The works of Vancouver-based artist Marian Penner Bancroft explore a range of ways in which photography can be used to investigate relationships between personal memory, family history and landscape. Using different ways of framing and contextualising photographic images, the personal travels and emotional involvement of the artist come to the fore.

By Land and Sea: Prospect and Refuge is an artist’s project and publication addressing specific landscapes that are relevant to the artist in terms of her family lineage and cultural identity. The project traces personal genealogy through geography, for instance looking at the history of Mennonites in the Ukraine – which accounts for part of her family’s history – and how historically important events relate to particular locations.

By Land and Sea (Prospect and Refuge): Rhoda Janzen of Los Angeles kissing the ground in Sparrau

By Land and Sea (Prospect and Refuge): Rhoda Janzen of Los Angeles kissing the ground in Sparrau

By Land and Sea (Prospect and Refuge): The 700 year old oak at Chortitza, site of the first Mennonite gathering in South Russia in 1789

By Land and Sea (Prospect and Refuge): The 700 year old oak at Chortitza, site of the first Mennonite gathering in South Russia in 1789

The exhibition derives its title from a theory by Jay Appleton on why human behaviour leads us to enjoy certain landscapes more than others. The prospect-refuge theory (developed in The Experience of Landscape, 1975) states that we appreciate certain locations because of two inborn desires: for opportunity (prospect) and safety (refuge). Following this theory, a mix of places to take shelter in and provide personal growth contribute to an aesthetic appreciation of landscapes. Penner Bancroft revisits this theory in relation to the histories of migration of the Mennonites and her ancestors in Scotland, as another factor driving migration in addition to economic, cultural and political ones.

By Land and Sea (Prospect and Refuge): On the road near Auchingills, Sordale, Caithness

By Land and Sea (Prospect and Refuge): On the road near Auchingills, Sordale, Caithness


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Penner Bancroft explains her practice in this interview between the artist and a former student, following her exhibition of recent photographic works, SPIRITLANDS: t/HERE, held at the Vancouver Art Gallery last year.

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