Beyond the Trees: Wallpapers in Dialogue with Emily Carr

April 25, 2015 - September 7, 2015

Sylvain Sailly
BRECHRIOc and DIATOM1a, 2015 (installation view)
computer-generated animation
Courtesy of the Artist
Photo: Rachel Topham, Vancouver Art Gallery

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.

In WALLPAPERS’ exploration, technology produces 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 defined textures and patterns. 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 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.

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 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. This site-specific installation employs new wallpapers from their online catalogue and projects them into the physical space of the gallery, producing two environments adjusted to the proportions of their architectural contexts.
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.
Born in Victoria, British Columbia, Emily Carr (1871–1945) is one of the most significant Canadian artists of her generation. The West Coast modernist is widely recognized for her paintings depicting the forested landscape of British Columbia and the First Nations communities.

Beyond the Trees is the fifth in a series of In Dialogue with Carr exhibitions organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery. The exhibition is curated by Caitlin Jones, Guest Curator and Diana Freundl, Assistant Curator, Vancouver Art Gallery and is a partnership with ISEA2015, the 21st International Symposium on Electronic Art.

  • Sara Ludy
    Spectral Cloud, 2015 (still)
    computer-generated animation
    Courtesy of the Artist

  • Emily Carr
    Deep Forest, c. 1931
    oil on canvas
    Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Emily Carr Trust

  • Nicolas Sassoon
    Mountains, 2015
    computer generated animation
    Courtesy of the artist