Vancouver’s supernatural setting of rainforest, ocean, mountains, and beaches is the stuff of big ad campaigns: panoramic vistas, robust fleece-insulated outdoorsiness, and epic narratives that involve “Grinds” or cliffy ocean-edge Instagram selfies.
Decades ago, Vancouver’s urban planners locked in the city’s aesthetic appeal to make sure there would always be more view cones than highrises and more green space than thoroughfares. It’s probably why this city features on so many “Most Liveable” and “Most Unaffordable” lists and why you hear so many people muttering about their love/hate relationship with Vancouver. There’s even a “Love it or List it” TV show featuring Vancouver real estate though the decreasing affordability makes people pose the more binary question, “Love it or Leave it?”
These 25 paintings are done in a bright van Gogh style but the themes are somewhat darker: industry vs. nature, gentrification, densification, commuting, class changes, and the resentment at foreign capital’s effect on the local real estate market. The pretty colors and swooping curves of each scene will sink in before the subject matter does, just like Vancouver’s spectacular scenery draws the eye away from problems at ground level. Superficial beauty helps distract us from what we may find offensive or unbearable, whether it’s a rodent infestation or a frustrating economic reality.
And yet the very contradiction of loveliness and ugliness in the same space makes both seem fragile, fleeting, and somehow forgiveable. It gives us the sort of grace we might bestow on a beloved pet or adorable child even though that pet or child is source of our frustration.
Inhabit the Contradiction is on display at Blueshore Financial at the Park Royal branch at 815 Main Street, West Vancouver, BC until August 9, 2017.