Beyond the Trees considers mediated representations of nature and the ways our perspectives shift between physical and virtual experiences. Both Vancouver-based collective WALLPAPERS (Nicolas Sassoon, Sara Ludy and Sylvain Sailly) and West Coast modernist Emily Carr invite us to reflect on their perceptions of British Columbia’s coastal landscape, the former through the use of digitally animated patterns and the latter by means of nuanced brushstrokes of line and colour. In both, nature is viewed through powerful aesthetic filters.
WALLPAPERS is a collective founded in 2011 by artists Sara Ludy (b. 1980), Nicolas Sassoon (b. 1981) and Sylvain Sailly (b. 1983). Their artworks are computer-generated animated patterns that exist online at www.w-a-l-l-p-a-pe-r-s.net. Exhibited online, the work takes form as a catalogue of digital patterns, with each artwork created by an individual artist and displayed full-screen on its own URL. For Beyond the Trees, WALLPAPERS have produced an immersive environment that both mimics and experiments with the scale and primary forms of nature. Responding to the architecture of the gallery, their new site-specific works create contrasting experiences. In the first room, a monumental outdoor environment is created through movement and imagery. In the second, a more confined and intimate space combines subtle movements with defi ned textures, patterns and frames. The treatment of these two galleries speaks to the ubiquity of digital forms in contemporary life, while the content of the animations reflects the power of the natural world.
In addition to addressing the distinct architecture of the galleries, the works created for Beyond the Trees also refer to multiple subjects. Ludy’s cloud-like formations, Sassoon’s hypnotic pixelated patterns and Sailly’s hard-edge objects evoke not only the wilderness of British Columbia but also the manufactured, flat display of a computer screen. By representing this duality, WALLPAPERS captures the command of the natural world as well as the effects of human intervention within it. In contrast, a sizable selection of Emily Carr’s works are presented salon style and arranged according to her use of formal elements — particularly those of line, shape and colour. These mounted clusters of oil paintings and works on paper place an emphasis on the rhythms captured in her landscape imagery, allowing us to both view the individual works and see them as a cohesive whole. Carr’s revered landscape paintings have become emblematic of this region’s forests; presented en masse, they emulate the display of WALLPAPERS’ projections. Beyond the Trees compares two diverse visual art practices. While the materials and mediums of these artists are dissimilar, each uses pattern and movement to articulate the natural world in a way that creates pictorial landscapes and draws attention to how one experiences nature in a constructed setting. Beyond the Trees is the fifth in a series of In Dialogue with Carr exhibitions organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery.
- Caitlin Jones is the Executive Director of the Western Front Society in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Prior to this appointment she had a combined curatorial and conservation position at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and was the Director of Programming at the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in New York. As a curator and researcher Jones has also been responsible for developing important tools and policy for the preservation and documentation of electronic and ephemeral artworks. She was a staff writer for Rhizome and her other writings on contemporary art and new media have appeared in a wide range of periodicals and other international publications including The Believer, Art Lies, Cory Arcangel: A New Fiesta in the Making (exhibition catalog), Nam June Paik: Global Groove 2004 (exhibition catalog) and the upcoming edition of the Documents of Contemporary Art series published by Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press.
- Diana Freundl is Associate Curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery. She has an academic background in comparative religion and philosophy with graduate studies in journalism. She was a staff reporter in Taipei, Taiwan covering arts and features before moving to Beijing to study at the Tsinghua Academy of Arts and Design. She was a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), Shanghai and later artistic director of Art+ Shanghai Gallery, Shanghai, before moving to Canada in 2013.