I went for an outing last night to Vancouver's biggest gallery, the VAG, to take in their latest rotating exhibition for Mr. IAN WALLACE, noted in the visual art world as the guy who was instrumental in creating the "Vancouver School" of art. His is a melding chiefly of painting and photography and for his many years pursuing his passions and vision, I was mostly struck by the simplicity of his various works, located on both the 1st and 2nd floors of the VAG.
His interest in architecture and construction—both in the materials themselves and their juxtapositions is clearly evidenced by his approach. Large canvases painted in solid ambers and yellows with exposed bits of sheetboard and lumber could describe most of what was on display. I'll be honest. It didn't move me much and I left the gallery thinking about my own style of work as a photographer. While Ian unarguably has enjoyed great commercial success both in Canada and abroad, it left me feeling like it could be any of 'us' who could find space on notable gallery walls across the country and even the world, so long as one had a unique or novel approach. There's still hope for me in my struggle to find a place to share my own voice + work. Yippee!
It's not often these days someone comes along with something entirely new as was the case when Mr. Wallace began his journey and legacy of experiments with paints, inks, lumber and a camera. There are some though, and just recently I was inspired by these creative gents explorations:
Rut Mackel shot a series of portraits—if a bit disturbing—but certainly a very original idea.
Joel Robison's conceptual self-portraits also demonstrate an intriguing study using digital "magic" that draws the viewer into his seemingly tiny world.
The VAG is really at a crossroads and it's felt in its cramped layout and claustrophobic curatorials. While the old Vancouver Courthouse is truly a beautiful edifice and has served the gallery well—up to a point, it's now clear that for many considerations, an expansion and relocation is absolutely necessary.
I recently came across a new proposal for the VAG and think it's no less than visionary. Go big or go home I say and what the VAG really needs is to go waaaaay BIG and make a huge splash! We have in the city of Vancouver an incredible "canvas" or backdrop. What we sorely need is a cultural base to shine its beacon around the country and for that matter, around the world. I've lived and worked in many cities across the globe and I've experiences breathtaking architecture + buildings, galleries +spaces all in the name of ART. Some of these are located in cities that are on the verge of economic collapse but still somehow they manage to preserve and prioritize such that their galleries are, at the least, to be celebrated institutions that deserve to be lauded through all they bring to their cities in terms of permanent collections showcasing their own homegrown artists along with important rotating exhibitions among some of the most important collections of works and artists from all over the world. They truly gleam and when you walk into these places, you experience a complete journey of the senses. Vancouver trails way behind many. It's time to support a new initiative and direction for the VAG.
Check out this [unsolicited] proposal for a brand new VAG here.