Western Front Exhibitions is pleased to present the work of Vancouver-based artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun. Curated by Candice Hopkins and Mark Soo, the exhibition presents a single painting, Guardian Spirits on the Land: Ceremony of Sovereignty (2000) alongside a selection of pulp science fiction novels. The exhibition is held in conjunction with a series of talks by writers that explore Yuxweluptun’s work in relation to the genre of science fiction.
Drawing from Aboriginal Northwest Coast and Coast Salish cultural myths and iconographic traditions as well as the conventions of epic Western painting, Guardian Spirits on the Land: Ceremony of Sovereignty depicts a congregation of spiritual beings encamped upon a hallucinatory and supernatural landscape. These spirits, whose intense colourings glow with extraterrestrial luminescence and whose ovoid forms bear resemblances to mechanical or android-like parts, are portrayed as caught in a state of ambiguous reverie.
Found in books, television, film, and other media, the genre of science fiction in popular culture often involves dramatic speculations on the alternate realities of the near or distant future. Works are generally set in intergalactic space, on colonized planets, or on a re-envisioned earth, and are populated by humans and entities of otherworldly or artificial intelligence. Elements integral to the genre are themes that consider the consequences of technological upheaval and scientific modernization, and the political, cultural and social systems that arise within these alternately utopian or dystopian visions.
This exhibition draws upon a long history of artistic exchange—reaching back at least to the early 19th century—between visual artists and writers of science fiction in articulating the transformations of the modern world. Seen in relation to each other, both Yuxweluptun’s painting and the genre of sci-fi find shared concerns for an apocalyptic relationship to the future, disaster, conflict, exploration and conquest. These juxtapositions mark representations of contemporary aboriginal culture as proximate to notions of the future as they are connected to experiences of the past.
Artist Biography: Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun graduated from the Emily Carr School of Art and Design in 1983 with an honours degree in painting. Yuxweluptun’s strategy is to document and promote change in contemporary Indigenous history in painting, using Coast Salish cosmology, Northwest Coast formal design elements, and the Western landscape tradition. His painted works explore political, environmental, and cultural issues. Yuxweluptun’s work has been included in numerous international group and solo exhibitions, including INDIGENA: Contemporary Native Perspectives at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 1992, the solo exhibition, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Born to Live and Die on Your Colonialist Reservations, organized by the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery and numerous group exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery. He was the recipient of the Shadbolt Foundation’s VIVA award in 1998. His paintings are in collections of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC; Canadian Museum of Civilization; Department of Indian and Northern Affairs; Smithsonian Museum of National Gallery, New York; and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa