October 13 to November 12, 2011
I have resided in Alberta, Canada’s most westerly prairie province – a frontier region flanking the spine of the Rocky Mountains – for most of my fifty + years. As well as having developed a visual vocabulary as an artist here, I have been deeply influenced by the industrial growth of this place. Once verdant hills and valleys are now denuded and blasted to extract resources. Roadways form a web of unprecedented access points to former wilderness. The population steadily increases. Larger tracts of land are surrendered to agriculture. Rivers are still being dammed, watersheds altered. The majesty of Alberta is disappearing. As an observer who can’t look away, I make pictures that reflect an ongoing transformation of this area, and by extension, other locales that are facing similar change.
Since about 1990, I have depicted a wide range of technological devices, frequently against a backdrop of clear sky or vapour-filled atmosphere. This approach began when I isolated and painted elements of urban infrastucture above the skyline; lamps, chimneys, hydro installations, satellite dishes and broadcast towers that I could see from my basement studio window. I treated them as ‘still life’ features suspended in air or hoisted up on poles. Variations on this instrument/firmament motif continue to offer a rich vein of imagery to explore. My paintings employ natural history as a scenic foil for visual descriptions of recent human activity.
An attempt is made at emotional detachment in my portrayals of technological or industrial equipment and it’s proximity to nature. The act of selecting certain subjects to illustrate, as well as any further image manipulation, however, upends this supposed objectivity from the outset of the process. The pictorial result is a matter-of-fact account of our collective inurement to flawed ‘progress’, dystopia, fear, and, ultimately, loss of habitat. Respect for ingenuity co-mingles with doubt. Trepidation is intertwined with misgiving when it comes to feelings about a proliferation of modern ‘wonders’. Folly, hubris and self-delusion are presented with unblinking sincerity.
Technology, as I represent it, brandishes a double edge; it has become absolutely necessary while being an obstacle to keeping life simple. This paradox is reinforced by my use of a low-tech mode of visual expression – conventional easel painting – to express ambivilance toward the advance of civilization and my mildly misanthropic stance. Conversely, communicating, through painting, evidence of the ‘hand of man’, its imprint on the horizon, and the effects of industry on the land conveys a guarded hope that events on Earth are unfolding as they should.
~~ David Janzen
View additional work: Peter Robertson Gallery