Gallery takes Shadbolt, Carr to Downtown Eastside

The first exhibition of B.C.'s two most important artists, Emily Carr and Jack Shadbolt is taking place at the Or Gallery in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside until Feb. 27.

The exhibition is a collaboration between Scott Watson, curator of UBC's Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery and Reid Shier, curator of the Or Gallery. They have chosen 18 masterworks for the exhibition, including six of the 10 Carr paintings and 12 of the 200 Shadbolt works from the Belkin Gallery collection.

The exhibition is part of the Belkin Gallery's outreach initiative.

The idea for the show came to Watson following Shadbolt's death last year.

"I thought it might be nice to have Jack and Emily on display together for the first time," says Watson. "Emily was important to Jack. She was the first artist to create the B.C. landscape in a modern idiom."

The exhibition's theme, "Heart of Darkness," borrowed from writer Joseph Conrad's novel about African colonialism, is intended to suggest that the works of Carr and Shadbolt confront colonial anxiety.

Watson says the paintings, such as Carr's `Wasteland' and Shadbolt's `Figure in a Cedar Slash', reflect colonial issues, including the state and status of First Nations issues including land claims and native art as well as the forest industry.

"We are hoping a show like this will disturb or challenge the idea that these artists are a comfortable part of our heritage and suggest that they are asking difficult and uncomfortable questions about that heritage," says Watson.

The other important aspect of the exhibition, says Watson, is to spotlight the heart of West Hastings.

"I hope the public will come to the Or Gallery in the Downtown Eastside and also observe the dark part of the city instead of turning a blind eye," Watson says.

This will be the last exhibition at the Or Gallery's present location before it moves from the troubled neighbourhood to its new venue on Richards Street. But Watson is committed to expanding the Belkin Gallery's reach into the downtown community.

"The Belkin Art Gallery acquisitions are growing and we want to do more with them," says Watson. "We are isolated here at UBC and we believe a downtown presence would be a good thing."