Wanda Koop is one of Canada's most distinguished artists. She is a master painter who works at a monumental scale, both in size and in scope. Often working in series, her works explore how we interact with the natural world through the mediated lens of our history, culture and broadcast media. Her main areas of interest include urbanization, industrialization and robotic technology. Koop has been innovative in her presentation of works by bringing new dynamism in combining her paintings with video and performance.
Her painting career spans four decades and includes over 50 solo exhibitions, across
Canada and around the world. Her art is represented in numerous public and private collections, such as Musee d’Art Contemporain de Montreal, Reykjavik Museum (Iceland), Shanghai Museum of Modern Art, the Bank of Montreal, the
Royal Bank of Canada, as well as the National Gallery of Canada and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which jointly organized a major survey of her work in 2010-2011.
Wanda Koop is represented by Galerie Divsion/Division Gallery in Toronto and Montreal and Michael Gibson Gallery in London (Ontario, Canada). She is the recipient of numerous awards,
including honorary doctorates from the University of Winnipeg, the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and the University of Manitoba. She is a Member of the Order of Canada and has been awarded both the Queens Diamond and Golden Jubilee Medals. She is the founder of Art City, an inner-city art centre in Winnipeg.
Brilliant Orange Screen, Wanda Koop, Hybrid Human series, acrylic on canvas, (293 x 405cm), 2010
Wanda Koop Artist Statement
I consider myself a visual language researcher. The inspiration for my work comes from lived experience and observation of the world around me.
Through an intense process of visual research, making small sketches, video, photography, drawing on post-it notes, and through the exploration of colour, I am able to develop bodies of work that can lead to large poetic paintings and multidisciplinary installations.
View From Here is a body of work I started exploring in 2009, bridging landscape and portrait. A constant exploration of the face throughout the lifetime of my practice led me to do many small studies, ink on paper, of heads containing landscapes. These images disrupt the tradition of the figure in the landscape. Here, landscape and portrait become one and the same.
For years I have been interested in how mediated images of a televised war act to distance and disconnect viewers from the real experience. “Green Zone” is a body of work driven out of the television coverage of the 2003-2009 conflict in Iraq. As I watched the war on CNN, I was struck by the banality of the images as they scrolled continuously across the screen.
The information coming over the news didn’t collate with what we were seeing visually. Every time an image would come up - a flare, a light, a figure - the CNN scroll would roll across and block out these forms and shapes.
And because the images were digital satellite images, they would be fractured, become these interesting blocks that diffused everything, making it completely abstract. Figures, buildings, tanks and explosions were all presented equally.
I started making sketches on post-it notes while watching these images, sketches which led to larger paintings, and which formed this body of work.
Hybrid Human is a body of work I completed in 2005, combining large-scale painting, projection video, and the contemporary dance work of Jolene Bailie.
As the dancers move in and between the works, they mimic the figures in the paintings, becoming a part of the screened landscape. Viewers also become performers when they enter the gallery space. They find themselves stepping out of their own personal space to interact with the art and with each other.
Viewers may question where the act of seeing begins.
In Your Eyes, installation view at Thetis Foundation (Venice, Italy), Wanda Koop, 2001
View From Here, installation view from Wanda Koop: On the Edge of Experience at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (Winnipeg, Canada), Wanda Koop, 2010
Photography: William Eakin