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"Clayoquot Protest II"
Ian Wallace, "Clayoquot Protest II," 1993, photolaminate and ink monoprint with acrylic on canvas, 1.51 x 1.12 m. Vancouver Art Gallery. Photo courtesy Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver.
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Ian Wallace, "Poverty," 1982, eight canvases, silkscreen and acrylic on canvas, 1.8 x 7.7 m. Photo courtesy Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver.
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Ian Wallace, "Image/Text," 1979, hand-coloured black and white photograph, 2.72 x 5.46 m. Vancouver Art Gallery. Photo by Tim Bonham, courtesy Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver.
IAN WALLACE: Urban Concepts
2004 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts
By Beverly Cramp
He’s more than just an artist. Ian Wallace is known equally well for being an art historian, teacher, writer and a founding member of the internationally renowned photo-based art movement called the Vancouver School.
This year, Wallace became one of six recipients of the $15,000 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in recognition of his distinguished career.
The jury citation for Wallace’s win states in part: “His role in the development of conceptual art in Vancouver and his years as a teacher of art history, at the University of British Columbia and the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, have had a wide-ranging influence on students and artists alike.”
Wallace acknowledges the importance of his teaching and art history career. “Teaching was really part of my artistic practice,” he said at a press conference at the Catriona Jeffries Gallery which has represented his work for the past 10 years. Wallace says his art history training gave him the tools to articulate his artistic vision and that of the Vancouver School to an international audience.
In the 1960s, Wallace was taught by one of Vancouver’s pioneering conceptual artists, Ian Baxter. Wallace later taught Jeff Wall and Rodney Graham although the teacher-student relationship soon evolved into an artist’s gang. “We were fairly close in age,” says Wallace. “We wanted to make art together.” And so they did, creating a body of work that is synonymous with Vancouver and which put the city on the international art map.
“I’m half modernist abstract painter and half photo-conceptualist,” says Wallace of his large photo and paint-based works. His recent works show images of urban landscapes with glass skyscrapers towering above people, cars and signs. And although these big-city streetscapes symbolize the relationship between individuals and the architectural superstructures around them, Wallace says his work is more than that.
“I’m not just making nice pictures. Nor do I only focus on themes. Form and colour are important too. I use paint as an abstract support in my work and to show that it’s a painting and I’m working from that tradition.”
Beverly Cramp is a Vancouver-based freelance writer.