Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival
Rodney Graham, Tree Portriats, 1980 - Present (detail)
Rodney Graham, Tree Portriats, 1980 - Present (detail)
2008 Public Installation

Rodney Graham
Tree Portraits

May 1–31, 2008
The Gardiner Expressway Columns
Spadina Ave and Lakeshore Blvd

Since first creating a walk-in camera obscura
installation in a remote forest near Abbotford BC
in 1981, Vancouver artist Rodney Graham has
revisited the relationship between perception,
memory and the photographic image through numerous
Tree Portraits created from the late 1980s to the
present. These images – shot by the artist with a
regular field camera – are installed upside-down
and recall the premise of the camera obscura, an
ancient technology for accurately, though
inversely, representing the natural world. The
tree portraits also allude to the scientific
nature of human vision that records the world
upside-down, a necessary distortion of reality
occurring in the retina and “corrected” by the
brain. Visibly disconcerting, Graham’s trees defy
the principles of gravity and call into question
the hereditary rules of nature as a stable
benchmark for perception and empirical study.


In this year’s CONTACT festival a selection of 15
of Rodney Graham’s upside-down tree photographs
have been printed in large format and affixed
around the columns of the Gardiner expressway at
Spadina and Lakeshore Blvd. For his images Rodney
Graham selects trees growing in isolation and
steeped in the history of place as captured in
their titles: Welsh Oak, Flanders Trees, Napoleon
Tree, or Stanley Park Cedar, the latter a rare
tree portrait from Canada in this oeuvre that
calls attention to the deforestation of British
Columbia, but that also has added significance
following the devastation of this Vancouver park
by a windstorm in 2006. Under the Gardiner,
viewers will encounter the uncanny sight of
inverted old knobby trees populating this residual
urban area, replacing the footings for the grey
concrete highway above. Returning these trees to
an outdoor location becomes an improbable ode to
Graham’s earlier Camera Obscura project that
inspired this ongoing series of works. In their
unsuspecting and decidedly “unnatural” location
for CONTACT, Graham’s inverted tree portraits task
our perceptions with an immediate awareness of the
forces of gravity, while asserting the importance
of history and place to discussions over the fate
of the busy arteries of the Lakeshore currently
slated for major redevelopment.


Rodney Graham is an internationally acclaimed
artist whose interdisciplinary practice combines
photography, film, video, audio, performance,
installation and text-based works. Born in
Abbotsford, Canada in 1949, Graham has been
closely associated with other prominent
Vancouver-based artists including Jeff Wall, Ian
Wallace, Stan Douglas and Ken Lum. Rodney Graham
has exhibited widely throughout North America,
Europe, Australia and New Zealand since the 1980s,
including at Documenta IX in 1992, and the Venice
Biennale in1997 Rodney Graham lives and works in
Vancouver.


Presented in partnership with the National Gallery
of Canada.

Curated by Emily McInnes & Jonathan Shaughnessy

Scotiabank CONTACT
Photography Festival

80 Spadina Ave Suite 205
Toronto ON M5V 2J4
Gallery Hours
Tue-Fri 11am–5pm
The CONTACT Gallery
is wheelchair accessible.