Let’s talk about artists who think about possible futures – who look at the histories, customs, and norms that have shaped the way we do things – and dare to do things differently. How can the objects or materials that are available today help us to envision how we want tomorrow to look?

Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill, The Highest and Best Use and Improve (2017), from Four Effigies for the End of Property, mixed media, photo credit: Scott Massey


A disclaimer: none of these artists are photographers – at least not mainly. But I still think there are some interesting points to be made here. First up is Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill. Way back before The Polygon Gallery, a shipbuilding company used to occupy this lot of land. It was called the Versatile Shipyards, and it went bankrupt in 1992. At that time, a lot of objects from the shipyards were donated as artefacts to the North Vancouver Museum and Archives. Last year, the Museum donated some of these objects to Gabrielle Hill, who made four abstract sculptures that can be found throughout this exhibition.

That’s an interesting journey: these objects were industrial materials when the shipyards were here, and now they’ve returned to this place as artworks in the new gallery. It makes me wonder: what if we were to research future plans in community, and try to visualise what these proposed or potential changes might look like?


Holly Ward, Raw Goods, 2017, installation view, photo credit: Scott Massey


Holly Ward’s work, titled Raw Goods, does something similar. For this piece, she’s borrowed sulphur and coal from the terminals along the foreshore. The sulphur piles are out near the Lions Gate Bridge in the west; the coal comes from near the Second Narrows Bridge in the east. Now, these materials are always in transit, so Holly wants to see what happens when we add The Polygon Gallery to their itinerary. Here, in this space, what happens? The materials transform not physically, but culturally. Raw goods become mediums; piles become sculptures. It’s an interesting look at the special status we give to objects in an art exhibition – even if they are literally piles of sulphur and coal.


The Bigger Picture: Babak Golkar

N_Vancouver-38Babak Golkar, the Exchange Project, installation view, photo credit: Scott Massey


Babak Golkar’s work reimagines something pretty huge: economy, and value. How do artworks get their economic or cultural value? A whole lot of factors decide this, but Babak Golkar wants to get away from these uncontrollable and sometimes random forces. He started this project called The Exchange, and it’s basically bartering. Without any concern for market value, Babak gives one of his work to a fellow artist, and that artist gives one work to Babak. Here, we see three pairs of photographs. Each pair shows one of Babak’s works in the other artist’s home or studio, and the other artist’s work in Babak’s – here in North Vancouver.

Think about what you’d change about society if you had the power. What would you do differently? Or what are some transformations you’d like to see?

Thank you to everybody who came out last Saturday for the Chester Fields event! We had an amazing turnout and I hope all attendees enjoyed themselves. We’ve gotten great feedback, and look forward to making this even better next year. A special thank you to our guest speaker Andrew Dadson, and to the Guarantaa Company of North America for their generous support.

Here’s to the start of a new Chester Fields tradition!

This time, we’ll look at artists who can visit a particular place and, through curiosity and research, find ways of showing us how it used to look in the past. Wherever they go, they don’t just see what’s in front of them. They strive to make the invisible visible.

StanDouglasStan Douglas, Lazy Bay, 2015, digital chromogenic print mounted on Dibond


For Stan Douglas’s Lazy Bay (2015), the artist did tonnes of research looking at old photographs of Lazy Bay, a community of squatters who lived in shacks in Deep Cove. There’s an interesting story here: the squatters argued that the mudflats didn’t belong to the city of North Vancouver, because the tide is always shifting the sand and mud. They believed that, by living on hand-built wooden shacks on the mudflats, they wouldn’t have to pay taxes to the government. Lazy Bay was formed in the 1930s, and survived until the 1950s, when municipal authorities burned all the shacks down and drove the squatters out.

Studying surviving photographs that were taken of Lazy Bay, Stan Douglas worked with CG artists to make 3D models of the wooden shacks. Douglas was able to use computer graphics to reconstruct a realistic image of Lazy Bay. But what else is striking about the work? Can you see any hints about the time of day it’s depicting?

altheaStill from Althea Thauberger’s Listers of Earthy, 2018, HD video


In the late 1960s, a community of squatters banded together and built wooden shacks on the Dollarton mudflats, picking up where the Lazy Bay squatters left off. Around that same time, a Hollywood film called McCabe & Mrs. Miller was being shot in West Vancouver. It was a Western film, set way back in 1902. When the studio executives came up from Los Angeles to scout locations, they saw the Dollarton mudflat squat – and the shacks were exactly what they had in mind for their movie!

Of course, they couldn’t shoot the movie down in the mud. So, they hired the squatters as set builders. They drove them up to West Vancouver, dressed them up in historical costumes, and had them build the film set. If you watch McCabe & Mrs. Miller, lots of the people in the background are actually real-life squatters, working on the carpentry even while the camera’s rolling.

When designing the costumes for Althea Thauberger’s video work Listers of Earthy (2017-2018), Natalie Purschwitz pulled inspiration from different time periods and cultures: from early twentieth-century colonial clothes, when McCabe & Mrs. Miller is set; and from the bohemian style of the 1960s and ’70s, to reflect the hippie culture of the Dollarton mudflat squat. It reminds us that oftentimes, change in society isn’t necessarily reflected in the buildings or landscapes around us. Oftentimes, the biggest shifts are seen in the ways we dress ourselves, or the objects we carry, or the activities we do in our spare time. When thinking about fascinating transformations, don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

The Bigger Picture: Chief Janice George

N_Vancouver-56Shelley Thomas, Xaxhaynumet (detail), 2007-2008, woven wool


As recently as the early 2000s, Salish weaving was pretty much gone from the North Shore communities of the Squamish Nation. Nobody had learned to do it. Inspired by old photographs and even older stories, Chief Janice George of the Squamish Nation was determined to restore this art. She travelled to other Salish First Nations to learn, and studied existing weavings, in order to learn how to weave. George then taught a group of ten students how to do traditional weaving on handmade looms. These students then went on to have students of their own.

Fast-forward to 2018: Chief Janice George’s weaving programme, based out of L’hen Awtwx Weaving House, has reached over 2,500 students. It’s amazing what a photograph can inspire – and what we can achieve when we look beyond what’s in front of us, and rediscover parts of culture and heritage that have been lost.

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.

The 2018 Chester Fields Youth Photography Program is underway. We’re kicking things off this Saturday April 7 with a tour of N. Vancouver, our current exhibition, for Chester Fields participants. After the tour, Andrew Dadson will be joining us for a special artist talk and Q&A.

The submissions deadline is Friday April 20. Download The Polygon App to your phone or check back here for program updates and announcements. After April 20, a jury will pick the finalists whose works will be shown in an exhibition here at The Polygon Gallery from May 8-26.

A reception will be held on Saturday, May 26 at 1pm. More details will come out in the next few weeks, but I can promise that there will be snacks, cash prizes given out to the jury’s top picks, and a commemorative catalogue of all the finalists’ works to take home.


Saturday, May 27 marked the opening reception for SNAP: Making the Digital Image Real Again. We had an amazing turnout, so thank you to everyone who came out on a sunny afternoon!

A big thank you as well to our jurors Sophie Brodovitch and Kyla Mallett, who came out for the event, as well as to acting mayor Don Bell, who handed out four cash prizes of $300 each to our merit award honourees.

Congratulations to our honourable mentions:

Niels Lucke, Glory Foods (Seycove Secondary School)

Sarah Pudritz, anticipation (Sentinel Secondary School)

Meng Yin, Purity (University Hill Secondary School)

Natalie Zawislak, Shelter (Handsworth Secondary School)

And of course, a big round of applause to all twenty-four of our finalists. You’re all winners. The show is open this week from Wednesday until Sunday, so if you haven’t seen it yet, please come by, take a look, and pick up a copy of the exhibition catalogue!

Hello artists! As you all know, the jury has met and looked over all of the nearly-60 submissions that came in this year. We were floored by the amazing response to this year’s call. The creativity and rigour with which you tackled our theme was astonishing. So firstly, thank you to everybody who submitted work.

Our judges deliberated over the course of almost four hours, and decisions were tough. However, they eventually agreed on 24 works that will make up this year’s exhibition: the largest exhibition in Chester Fields’ history by far. It’s my pleasure to present our shortlist, featuring submissions from seven different schools. Kudos to:

Hana Braker

Tatiana Cooper

Sarah Doolan

Lia Elrick

Eli Figueroa

Moritz Gebler

Jeffrey Hernandez

Ivan Hilario

Stefan Kowalski

Monique Limanto

Jerry Lin

Niels Lucke

Mark Mackay

Dylan McCartney

Luca Papini

Jarrett Pawson

Jessica Pegram

Sarah Pudritz

Fengyuchen Qian

Adrien Segur

Andy Shin

Meng Yin

Natalie Zawislak

Mia Zhang

Join us on Saturday, May 27 at 1:00pm for the opening reception of SNAP: Making the Digital Image Real Again at Presentation House Gallery. During the reception, will award three of our finalists with $300 cash prizes recognising work of exceptional merit. So make sure you come!

The exhibition will run from May 27 until June 11.

Thank you again to all of this year’s participants, and congratulations finalists!

Good morning, Chester Fields participants!

Thank you for all your hard work this past month. The response to this year’s Chester Fields programme has been tremendous, and it’s been amazing seeing so many thoughtful and creative submissions come in. Let’s keep this momentum going at the Polygon Gallery next year!

Our jury has met, and spent a long time looking over and discussing each of the submissions. This year’s jury is pretty amazing. We have the director of Equinox Gallery, one of Vancouver’s most prominent commercial art galleries, who also happens to be an independent curator. There’s a widely-exhibited visual artist on the panel who’s an associate professor at Emily Carr University. And joining them is an award-winning photojournalist and member of the International Photographer’s Guild.

So without further ado, I’m pleased to introduce Sophie Brodovitch, Kyla Mallett, and Farah Nosh.

Photo on 10-5-16 at 11.23 AMSophie Brodovitch is the Director of Equinox Gallery in Vancouver, British Columbia. She holds a BA in Visual Arts from the University of Western Ontario (2000) and an MA in Critical and Curatorial Studies from the University of British Columbia (2007). From 2008 to 2011, she was the Assistant Curator at the Burnaby Art Gallery. Past curatorial projects have been exhibited at the Belkin Satellite, colourschool, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Equinox Gallery, and Cornershop Projects.

IMG_2423 Kyla Mallett is a visual artist and associate professor at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. She works primarily in photography, text and print media. Mallett’s work has been exhibited widely, including the Contemporary Art Gallery (Vancouver), Vancouver Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), Modern Fuel (Kingston), Canadian Cultural Centre (Paris), and The Power Plant (Toronto), with solo exhibitions at Artspeak (Vancouver), Catriona Jeffries (Vancouver), Access (Vancouver), ThreeWalls (Chicago), Mount St. Vincent University Gallery (Halifax), and The Southern Alberta Art Gallery (Lethbridge). She completed her MFA at UBC in 2004, and her BFA at Emily Carr in 2000.

farahnoshbiophoto_high Farah Nosh is an award-winning photographer and photojournalist who has worked in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, and Egypt. Her work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek, and National Geographic Traveler. Nosh has been featured on CNN’s Inside the Middle Eastsegment titled, “Someone You Should Know”, which features personalities making an impact in the region. Her Iraq work has been exhibited in galleries in the U.S. and U.K. Nosh holds a bachelor degree in geography from the University of British Columbia. She is also a 2002 graduate from the Western Academy of Photography, where she won awards for best photojournalist and portfolio. Nosh is a guest lecturer at the Western Academy of Photography and Emily Carr University of Art and Design. She is also a member of the International Photographer’s Guild.

Check back here for a list of our Chester Fields finalists. Until then, thank you so much for your enthusiasm and participation with this year’s Chester Fields programme!

Oftentimes, behind in interesting image lies an equally interesting intention. That’s why, when you walk into a gallery, you’ll usually find text on the wall, or an exhibition pamphlet. What is the work trying to say?

Here are a few of my picks for works that have a beautiful execution and fascinating ideas to back them up.

BE10_Dryland_Farming_2_300-1Ed Burtynsky, Dryland Farming #2, Monegros County, Aragon, Spain, 2010, digital chromogenic print on Kodak Endura paper

The famous Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky takes aerial photographs of mines, farms, and other places where humans have used and transformed the land. The images are striking, but what’s even more striking is what he’s showing us – and telling us – about our impacts on the earth. At first, his photographs are beautiful; but the longer we study them, the more frightening they become.

177Evann Siebens, Double Track Layer: Flood, 2015, archival inkjet print

Evann Siebens’s Flood series also discusses our impacts on the environment – though you might not see it at first. Her photographs examine musical records that were ruined when her Calgary home was flooded. Through the artist’s destroyed childhood artefacts, we are prompted to think about a changing climate where droughts, floods, and storms threaten our sense of stability.

This sense of subjectivity echoes in American photographer Todd Hido’s A Road Divided series. Actually, A Road Divided didn’t start with a concept. The artist admits he was just responding to the beauty he saw in the world. But that’s okay, too. Sometimes you have to make an image before you can figure out what exactly compelled you to make it.

ToddHidoTodd Hido, A Road Divided: #10275-5, C-print

In the case of Hido’s work, all the photographs are shot from the dashboard of his car. So the images aren’t conventional landscapes. They’ve become nostalgic, almost like a visualised memory. I’m sure we’ve all seen sights like these before, and Hido taps into this collective memory to create images that are emotionally poignant, but strangely vague. As I look at the works, I can’t help but wonder: “Have I been here before?”

Rather than examining the landscape from a deeply human perspective, Vancouver artist Scott Massey examines the landscape from a very technological one. Last week, we talked about how cameras allow us to see things from new perspectives, and Massey’s Spectrum Studies takes this to another level.

DayNight_flat1Scott Massey, Spectrum Study (day to night), 2013, digital maquette

Using a Hasselblad camera, Massey explores the complexity of photographic images. He strategically laser-cut his film so that different sections would be exposed at different times, enabling him to capture this striking 24-hour time-lapse image entirely in-camera – that is to say, without manipulating the image afterward. Other works in the Spectrum Studies experiment with greyscale, the visible spectrum, and infrared and ultraviolet light.

Powerful images can speak for themselves, of course. But it never hurts to articulate your ideas with an artist statement. In contemporary art, the concept is no less important than the technique or composition.

Now, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, estblished artists will just unveil “new work”, and leave it up to their audience and critics to read into it. Other times, the artist statement is all jargon and gobbledygook – using a bunch of vague terms and trendy buzzwords to cover up the fact that the artist doesn’t really have a point.

Don’t be one of these artists. Be clear, specific, and honest. Tell us why you wanted to make this work; why you thought it was important. Use your own voice – not some made-up one that you think the “art world” wants to hear.

As we come up to the final week of Chester Fields, many of you are probably putting the final touches on your projects. Here’s a guide to help you get your work ready for submission.

1. Printing and framing your work

Many of you have printing facilities at your school. If you don’t, we here at Presentation House Gallery recommend Costco. They produce high-quality prints for a really good price.

Some of you might be wondering how large you should print your works. We don’t have a size limit for Chester Fields submissions, but don’t forget about framing your work. There are lots of frames and matting supplies at the Gallery, and we’re happy to frame your works for you. However, please bear in mind we have the following frame sizes: 8”x10”, 11”x14”, 16”x20” and 20”x24”. If your work is larger than this, you will want to look at getting you work framed somewhere else. I’m happy to offer ideas or recommendations.

Don’t worry if your work doesn’t conform exactly to the frame sizes listed above: we can mat the works so that there’s some white space between the image and the frame.

2. Submitting your work

Digital Submissions:

If you’re submitting a digital file, save your project as a .jpg or .tiff file. If your file is too big to send via email, you can use Dropbox or WeTransfer; both are free. Please email your project, short statement, and the image you started with to j.ramsey@presentationhousegallery.org. In the subject line of your email, include your name, school, and the words “DIGITAL SUBMISSION” so that I know to check for an artwork file.

If your work is chosen for the exhibition, we will need to get it printed. The Gallery is happy to help with this, but please keep in mind that we will probably print it to fit whichever frame size we have available. If there’s a particular size that you’d like your work printed at, please let us know and we will do our best to accommodate.

Printed Submissions:

If you’re submitting a physical artwork, please include a printed copy of your short statement and original inspiration image, AND ALSO send them to me via email. In the subject line of your email, please include your name, school, and the words “PRINTED SUBMISSION” so that I know there’s no artwork file attached.

You can drop off your work at Presentation House Gallery; our office is open Monday to Friday, 10am-5pm. We’re located at 333 Chesterfield Avenue, a few blocks up from Lonsdale Quay. Otherwise, hand your projects into your teachers, and I can arrange to get your submissions from them!

As always, please get in touch if you have any questions or concerns. We’re so looking forward to seeing your submissions! Have a great long weekend.