The Inlet: New Paintings of the Burrard Inlet & Vancouver Harbour

Visual Space Gallery, Vancouver
September 14-27, 2023
Hours: Noon–5 PM daily with extended hours until 8 PM Tuesdays and Fridays

I moved to Vancouver in 1991 and instantly fell in love with the Burrard Inlet: mountains, clouds, beach volleyball, sunsets – and a froth of sea planes, sailboats, windsurfers and freighters going back and forth. For thirty-two years I have painted the Burrard Inlet and the inner working harbour. As Monet once did with cathedrals and haystacks, I have returned again and again to certain locations – Strathcona, Ambleside, Lion’s Gate Bridge, Jericho Beach, Spanish Banks and the Second Beach pool – to capture subtle shifts of viewpoint and changes in lighting.

I find oil tankers and cargo freighters the most interesting architectural objects in our landscape – objects whose shapes change and distort as they slowly rotate with the tides. Weak yellow lights glow from the small cabins of their crewmen, making the ships appear to be mysterious fortified floating monasteries with tangled cranes serving as rococo superstructure.

I love painting the ships in fading light. Late afternoon light warms from yellow to pink. During sunset and fleeting crepuscule red-orange glow engenders feelings of longing. At night, the ships’ masses blur into the mountain background while strong white and green lights outline the edges of their silhouettes, reflecting far across the water. In the green-gold gloaming before dawn, strengthening light gradually reveals shape and form.

I admire how the older ships – with their now-obsolete design, patches of peeling paint and rusting steel hulls – maintain a quiet dignity while accepting their fate: gradual decrepitude or sudden doom on a breaker’s dock.

We live in a rapidly changing world, with shifting weather patterns, melting glaciers, burning forests and depleted seas. I hope these simple paintings set off sympathetic vibrations in their audience, with greater appreciation of the evanescence of human endeavour and anticipatory nostalgia for the fragile beauty of our present landscape.