Vancouver as the Centre, Landon MacKenzie

Landon Mackenzie: Mapping History

Landon Mackenzie’s enormous paintings (over 7 feet tall and 10 feet long) dazzle the senses with layers of vibrant colour, intricate meandering lines, clusters of dots and radiating shapes. What appears at first to be purely abstract is actually informed by Mackenzie’s research into Canadian history, geography and cartography. Continents, time zones, satellites and shipping…

2012 Jul 14 – 2012 Sep 16

Curated by Jessica Demers

Landon Mackenzie is both a map maker and an artist. Her works occupy the spaces between landscape and history painting, representation and abstraction. Her enormous paintings are steeped in research, yet her bold, intuitive approach to image making evokes optical and corporeal experiences for the viewer, as they navigate through a precarious balance of chaos and order.

Mapping History brings together several of Landon Mackenzie’s celebrated large scale works, as well as smaller lesser known paintings created over the past fifteen years. These works centre upon her interest in the “intersecting territories of history, geography, cities, maps, waterways” and increasingly, new discoveries in the frontiers of neuroscience. Seminal works from her acclaimed Saskatchewan Paintings and Houbart’s Hope series are based on research into cartographic traditions and lost stories from Canada’s early colonial history. Layers of data were applied over several months, creating dense narratives using colour and text.

The earliest cartographers were tasked with representing the landscape and our perceived relationship towards it. Mackenzie questions the legitimacy of maps as static markers of place and identity through her re-visioning of the globe using fact and fiction. In Vancouver as the Centre of the World, commissioned for the 2010 Winter Olympics, she places British Columbia at the centre, dissolving boundaries, replicating continents to show the movement of the earth, and making visible complex networks of travel routes and communication technologies from satellites to Internet cables.

In the creation of Mackenzie’s Canadian history paintings, she researched how ship captains in the 17th century were also trained as astronomers, and mapped Canada using the third moon of Jupiter. The small full moon paintings included in this exhibition are reminders of this lost practice.

Touchstones Nelson is honoured to exhibit the work of this accomplished artist. Her combination of historical references and the sheer beauty of painterly abstraction is a fitting match for our gallery. A significant survey of Mackenzie’s work will open this fall at Calgary’s new Esker Foundation, overlapping with this exhibition. Together, they present a thorough representation for Mackenzie’s career over the past twenty years.

Artist Statement

Houbart’s Hope (Blue), Tracing One Warm Line Houbart’s Hope is a little-known landmark on Hudson Bay beginning in 161 2 and vanishing generally by the 18th century. It marked a spot near the 60th parallel where Captain Thomas Button and his pilot Josiah Houbart believed the North-West Passage would be. This painting is from a larger series where I was making propositions while crossing two frontiers. One being the territory of The New World and the search for the near-mythical North-West Passage starting around 16 00 and to this day not fully resolved; and the other being the state of new exploration, uncertainty and discovery in neuroscience and its implications for a better understanding of the brain and nervous system. Being part of a discipline that is neither geography nor science I have the advantage of working with the historical template of fiction. Both the earth and the brain have hemispheres, arteries, networks, deposits, branch-like forms, electrical, magnetic and chemical properties, so I can just start there.

Artist Bio

Landon Mackenzie is one of Canada’s leading painters. She is known for her large-format

paintings, in which she layers research notes, annotated maps, archival texts and documentation of her investigations and explorations of a geographic region. Mackenzie has had an influence on a generation of artists in her country through her twenty-five years teaching at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver. Starting as a student of Conceptual Art at NSCAD in Halifax in 1972, she turned to painting in the late seventies and has widely exhibited her large format canvases in Canada and internationally for 30 years. Her works are in many collections including the National Gallery of Canada.

See Also

Tracing Mobility: Cartography in Networked Space

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