McMichael - Canadian Art | Collection d'art Canadien


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January 28 to April 22, 2012

This winter and spring, the McMichael celebrates the artistic, cultural, and natural aspects of the tree with two breathtaking exhibitions, a variety of programs, and special installations.

The Tree: Form and Substance

Organized by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection

In celebration of the McMichael legacy and our deep-rooted connection to art and nature, The McMichael Tree Project reaffirms our affiliation with our community and the land through the symbolic wholeness of the tree—an emblem that embodies the essence of the McMichael gallery and grounds as a revered cultural landscape.

As part of this project, the McMichael presents the exhibition The Tree: Form and Substance, curated by McMichael Chief Curator Katerina Atanassova, which provides an exciting opportunity for us to connect the gallery’s interior spaces with our newly invigorated outdoor spaces and forested landscape, for the very first time.

The Tree: Form and Substance features a wide selection of works by well-known artists such as Kim Dorland, Viktor Tinkl, Edward Falkenberg, Will Gorlitz, Sorel Etrog, Alex McLeod, Natalka Husar, and others. Recently created photographs, sculptures, paintings, installation, and mixed media works grab our attention and, at the same time, create an open dialogue with works from the McMichael’s permanent collection, where trees that are so familiar to us in paintings by Tom Thomson, Emily Carr, and members of the Group of Seven, give a promise of renewal and beauty. In their purity and grandiose celebration of nature, these particular works symbolize the best in the iconography of the tree in Canadian art.

View Ghost Forest from video artist Alex McLeod.

Alex McLeod, born 1984
Ghost Forest, 2011
Courtesy of Angell Gallery

Contemporary art takes a different approach in questioning our attitudes, our respect, and validation for the role of the tree in today’s society. In viewing The Tree: Form and Substance, we are invited to discover the mysterious qualities of trees as we consider their life cycle, their beauty, and their importance for our human existence. In witnessing a tree change with the changing of days, seasons, and social surroundings, the works by Greg Staats, Simon Frank, and Vincenzo Pietropaolo celebrate the tree, yet also remind us why we should never take the life of a tree for granted.

The McMichael Tree Project Programs
are generously supported by

McMichael Canadian Art Collection Volunteer Committee

Promotional Partner for the
McMichael Tree Project
Nature Conservancy Canada


The Tree: From the Sublime to the Social

Organized and circulated by the Vancouver Art Gallery

In conjunction with The Tree: Form and Substance, the gallery is also proud to present The Tree: From the Sublime to the Social, organized and circulated by the Vancouver Art Gallery; an exhibition that reveals how the tree is ripe with cultural contradictions. It has been used as a symbol for all of nature and its overwhelming beauty; it is a powerful signifier of Canada’s national identity as well as the individual’s struggle against the wilderness; and currently, it even serves as a reminder of our precarious ecological position.

The Tree: From the Sublime to the Social is an exhibition that considers the tree as a subject in art from the early twentieth century to the present. The diverse representations of the tree are indicative of its enduring power as an evocative symbol of our complex and changing relationships with the natural environment.

The exhibition begins with historical images of the forest that evoke the grandeur and power of the natural world. More recently, artists have come to use the tree for a variety of investigations—as a formal device to consider abstraction and figuration, as well as to question our perceptions of the world around us. A growing sense of alienation from the natural world is also explored by artists who expose our mediated experiences of nature. Still others depict trees as a resource for economic development and the devastating consequences of severe logging practices. Optimistically, some artists in the exhibition present life-affirming projects that revitalize the “dying” tree and engage in both metaphorical and real tree-planting projects.

The Tree: From the Sublime to the Social is organized and circulated by the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Daina Augaitis, Chief Curator/Associate Director, with Assistant Curator, Emmy Lee.

The Seed Collective - Napoleon Brousseau

This McMichael tree was specifically designed by technological artist Napoleon Brousseau and co-produced by the Canadian Film Centre, for the gallery's interactive SEED Collective installation—a cell phone-driven artwork enabling individuals to grow a virtual forest.


Kim Dorland

Kim Dorland
Tree House, 2010
oil, acrylic, wood, nails and glitter on wood panel
244 x 183 cm

Emily Carr - Forest

Emily Carr
Forest, 1931-1933
oil on canvas
118.2 x 76.1 cm
Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Emily Carr Trust
Photo: Trevor Mills, Vancouver Art Gallery

Liz Magor

Liz Magor
Deep Woods Portfolio, 1999
silver gelatin print
Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery
Gift of the Artist

Lorraine Gilbert, Shaping the New Forest, Part 1 - The

Lorraine Gilbert
, Shaping the New Forest, Part 1 - The
Landscapes; Deb in the snags, Invermere, B.C.
, 1988 - 1994
chromogenic print
45.0 x 55.3 cm
Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery
Gift of the Artist



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