City-Seen: an unheralded look at development

The picture postcard of Vancouver is portrayed as a 21st century city set against the background of the scenic Coast Mountains. Stroll amid the canyons of the downtown office and condominium towers and there are but fleeting glimpses of this mountain vista so prized amoung its inhabitants.In the streetscapes one can marvel at the modern architecture; so many designs are unique and together they make an interesting contrast in line, shape and volume. There is however, a uniform greyness to the materials of concrete,steel and glass that make this new downtown take on an environmental homogeneity that is all too clean, anti-septic and redolent of the professional class that can afford to live there.

The realtor ads for condominium developers sell the lifestyle of upscale urban living with its sleek designs, sophisticated fashions and leisured amenities along with the stunning mountain scenery. The irony is that the sightlines to the mountains may only be temporary as a new tower begins to fill the window frame.

This exhibition focuses on that condominium development. In my paintings there are scenes of demolition and construction which I hope will stimulate thought about the unfettered boom in Vancouver’s development, the wide ranging implications it has for all the city’s communities, its affordability of living space and not least its impact on the preservation and integration of historic structures.

Often there is a voyeuristic fascination with the visual pollution of demolition and construction. Excavators tearing apart old buildings or a pending implosion that draws a crowd to witness a significant moment; then months later they will return to the site as individuals to view through the little windows of hoarding the foundation work and steady construction of a new building. Do we remember what was there, why it was removed and what now is the future for all involved? Vancouverites with some history here as residents can no doubt cite many injustices of urban planning:the transformation wrought by redevelopment must first respect the existing community presenting designs for change with consensus amoung the stakeholders most affected. The planning process often does not reflect this. Long time residents, small businesses, renters and those disenfranchised by poverty lack the time or capacity to lodge challenges to the development that will impact their community.

Aside from the illustration of this commentary I have also chosen in my paintings to draw your attention to the aestheticism inherent in the apparent visual pollution of redevelopment.  There are reflections in glass towers, elegance in the chaos of rubble, structure and local colour in building materials, and the wholesale effects of changes in light which I have enhanced in order to counteract the grey reality of the subject matter.

Using Format