here - 75 Years of Collecting - Vancouver Art Gallery

here - 75 Years of Collecting - Vancouver Art Gallery

November 8, 2012 to April 1, 2013 Damian Moppett

Offsite is the Vancouver Art Gallery’s

outdoor public art space featuring

a program of rotating projects.

Located downtown at the foot of the

Shangri-La skyscraper development,

Offsite serves as a hub for local and

international contemporary artists

to explore issues related to the

surrounding urban context. As artists

consider the site-specific potential

of art within the public realm,

projects may inspire, bemuse and

stimulate broad audiences, and

will respond to the changing social

and cultural conditions of our

contemporary world.

Offsite is organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery

and funded by the City of Vancouver through

the Public Art Program. The Gallery recognizes

Ian Gillespie, President, Westbank; Ben Yeung,

President, Peterson Investment Group; and the

residents at Shangri-La for their support of

this space.

CURATOR: Kathleen Ritter, Associate Curator,

Vancouver Art Gallery


Fusion Works

LIGHTING: Elia Kirby, Great Northern Way

Scene Shop

Bute St

Robson St

Alberni St


Melville St

Thurlow St

W Georgia St

Burrard St

W Pender St

Dunsmuir St

LOCATED on West Georgia Street

Hornby St

between Thurlow and Bute Streets,


The Vancouver Art Gallery gratefully acknowledges

the ongoing financial support of the City of Vancouver,

the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts

Council and Gaming Revenues and the Canada Council

for the Arts.

Offsite is generously supported by our Visionary Partner:

Michael O’Brian Family Foundation

750 Hornby Street Vancouver BC V6Z 2H7 Canada

Tel 604 662 4700

The Painter’s Studio

As Sculpture

Damian Moppett’s practice calls into

question a number of persistent concepts

in art: the idea of mastery, the separation

of artistic disciplines, the division between

high art and craft, and the weight of art

history. These ideas are held in question

in his work, without resolve, as a

balancing act.

Moppett’s practice is firmly rooted in the

activity of making. Citing broad references

from the history of modern art, he moves

between the disciplines of sculpture,

painting, photography, drawing and video

with considerable reflection and dexterity,

often playing one medium against the

other as a meditation on the very

process of making art.

It is fitting then that Moppett’s project

for Offsite is about the artist’s studio as

a site of production. Moppett’s starting

point is an earlier work, Large Painting

and Caryatid Maquette in Studio at Night

(2008), a painting that depicts his studio

with various works in progress. Taking

shapes from the painting and reproducing

them as large-scale cut-outs in metal, he

transforms the painting into a sculptural

installation. The outcome is a series of

large, flat pieces of aluminum, painted

with vivid colours and mounted on steel

supports. Staged at various intervals in

the outdoor space at Offsite, the

shapes appear propped up as if from

an enormous pop-up book.

In this new iteration, titled Large Painting

and Caryatid Maquette in Studio at Night

(Sculpture Version), the stylized forms,

which first appear abstract, take the shape

of objects from his studio—a painting

LEFT: Large Painting and Caryatid Maquette in

Studio at Night (Sculpture Version), 2012 (detail)

on an easel, a maquette for a sculpture,

chairs and tables, a lamp, a couple of

coffee cups and so on. The longer one

looks at them, the more the objects

become recognizable. When viewed

from a particular angle, the scene bears

an uncanny resemblance to the original

painting, while from other angles, the

work dissolves once again into a play of

forms and colours. This balance between

abstraction and figuration is characteristic

of Moppett’s recent work.

Over the last few years, images of

Moppett’s studio have appeared frequently

in the artist’s work, showing the studio

as both a site of experimentation and a

theatrical setting for the performative

nature of art making. Representations of

the artist’s studio have long been found in

the history of art, from Gustave Courbet

to Bruce Nauman. The studio has been

perceived as the site of original and

authentic artistic production, viewed with

curiosity and fascination as a privileged

window through which to gain insight

into the creative process. Moppett takes

up this subject, not without irony, deftly

playing on its romantic aura. Images of

Moppett’s studio are visually dense, often

depicting dramatically lit working spaces

cluttered with objects, materials and

artworks in various stages of completion.

He then turns this documentation into

finished paintings or drawings, making the

representation of the process of creation

the very subject of his work.

Moppett’s Offsite project follows the

insular logic characteristic of his recent

representations of the studio, but takes it

one step further. In the translation from

studio to photograph, photograph to

painting and painting to sculpture, the

studio is returned to a three-dimensional

space. In so doing, the work follows a

circuitous path similar to a feedback

loop—a chain of cause and effect that

eventually forms a complete circuit. One

has the impression that this process

could continue, infinitely, with each new

iteration generating the next. Through this

elaborate trajectory, the studio morphs

into an artwork itself, becoming

a cartoon-like version of the original

that viewers experience at a larger-

than-life size.

Likewise, in the trajectory from private

studio to public space, the project takes

on new significance. Located at Offsite,

the Vancouver Art Gallery’s outdoor

space for temporary public artworks

in the urban heart of Vancouver, the

handmade, irregularly-shaped metal

cut-outs of Moppett’s project provide a

counterpoint to the rigid grids of concrete

and glass in the surrounding architecture.

At night, the work is lit with a single

light source that emanates from within

the sculpture, casting shadows on the

surrounding walls and building a sense

of theatricality. The effect is reminiscent

of a stage set.

One of the principal motifs in Moppett’s

work is the figure of a caryatid, based

on Auguste Rodin’s Fallen Caryatid with

Her Rock (1881). Traditionally a sculpted

female figure that serves as a supporting

column of a building, the caryatid appears

frequently in Moppett’s work, but is

pictured crouched over on one knee,

with arms raised to bear the great weight

of something above that remains invisible.

With this enigmatic figure situated next to

Vancouver’s tallest high-rise, the Shangri-

La—a sixty-two floor building with a great

deal of its weight balanced on a single

wide column right next to Offsite—one

can’t help but compare the actual weight

resting on this adjacent column to the

metaphorical weight hovering over the

head of the caryatid figure. Viewed

from this perspective, Moppett’s project

suggests that a burden—perhaps the

weight of the history of art, the imperative

to create or even the design of the city

itself—is held in precarious balance.

Kathleen Ritter,

Associate Curator

BELOW: Large Painting and Caryatid Maquette in

Studio at Night, 2008

oil on canvas

76.2 x 122 centimetres

Collection of Vancouver Art Gallery,

Gift from a Private Collection, Vancouver


the Artist

Damian Moppett received his MFA from

Concordia University in 1995 and his BFA

from Emily Carr College of Art + Design

in 1992. He has exhibited in Canada and

internationally, including solo exhibitions

at the Rennie Collection, Vancouver;

Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver;

Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa;

and Temple Gallery, Tyler School of Art,

Philadelphia; as well as group exhibitions

at the Vancouver Art Gallery; National

Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Witte de With,

Rotterdam; Musée d’art contemporain

de Montréal; White Columns, New York;

The Power Plant, Toronto; the Art Gallery

of Ontario, Toronto; and The Fruitmarket

Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland. He is

represented by Catriona Jeffries Gallery,

Vancouver. Born in Calgary, Moppett lives

and works in Vancouver.


Damian Moppett

Large Painting and Caryatid Maquette in Studio

at Night (Sculpture Version), 2012

aluminum, paint

5.33 x 13.6 x 9.15 metres

site-specific installation at

Vancouver Art Gallery Offsite

PHOTOGRAPHY: Rachel Topham,

Vancouver Art Gallery

ISBN: 978-1-927656-00-6

Copyright © 2012 Vancouver Art Gallery,

the artist and the author

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