press release

Vancouver Artist Roy Arden to Have Major Survey at Vancouver Art Gallery

The Vancouver Art Gallery will present the first major Canadian retrospective of work by renowned Vancouver artist Roy Arden from October 20, 2007 to January 20, 2008. A major force in establishing Vancouver’s reputation as a centre for contemporary photographic art, Arden has exhibited his work internationally for more than 30 years. Roy Arden, comprising more than 120 photographs, five video works and a recent Internet project, explores the diverse strategies of the artist’s practice from the early 1980s to the present. Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery, the exhibition is guest curated by Dieter Roelstraete of the Antwerp Museum of Contemporary Art (MuHKA).

“The Gallery plays a critical role in supporting Vancouver’s thriving artistic community and is proud to present the vital work of one of its most distinguished members, Roy Arden,” said Vancouver Art Gallery director Kathleen Bartels. “Roy is one of Canada’s preeminent contemporary artists and he is at the core of the talented group of photographers that has made Vancouver an international epicentre for photographic art over the past two decades.”

Roy Arden presents four distinct phases of the artist’s career: the evocative colour portraits and urban details from the series Fragments, produced in the early 1980s; the multipart works incorporating archival images that first brought Arden widespread acclaim during the late 1980s; his photographs produced since the early 1990s that trace the social and economic history of Vancouver and its suburbs; and his recent video and Internet-based projects.

Fragments, composed of a series richly-coloured cibachrome images, is considered Arden’s first mature body of work. Taken with a twin-lens Rolleiflex camera between 1981 and 1985, the series navigates the somewhat romantic world of the young artist in Vancouver--his friends and travels, as well as various corners of Vancouver’s urban landscape. The series serves as a unique document of the artist’s bohemian community during early 1980s and presents the first examples of Arden’s attraction to the abject.

In 1985, Arden discovered the Vancouver Public Library’s archive of historical photographs and became transfixed by traumatic imagery from Vancouver’s past. At the same time, he was looking at Andy Warhol’s works which use news photographs as the basis for silk-screens. Profoundly affected, Arden decided to completely alter his practice to work exclusively with found archival imagery to produce a new kind of “history painting.” The first of these works, Rupture (1985), focuses on the brutal suppression of a group of unemployed men who occupied Vancouver’s central post office, the Vancouver Art Gallery and a downtown hotel in 1938.

In the early nineties Arden began to create images from an extremely different standpoint than the lyricism of his Fragments series. His new goal was to illuminate modernity’s transformative effects on the landscape, creating a body of work now referred to as the Landscape of the Economy. Photographs such as Landfill, Richmond, B.C. (1991) or Tree Stump, Nanaimo, B.C. (1991) document the earth’s fate as a commodity.

Most recently Arden began to work in video, probing deeper into the abject corners of urban life previously explored in photographic series like Terminal City (1999), a sequence of sixteen black and white images that delve into the urban hinterland bordering Vancouver’s railway tracks, alleys and vacant lots. The video work Eureka (2005) provides a relentlessly detailed tour of a filthy alley strewn with trash and discarded drug paraphernalia.

In 2004, Arden produced a web project entitled The World as Will and Representation–a slide show of his archive of photographic images collected from the Internet. Recently updated to include 28,000 images, this archive was created as a source for digital collages that reflect on many subjects, but collectively present a poetic engagement of history. Twelve of these new graphic works will be featured.

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Roy Arden
Gastkurator: Dieter Roelstraete