The Garden
Jan Koot Westendorp
March 6 — March 23, 1991

Brochure Essay by Lorna Brown

The Gardcn is the most recent in a series of photographic projects by Jan Westendorp concentrating on the subject of public gardens. As distinct from earlier work, the prints in this exhibition are large horizontal rectangles, measuring two by six feet, and are
printed from part of the square-format transparencies. The ‘‘missing’‘ portions will, in some cases, make up a concurrent exhibition at the Manufactory Gallery in Tokyo. This linear format encourages an inclination to scan the surface from left to right and in
closer proximity to walk the path in front of the work much as the consumer of “landscape” parklands travels from “aspect” to predetermined “aspect.” The lush, claustrophobic surface of the cibachromes maintain a charged and emphatic relationship with the gallery wall which functions as a severe frame. This rigid division draws associations to the abrupt boundaries of the public garden walled into the urban context.

The prints are produced from colour transparencies sandwiched together – double exposures or straight shots that contain a visual layering as a result of shadow, reflection or distortion of the perspective. The gardens are photographed methodically, one frame in a sequence is overexposed to be combined with a similar one later on the last frame of each sequence is underexposed to be exposed again at the next site. These final frames form points of transition between scenes, overlapping one doubly constructed viewpoint with the next. The position of the viewer oscillates within and between the layers of perspective as both the surface picture and the submerged image struggle to prevail. Desire for the familiar serene representational balance is frustrated by the pictures’ compressed points of view. Anxiety enters thc composed harmony of managed nature, of seasons cultivated for pleasure.

Westendorp’s practice includes earlier video work with TBA collective* produced quickly with limited facilities and screened on cable television during the late seventies. This work combined with the photo projects places her work on the threshold between the disorienting effects of the urban space and the acknowledged healing effects of orchestrated beauty, or according to her own description, as having one foot on the street and one in the garden. This position is echoed in the fortuitous placement of her work for the recent Transpositions SkyTrain exhibition next to and actually forming a diptych with a Safeway ad that enticed commuters to “say it with flowers.” A subtle disquiet resides in the space between the layered images, a space that contains active compliance in the social construction of nature – the knowledge of which cannot be abandoned.

Lorna Brown

Jan Koot Westendorp is a Fine Arts graduate from the University of British Columbia. She was a founding member of TBA-TV, a non-profit visual artists’ media and productions collective. From 1977-80 she worked as a video artist and program coordinator with TBA-TV, assisting with the broadcast of a weekly television show on Cable l0, Vancouver. Four of her video works were included in the large Vancouver Art Gallery exhibit, Vancouver: Art and Artists, in 1982. Her Nitobe Garden Series, Hidden Gardens Series, and Monet’s Garden Series were exhibited at the Surrey Art Gallery. Westendorp’s next show will be upcoming in March 1991, at the Manufactory Gallery, Tokyo, Japan.

*A non-profit visual artists’ media-production collective working in still photography, video, multi-media and audio-visual productions, as well as mail art and performance art, between 1977 and 1984.

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