The colloquialism of Roy Arden’s exhibition title UNDERTHESUN suggests open-ended generosity. It may imply the act of finding one’s place, it can also, quite simply and implausibly conjure ‘everything.’ Arden’s dense installation of nearly one hundred works, comprising broken antique toys, rusted objects, spinning sculptures, loud horns, colourful palettes and graphic imagery, gave the exhibition a carnivalesque atmosphere. The dynamic configuration of the images and objects collectively illustrated a history that was at once playful and welcoming yet foiled by a cool elusiveness and criticality.
From intimate handmade collage to large-scale kinetic sculptures, Arden chronicled the progression and effects of modernity. Beginning with images and materials from his extensive digital and print library, Arden extracted a seemingly unsystematic selection: a short newspaper article of a domestic break-in was re-scaled into a pencil drawing; the covers of out-of-date and small print-run books were precisely reproduced as paintings; and found and aged materials were used to create assemblages on wheels.
The ostensibly diverse works were linked by lines and repetitions that provide crucial clues to our understanding of social and economic history, beginning with the industrial revolution. Depictions of technological advancements in textile and transport industries may have simultaneously signified progress as well as the deteriorating conditions of workers; a reiteration of a mid-twentieth century illustration comically signaled the machines domination over man as well as female liberation. UNDERTHESUN is a multifaceted compilation of works that combined to speak of a focused search to discover manifold causes of our present condition through relentless digging, quotation and reinterpretation.
Arden is well-known for his austere photographs depicting trans-formative effects on Vancouver’s cityscape and its surroundings. As such this comprehensive exhibition at the CAG may have seemed to be a departure, but he has always performed a parallel combing of the larger image world. In the 1980s Arden produced a body of work that employed historical photographs to explore the social history of BC. Recently he returned to working with found images in video, online works, drawings, sculpture, paintings, paper and digital collage, which continues his broader artistic interests.
This exhibition was sponsored by The Hamber Foundation
A pictorial artist’s publication that acts a record of the exhibition and as an artwork was distributed for free during the exhibition and is now available for $10.00. It was made possible with support from the City of Vancouver’s 125th Anniversary Grants Program.