Looking at The Polygon Gallery’s current exhibition N. Vancouver, we’ll focus on artists whose works bring together the past and the present. They’ve photographed landmarks or features that still exist, and might not seem visually spectacular at first, but reveal something incredible about North Vancouver’s history when we look closer.

AndrewDadsonAndrew Dadson, White Tree, 2017, inkjet print mounted on Dibond


Andrew Dadson’s White Tree (2017) shows us the stump of an old growth cedar tree. What does this tell us about the past? Using non-toxic, biodegradable paint to turn the stump completely white, Dadson contrasts this ancient, logged tree with the much younger trees around it. This tells us a lot about how recklessly we’ve used this land in the past – and how we’re letting nature recover in the present. White Tree captures a really complicated relationship between industry and the environment through very simple but effective means.

What happens to the old growth stump when Dadson paints it entirely white? Does it look out-of-time, like an historic black-and-white photo in the middle of a coloured one? Or maybe it seems ghostly – a spectre of the past? How do you respond to White Tree?

N_Vancouver-41Stephen Waddell, Hive Burner, 2017, archival pigment print, photo credit: Scott Massey


The title of Stephen Waddell’s Hive Burner (2017) is a spoiler. The round cement structure seen in the photograph is all that remains of a cedar mill. The mill used to operate near Deep Cove, where Cates Park is today. Specifically, this was the round burner base of the mill, which was used to burn up sawdust. Now, we can see that the spot has become a popular hangout. Look closely and you’ll notice people chatting, sketching, and relaxing around the concrete circle.

Take a look at the image. It’s a lush, leisurely scene of late summer or early fall. What grabs your attention in this photo, and why? Is the burner base the first thing you notice – and if not, then what is? It begs the question: how does a photograph’s composition affect the way we respond to it?


The Bigger Picture: N.E. Thing Company

2017-07-06 14.04.19N.E. Thing Company, ACT #48, gelatin silver print and mixed media


N.E. Thing Company was an artist collective formed back in 1966 by husband and wife team Iain and Ingrid Baxter. N.E. Thing Company championed the idea that anything could be art – hence the name – and that art is everywhere. Many of their works come with a dose of dry humour. Take for example their ACT series (“Aesthetically Claimed Things”), where they photographed odd sites in suburban North Vancouver and “certified” them as artworks, or their Portfolio of Piles, where they painstakingly documented piles of anything they could find – doughnuts, crabs, lumber, tires, bowls and barrels, to name but a few.

What’s interesting about N.E. Thing Company is how they took everyday, commonplace things and reimagined them as artworks. From the peculiar perspectives of Iain and Ingrid Baxter, familiar sights and objects became strange and fascinating. Wonder and curiosity are valuable tools for artists. As you think about your own projects, be open to inspiration wherever you go. You never know where you’ll find it.