Marian Penner Bancroft
March 28 – September 7, 2014
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents a major new commission for the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station by influential Vancouver–based photographer Marian Penner Bancroft.
Since the late sixties, Penner Bancroft has defined herself as a photographer, dedicating her practice to the medium, meditating on its conventions while also considering the dematerialization of the art object; combining conceptual art strategies as well as pushing the presentation and production of the photographic image into more immersive forms. She is known for drawing attention to the lines between where an image begins and what constitutes an image – at times using the physical framing device as a tangible three-dimensional photographic field.
The subject of Penner Bancroft’s work often resides in the personal, following her family, tracking their daily movements both real and, in the case of her ancestors, imagined. She embeds these inquiries into images of the landscape, using visual traces of a colonial transit to and across Canada as part of an individual yet generalized narrative of immigration and displacement. In recent years she has widened the scope of her research to include the histories of the fur trade, farming, music and religion in relation to the landscape and mapping.
For this new commission, details from a sequence of photographs of winter trees are grouped together in a mirrored formation around two of the station’s glass walls. As high-contrast translucent prints adhered to the windows, they create a lattice effect, casting patterns and shadows in the station when the sun shines through. Penner Bancroft deliberately selected these images from others taken along the Cambie Heritage Boulevard as the Canada Line forms a subterranean echo of the road. This green space, only fifty years old in 1993 when deemed a heritage site by the City of Vancouver, is a highly cultivated strip of land with nearly 450 trees, its significance as an example of Canadian urban design and planning—greatly influenced by the late 19th century English garden city movement—providing a metaphor for notions of origin, belonging, history and mapping.
Landscape figures prominently in Canadian history. Its scale, diversity, harsh climate and terrain are inescapable and inextricably linked to the formation of the nation – its cities, economics, culture and colonialist beginnings. In Vancouver this interlocking of landscape and identity is heightened by its geographic location as well as its relative youth.
The Cambie Heritage Boulevard is made from of a mix of grass, trees and ornamental plants, but featured prominently between 25th and 29th Avenues are the earliest plantings of two distinct types of trees: Golden Elms and Sequoias. The former originates in Germany, but is a staple of the English picturesque garden while the latter is a redwood indigenous to North America’s west coast. They are an unlikely pairing, but can be considered emblematic of attempts to cultivate space using landscaping strategies developed elsewhere. The contrast between these two trees heightens this sense of another place and time, and through Penner Bancroft’s images, the mural evokes both subtle and beautiful associations and dislocations, a sense of familiarity not simply as representations of trees but as something that is connected to an idea of home. At the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station the commuter will be prompted to consider something we know as belonging to here, while, like many of us, also belongs elsewhere.
Presented in partnership with the Canada Line Public Art Program — IntransitBC.