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Virtual Exhibition and Curatorial Essay

Canada has produced some of the greatest artists the world has seen in the 20th century. The works of art of these great artists can be found in many art museums across the world. These artists use their talents to describe different aspects that have occurred around them. The art of the 20th century is mostly interrelated to various sketches, murals, and paintings. One of these great Canadian artists is Wanda Koop. Koop was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and has spent most of her time life in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she currently works. Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, the University of Winnipeg, and the University of Manitoba, where she studied at the School of Art, all awarded her with honorary doctorates. In 2006, she was named a Member of the Order of Canada.

The Canadian-born artist is a painter whose work explores how the current urban society and the natural environment traverse. Koop’s paintings, which widely range in size from small to large, encompass abstraction and figuration, the real and the imagined, the personal and the political. Her art produces nearly surreal landscapes with hazy expanses of color and thoughtful drips of paint that entice viewers to explore and understand them. Koop’s art pieces are impressive and fascinating in the aspect of their realism painting style which is evident in most of her work. The paintings are full with symbolism, which makes it appealing to the audience and help them to figure out what the paintings signify. Koop has left an unmistakable influence on the traditional landscape painting genre, ushering in themes of globalization and technology in her work. The artist presents sightlines of the world through bursts of color and trembling fluorescents, all the while emphasizing how one’s perspective is always dependent on one’s position. In this virtual exhibition some of her paintings will be highlighted and discussed in relation to her intentions, themes and ideas of her work.

By emphasizing the notion of landscape as a built environment, the Wanda Koop negotiates a rupture in the landscape painting tradition. Koop accomplishes this by using visual disjunction to surprise and challenge the viewers by offering created landscape definitions. Mimetic painting and clipped pictures from cinema stills are juxtaposed in the imagery. Koop reminds us that a landscape is frequently shaped by human wants and interventions. Koop’s large-scale paintings and video installations are well-known. She outlines how our experiences in artificial urban environments cannot replace our involvement with the natural environment. This is in reference to twelve artworks displayed in two adjoining rooms in the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1997. In her immersive work titled Paintings for Dimly Lit Rooms, the installation consists of six big paintings that depict a panoramic romantic picture of nature, utilizing the distinction between a natural landscape and the portrayal of a landscape environment In an adjacent gallery, Koop displays the polar opposite of the realistic panorama in an immersive installation of six paintings titled paintings for Brightly Lit Rooms. In this gallery Koop shows a series of random cropped paintings painted directly from video stills. The concept of a unified vision or a panoramic view is purposely ignored in these points in time. The striking contrast between a man-made depiction of a natural scene is utilized to cast doubt on how landscape painting can be done and conveyed.

In Paintings for Brightly Lit Rooms, cropping of the images responds to realism, but it is broken, stripping away notions that may identify landscape painting in order to reach a presence of the nameless other. Through a deluge of diverse imagery from media and other sources, Koop depicts the existence of the technology age. These images pervade our lives and can’t be avoided by naming. Koop uses the principle of representation to search for an impossible place in a complicated way. By recognizing a strong need for something that is entire and unified, the careful positioning of the contrasting rooms emphasizes the sense of difference The audience is compelled to seek meaning in the painted installations offered in the two bodies of paintings. Koop depicts a brave attempt to reach into other regions as a thought process rather than a rational empirical process. The pieces create a sense of disjunction in which there is no possible way to resolve the features of translation inside the space. According to Koop, there is a possibility that “Regret and hope are embedded in the deconstruction of a flawless vision that motivates artists, and how hope lies forever within new imagery.” Koop’s painted works allude to a desire for togetherness and understanding, implying that the search can be seen a dream and an unachievable, impossible destiny. In Koop’s case, attempting to create a seamless whole between the panoramic vision of Dimly Lit Rooms and the colorful stark photographic commercial shock of Brightly Lit Rooms serves as a wake-up call, telling us that the dream image is transient, continuously changing, and unattainable.

In the year 1983 Koop exhibited a collection of paintings with the title Nine Signs at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary. The images in this series are huge, individual and simple to relate. However, the images have a powerful and a larger-than-life statement and deeper meaning hidden in them. In one of the images title Raven (fig 3) displayed in this curatorial, the work has an antagonistic impact which is electric and premeditated. The painting depicts the actions of the artist and accentuates on the stark ease of the iconography. This realism helps the audience in their quest to comprehend the imaginations of the artist.

The Train is another series of related images done by Wanda Koop, the paintings are linked not only to one another, but also to a personal experience of family loss and death. In an expanse of frenetic color, black shapes dangle or appear to move. Although the series is open-ended, with no set number of pieces to which it belongs, there is a consistency and variation of image that both expands and re-focuses the work. In one of the untitled paintings from this series (fig 4), it appears like a train on a dark rail to the audience The simplicity of image shows how daring the artist is with her paintings. We initially believe that things can be absorbed or ‘comprehended’ in a single glance. They appear to be ‘too apparent,’ as Koop puts it. The danger she takes is that the viewer will not stop to look, but will quickly pass from one to the other, giving the work a cursory glance, as if there is nothing else to view. However, to fully understand or at least try to understand the deeper meaning of the painting one has to stop and take a deeper look. The artist’s objective is to keep things simple, and the risk is definitely worth it.

Another untitled image we discuss in this virtual exhibition is a painting from a series entitled An Evening Without Angels. Koop’s piece looks at the landscapes of urbanization and industrialization as they interact with the natural world. Her painting makes unconventional formal choices, forcing the audience to examine imagery supplied through inherited visual tropes of pastoral landscape painting, such as atmospheric perspective. Koop’s 1992 series “An Evening Without Angels,” which takes its title from American poet Wallace Stevens’ namesake poem, is indicative of the artist’s approach to depicting peaceful urban landscapes in unconventional, muted colors that separate them from temporal specificity or geographic position. This depiction of two isolated figures observing a tree-lined water slide has an etheric, twilight quality to it, as it tumbles from the upper right half of the composition into a partially dry, lavender-hued reservoir—a natural phenomenon that is ubiquitous in historical landscape painting, but here seems to flout aesthetic tradition as it tumbles from the upper right half of the composition into a partially dry, lavender-hued reservoir. To see one of Koop’s natural-world paintings is to worsen one’s already tense personal relationship.

In the years of 1987 to 1989, Wanda Koop exhibited a series entitled No Words. In this curatorial we exhibit one of the paintings in this series titled Baby Face.(fig 6) The painting is a simple imagery of a baby on a green background. In this piece of art Koop’s imagery becomes itself through specified conditions which condense it through peculiar pressure they exert. The isolation of the image, the centred composition and the utility of extreme close-up views helps the audience to unfold this imagery. However, these are not mechanical devices or techniques employed in the painting rather than occurrences and habits of thought and feelings. Deeply observing this image all these aspects occur together and it is only language or thought that divide them from each other.

In one of the most recent works of Wanda Koop is a painting entitled Barcode Face. This painting done in the year 2021 is featured in this virtual exhibition (fig 7) In this work we can say that Wanda Koop’s paintings are difficult to tell if they are deceivingly—or troublingly—simple. Direct portals, Xs, and bar codes hang on light-limned wet vistas. These signs don’t so much call us into the night as they obstruct us, telling us that the mysterious shores they hover over are too plane for us to access. Koop’s lakeshores, captured between sunset and eventide, are a duet of graphic figures and pastoral grounds. In these painting, waves lap softly down peaceful embankments, but the painter includes delicate reminders of our devastation of them. Nonetheless, how can one protest to such encroachments when the ornaments that deface them are so beautiful? In this painting a viscous red sky is stamped with a crimson bar code, which dissolves into a similarly sanguine lake. Koop’s landscapes make our trauma-weary eyes pop by recollecting the bizarre skies of last year’s West Coast forest fires. Nonetheless, the artist reveals how even the most horrific views are remade as goods through her visual marvels. The image’s Instagram glow belies the fact that the Canadian painter had been pondering the relationship between discernment and technology long before it became popular. Koop’s decorated landscapes, though, felt a little too crepe thin and ready-to-wear, despite their implications of environmental toxicity.

In the year 2018, Wanda Koop exhibited a new series of paintings in a solo exhibition entitled Standing Withstanding in New York. Koop has left an unmistakable influence on the traditional landscape painting genre, ushering in themes of globalization and technology. The artist displays sightlines of the world through flashes of color and twitching fluorescents, all the while emphasizing how one’s perspective is always dependent on one’s position. One of many images displayed in this series is exhibited in this curatorial (fig 8). The painting looks at the primordial sign of fire as it evolves across time, positing an expanding and non-static link to history. Towering flames are indicators of unseen energy beneath the surface of water and land, where oil is delivered discretely. These flames also represent the artist’s hometown of Winnipeg, as well as the indigenous peoples’ communal gatherings at bonfires along the Red River. The ensuing confluence of meanings below one sign reveals the artist’s 40-year career’s multifaceted reality. It is a continuation of Koop’s exploration of current landscape perceptions, particularly how this genre might be used to challenge cultural encroachment and degradation of the so-called natural environment. Canvases capture the minimum silhouette of numerous skylines, abstracted through positive and negative space, as a delicately optical re-visitation of these landscapes through the estrangement of memory, with a focus on the interaction between nature and human perception.


Wanda Koop considers painting to be an act of absolute physical commitment. She brings her personality and experience to focus on this. Wanda Koop’s paintings are intimate in the sense that they are deeply personal in this way. Working on such a large scale is nothing new to her. She paints on 1.22 x 2.44m plywood sheets as if they were pages from a sketchbook. She doesn’t aim for a certain impact; instead, she works on a scale that feels natural to her painting gesture. Wanda Koop’s work attracts a lot of attention because of its size and imagery, but it’s crucial to remember that the act of painting is central to both size and image. Wanda Koop’s drawings are simple, yet they hide a deep involvement with the most complicated of human experiences: the secret realm of our fears, pleasures, worries, and anxieties. However, these ephemeral states are inextricably linked to the everyday visual reality of our real activities and our surroundings. The chance she takes is based on her attempt to investigate not only the visual, but the visual in relation to the emotional. Wanda Koop is constantly pushing the boundaries of her knowledge, plunging headfirst into uncharted territory. Her boldness and fearlessness are the source of her art’s life.

Paintings for Brightly Lit Rooms

Untitled, from Paintings for Brightly Lit Rooms ©

Fig 1.

Paintings for Dimly Lit Rooms, exhibition installation

Paintings for Dimly Lit Rooms, exhibition installation

Fig 2.

Raven, from Nine Signs

Raven, from Nine Signs

Fig 3

Untitled, from Train

Untitled, from Train

Fig 4.

Untitled, from Evening Without Angels

Untitled, from Evening Without Angels

Fig 5.

Untitled (Baby Face), from No Words

Untitled (Baby Face), from No Words

Fig 6.

Wanda Koop, Barcode Face, 2021

Wanda Koop, Barcode Face, 2021

Fig 7.

Standing withstanding (infrared-still)

Standing withstanding (infrared-still)






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