Landon Mackenzie: We Don’t Have A Picture Yet- a film by Anthony Grieco

Landon Mackenzie: We Don’t Have A Picture Yet- a film by Anthony Grieco

Artists are really
privileged to have a studio. It’s not a domestic space. When you come back in,
it’s got all the things, the habits that you
left behind the day before. You turn on the lights,
it wakes up, and you can re-enter where
you were in your work before. When I was a teenager,
I had a chance to go to Harold Town’s Studio. He was a good family friend. I had known him
since I was small and he was in the
Severn Street Studio in Toronto where the
Group of Seven had worked. And I didn’t know at the time
if I could become an artist, but I did know
that I wanted this life, this place called
the studio to be in my life. The idea that
you sort of enter a space, and you could physically
change it day by day, not really knowing
where you were going, but really building
some sort of narrative. That was the part of conceptual
art that I really grabbed onto. The idea that you could
sort of set the rules to a game and then you follow the game
and then you implement it, you accept it
and you see where it leads. I’m in a great group studio
with other artists. A big space, and I began
to do these dark paintings reflecting on my memories of
the North living in the Yukon, and eventually those turned
into the Lost River paintings. Some people have written about
them as wolves, I have written about them as a kind of a
wolf/caribou hybrid creature. They are creatures and
they are stand-ins for humans. I raised three children here
in East Vancouver. I had one in Montreal, one
in Toronto and one in Vancouver. Each child changed
perhaps some of the working methods that I had. The pregnancy meant that
I just was having more and more trouble
getting up and down the ladder. Finally I just took it down,
I put it on the floor and I became really excited
about the idea of living and working
inside the painting. If the landscape is a painting,
I am within the landscape. Typically the big works
will start on the floor for about half their life,
until I have this kind of nest of a puzzle. As a little girl, there had
been a very important map, which was the pull-out part
of Lands Forlorn, a book that was written about the
1911 expedition of a relative. The little map with its
little red lines going up into the Arctic was a very
key moment in imagery for me. I remapped Canada
over 21 enormous paintings. It was about
a 15-year long project. These maps had
alternate layers of true maps which we would call
The Record and Fiction. My preposition really
was that the early maps from the late 19th century and
early 20th century were fiction. They themselves
were just government documents or the railway-scheduled
documents in order to call into function
a colonial possibility. It appears to
most people to be abstract, but actually
its representational. I just have removed things,
like horizon lines, that make it simple for
the viewer to kind of identify with a Group of Seven landscape. It’s just trying to represent
something that we don’t have a picture of yet in the world. The idea of the conceptual
practice of a never-ending story actually could have
a different kind of resolution, and the fixed ending is one
where I know that it’s just one many endings
that’s possible, but it’s a poignant moment
where everything sort of seems to gel
for that painting.

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  1. congratulations Landon! I know your namesake, Landon Pearson through her niece, my partner, Barb Hannah. I love what you said about the studio.

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