish for gender rights and no sexism in the world and for women to have the same rights as men.” Following the end of the exhibition, all 184 wishes were mailed to Imagine Peace Tower.

From the perspective of the Education Program, it was inspiring watching students thoughtfully engage in the act of mending. Our young visitors ignited Yoko Ono’s instructions to “Mend with wisdom, mend with love” and in the process reflected on the human mind’s imaginative power to manifest peace. Despite the formidable issues affecting youth, it was electrifying to witness their optimism, compassion, and commitment to making a difference in the world. The Education Program’s mandate is to give students the opportunity to explore new ways of learning through art. This time however, it was our team at Rennie Museum, who learned from the students about the hopeful future they inspire.

March 29, 2018

[Newsletter] Lara Favaretto Catalogue Now Available

March 6, 2018

[Newsletter] Exhibition Extended: Yoko Ono at Rennie Museum

February 2, 2018

Did you miss our most recent Rennie Speaker Series talk by Gary Simmons? Staging history through the looking glass of popular culture, Simmons’ work exposes the impossibility of abolishing racial and cultural stereotypes from our shared memory, presenting a balanced, forthright address of racial, social and cultural politics. On November 15, 2017, artist talked about the recurring ideas and new developments in his work. Watch it below:

Rennie Speaker Series: Gary Simmons from Rennie Collection on Vimeo.

VIDEO & EDIT: Milena Salazar

January 24, 2018

[Newsletter] New Rennie Museum Exhibition: Yoko Ono

January 9, 2018

Exhibition walkthrough of ‘Ian Wallace: Collected Works’ at Rennie Museum, May 27 – October 14, 2017.

Exhibition Walkthrough: Ian Wallace from Rennie Collection on Vimeo.

VIDEO & EDIT: Milena Salazar

December 20, 2017

The Poignancy of Plywood

by Sophia Lapres

Ian Wallace
Installation view

Ian Wallace has long engaged with representations of locale. Many of his works draw from Vancouver’s urban environment and history, and focus primarily on questions of space. These pieces often feature large monochromatic sections, sometimes printed with plywood patterns. I have found these plywood monoprints to be particularly interesting aspects of Wallace’s composition, as they impart materiality. Plywood, after being sourced from fallen timber, is converted into a more versatile material through processing. This material is then used to expand the urban environment, which creates further encroachment into the natural landscape. The artist’s use of the plywood print not only challenges our relationship to the materials used in the spaces we inhabit, but also reflects on Canada’s history.

Wallace creates a dialogue with Canadian history through the symbol of plywood. Canada’s dense forests define the country’s identity. The vast expanses of land are what originally drew Europeans to colonize the country; Canada’s spaciousness and natural resources, including timber, were hugely appealing to the colonizers. In his work, Wallace uses the familiar texture of wood grain to evoke both artificial and natural environments. The plywood board’s surface is dynamic, each ply’s wood grain is warped after its unraveling from the cylindrical trunk and punctuated with knots, recalling the material’s original form. We can fully appreciate Wallace’s symbolic use of plywood within the three monochrome monoprints, Monoprint With Burgundy, Monoprint With Mustard, and Monoprint with Green, all dating 1990. Each canvas features a monochrome stamped in black ink with an imprint of a plywood board. The entire space of the canvas is dedicated to the plywood’s impression. The three canvases mimic the dimensions of a standard plywood board while simultaneously evoking the monumental scale of Canadian landscape paintings. Landscape painting is regarded as European Canada’s most successful foray into artistic production. The Group of Seven’s landscape paintings made a huge contribution to the country’s art history. The three monoprints’ monumentality mimics the dimensions often employed by the Group of Seven painters. Their scale is reinforced through an unusually high wall mount: the three works dominate the space.

Ian Wallace
Construction Site (Barcelona Series I-V), 1991

Guests often remark upon the wood grain texture, it comes across as both familiar and unfamiliar—its source material sitting at the tip of your tongue. The material of plywood is at once organic and engineered. Wallace takes advantage of this duality in Construction Site (Barcelona Series I-V) (1991), a work he created while in Spain. The colossal work explores the relationship between the natural and artificial aspects of the cityscape. In depicting his current environment, Wallace continues the practice of engaging with one’s landscape. Five photographs of buildings under various stages of construction are bookended by narrow plywood impressed stripes, presented on a stretched canvas surface. These sections have been interpreted as telephone poles, tree trunks, or the pattern left in concrete after concrete forming. I think these various interpretations speak to the ubiquitous nature of lumber. Processed wood is integral to the urban environment’s development. The canvas representing the dead tree and a cement truck in the near background makes this concept especially clear. Construction Site considers the source of the city’s building blocks and the effects these extractions and developments have on the natural environment. The creation of new spaces for human use inevitably causes the destruction of a prior environment, either natural or urban. Construction Site depicts these transitory moments— mounds of earth, raw materials and construction equipment create a chaotic atmosphere of change and human influence. The Construction Site (Olympic Village) (2011) applies these concepts to the context of Vancouver through a similar compositional treatment of his photographic material.

Wallace’s combination of plywood prints and photographs in collaged compositions draw attention to materiality and space. In Clayoquot Protest (1993-1995) Wallace presents a photo-collage featuring nine canvases, each with a section of photojournalistic imagery taken by the artist. The work functions as a documentary, we are presented with meditations on human interferences within their environments. The photographs depict 200 squatters protesting the clear-cut logging of Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia. The Clayoquot protest heralded the beginning of a new appreciation of land for non-Aboriginal Canadians. Wallace’s choice to document what became the biggest act of civil disobedience in Canada to date solidifies this moment within the contemporary art realm.* The artist departs from a purely aesthetic engagement within his art making to investigate an influential moment in British Columbia’s history.

Ian Wallace
The Quarry, Serre di Rapolano I and II, 1998

Wallace’s politically minded examinations of the environment that started with the Clayoquot Protest can be found in his later works. The Quarry, Serre di Rapolano I and II (1998) combines this political aspect with an aesthetic use of the plywood print. In it, Wallace dissects a single photograph of an Italian marble quarry into two and the gaps left by this dissection are filled with plywood monoprinted rectangles. Wallace pays special attention to the pattern of the printed wood grain, allowing for a knot in the wood to mimic a sun or moon in the sky, and a seam to double as a horizon line. Through his attention to the material, the quarry’s role as a space for resource extraction becomes the central focus. The deconstruction of the landscape to allow for the extraction of material resources is mimicked through the physical cutting of the image into several pieces. The plywood’s symbolic role within Wallace’s practice reinforces this attention to the landscape and resource extraction, setting this environmentally concerned work within the canon of similarly minded pieces. Drawing from the same subject matter as Canadian landscape painters, Wallace broadens the dialogue of landscape representation to include the medium of photography.

Wallace’s works read as public acknowledgements of the environment, both artificial and natural. Their attention to materials provides a meditation on the underlying structures and processes that influence our cities and ecosystems. The “concrete jungle” can exist only through the razing of the natural environment, something that Wallace’s use of plywood understands and questions. Investigations of the natural and urban environments have always been central to Wallace’s work. Our world’s current environmental state adds poignancy to Wallace’s works that only seem to become more relevant with time, developing patinas of reference.

*Tindall, David. “Twenty Years After the Protest, What we Learned From the Clayoquot Sound”. The National, Web.

November 24, 2017

Exhibition walkthrough of ‘Simon Starling: Collected Works’ at Rennie Museum, November 18, 2016 – March 25, 2017.

Exhibition Walkthrough: Simon Starling from Rennie Collection on Vimeo.

VIDEO & EDIT: Milena Salazar

November 22, 2017

Poolside Perspectives

by Sophia Lapres

Ian Wallace
La Piscina, Valencia, 1990

Ian Wallace’s large scale photographic works explore the intersection between the mediums of painting and photography. His works feature both photographic and painted moments, but what is the primary medium of these works? Most of the canvases’ surface is dedicated to the photograph— the coloured bars read more as addendum. Interestingly, Wallace refers to these large scale works as paintings, explicitly defining these works as more than pure photography. This exploration of the intersection of the two mediums is cited again and again as integral to Wallace’s career but it was not until recently that I began to fully appreciate the concept. The investigation of intersections is especially apparent and succinctly explored in La Piscina, Valencia (1990). It is through a collection of influences drawn from the tradition of painting that Wallace’s practice can be understood.

Wallace’s sunbathed photograph reveals a tiled walkway in Valencia, Spain. The work is composed of a photograph laminated on canvas and bookended with painted monochromes. La Piscina, though titled “the pool” in Spanish, does not provide us with any visual indications of a swimming pool. Yet, the image is convincing of a poolside. I imagine the pool sits slightly to the left of the frame, cropped from view. Wallace’s choice to indicate the subject of the photograph through the title instead of visual representation is an interesting one. Upon the mention of a pool, images of turquoise water and wafts of chlorine swim into your mind’s eye. Despite not visually depicting the pool, the evocation of “pool” in the title is effective in convincing us that the pool lies just out of sight. Guests to the museum point towards darker areas along the tiled walkway and interpret it as water from the pool. These darkened areas could be anything, but the pool is such a familiar setting that the experience of water dripping down your legs and staining the concrete is an easy narrative to apply to the image.

Fra Angelico
The Annunciation, 1437-1446
(image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Wallace’s artistic practice has long been influenced by traditional art history, often appropriating previous traditions to establish a link between old and new methods of art making. La Piscina, for example, depicts an arcade space that formally references spaces typical of Italian Renaissance paintings. The early modern period of the Renaissance often featured depictions of deep recessive space, particularly spaces that reference earlier architectural tradition. A resurgence of interest in Greek and Roman antiquity marked the changing visual culture of the period. One of many paintings that feautres this influence is Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation (1437-1446) that draws from classic architecture to inform the environment of the sitters. The two figures of the Virgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel occupy a raised platform, sheltered from the exterior by a roof supported with columns. The covered walkway, or arcade, is a feature of basilicas, common in old Greek and Roman homes and public buildings. Basilicas, in turn, influenced the layout of Catholic churches. Though the Renaissance marked a gradual turn to secularized culture, many early Renaissance paintings featured religious iconography. Therefore, in choosing to depict the traditional space of the arcade instead of a more contemporary architectural space, Wallace directly sets himself within the art historical cannon.

To further situate himself within the tradition of art making and image composition, Wallace’s photographic piece offers a textbook example of one-point perspective. If you follow the lines of the ceiling, floor, and bench, you’ll see that they angle towards the same point. This point of convergence is called the vanishing point, taking its name from the point on the horizon where objects disappear into the distance. The blue vents on the right recede gradually, the planks on the green bench angle towards the vanishing point in perfect parallel with the line of the right wall and the tiled floor’s convergence. The space between the columns shrinks, as do the tiles on the floor themselves. This mathematically derived method of depicting space is again a tradition originating in the Renaissance period. Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation employs this illusionistic tactic feigning deep space. The space between each column on the left shrinks gradually towards the vanishing point, just as the space between each column shrinks with distance in La Piscina. The work reads like a window opening into the space of the arcade passageway. Wallace has created a convincing space in terms of depth— the image reads like a space that one could walk into despite its presentation on the flat surface of a canvas.

Although Wallace and his peers were all engaged in the exploration of large scale photography, Wallace was the only member of the Vancouver School that used canvas to mount his photographs. His contemporaries used light boxes, C-prints, and billboards, but Wallace chose to use a material with significant history, intentionally continuing this tradition into his contemporary practice. The canvas’ grainy material textures the entire surface, creating a unifying effect between the planes of the painted panels and the photolaminate. Because the surface is the same texture across the entire image, the boundaries between photograph and painting are blurred through this textural consistency. The grain of the canvas and the graininess of the photographic image mimic one another. Wallace’s photographs are taken using a handheld camera, he does not use an elaborate set up, or even a tripod. As a result of this his photographs often become blurred and softened when blown up. Instead of detracting from the image’s visual aesthetic, this grainy effect enhances the image. The softness of the image and the pastel colour scheme give the photograph a painterly quality.

Installation View

Wallace’s photographs are always accompanied by painted monochrome sections and La Piscina is no exception. La Piscina, in my mind, presents the most visually successful use of this formula in the Rennie Museum exhibition. The yellow and white in the photograph are repeated both in colour and form in the monochrome bars. The yellow paint matches the yellows present in the photograph, found both in the monochrome behind the glass and the buckets on the floor at the end of the passageway. The white monochrome parallels the columns and the white painted monochromes behind the glass. These visual pairings of colour and shape blur the boundaries of the photographic plane, creating a continuation of image into the painted monochrome segments. Through the application of paint in a solid bar to the surface of the canvas, Wallace paints, but only in the most fundamental sense. Painting is in essence the application of colour to a surface, therefore, Wallace’s monochromes act as symbolic gestures for painting. This element of Wallace’s practice is the most literal aspect of the intersection between the mediums of painting and photography.

With regards to the monochrome bars on the far wall: they were neither installed by Wallace, nor did they inspire him to begin painting monochrome bars. I would think that it was the presence of these monochromes that drove Wallace to photograph the space. The visual harmony between the various greens and yellows, paired with the monochrome’s import to his artistic practice was likely fascinating to encounter. To be met with a fundamental aspect of his practice, photograph it, and repeat these monochromes himself within the finished work creates a self-reflexivity within La Piscina. This self-reflexivity is beautifully allegorized in Wallace’s silhouetted reflection in the glass.

Wallace’s understanding of previous painterly practices and traditions paired with his use of material and subject matter allows for a work of art that is self-aware. Through the visual references to Italian Renaissance art, the photograph continues the practice of representation into a contemporary field. This, paired with Wallace’s repetition of the monochrome bars captured through the lens of his camera not only serves to successfully create an intersection between painting and photography but also solidify his practice within art history.

November 7, 2017

[Newsletter] Rennie Speaker Series Presents: Gary Simmons