Treelines - here and there

May 11 - August 3, 2024
Central Gallery

Treelines - here and there

Gwen MacGregor

 

Multi-disciplinary artist Gwen MacGregor traces our shared history of deforestation along a path that is both a universal examination of environmental changes centuries in the making and a deeply personal exploration of our relationship to land and place. With Treelines – here and there, crocheted reproductions of trees, some made with coloured yarn, others of recycled plastic, are inserted into the landscape and photographed. Regardless of the specific location, the results are hauntingly familiar depictions featuring a lone tree standing out against an altered terrain.

Approaching the exhibition, a forest of MacGregor’s hand-made crocheted trees spills out of the gallery, floating at eye level in the hallway. Often considered a traditional craft, crochet is a flexible medium that is easily turned to the structure of a tree. Serving as stand-ins for what would have grown in the area – whether larch or rowan, ponderosa pine or aspen – the crocheted trees read both as specific species and as trees in general. Depicted alone in the landscape, they convey a vulnerability and fragility, incongruous against backdrops of clearcuts, slag heaps, and powerlines. Grouped together in the gallery, they become approachable and intimate objects with a plush, almost stuffed animal feel at a scale that is relatable. In the Central Gallery, a series of large format photographs and a looping video projection depict the crocheted trees situated across a variety of landscapes. Shot in locations ranging from Greece to Scotland to British Columbia, the images juxtapose selective moments captured against the vast scale of environmental change. As you look more closely, there are a few clues that something more is at play – some of the backdrops are locally recognizable and may seem strangely familiar. In one image, a row of crocheted larch are situated on the bank of the Granby River with slag piles glistening in the morning frost, another depicts a veritable forest nestled within a vintage chainsaw display at Son Ranch.

For MacGregor, the trees act as a kind of proxy for the artist and her changing relationship to the land depending on the location – whether as a settler on Indigenous land, in the Scottish homeland of her family, in the Greek cradle of western civilization, or somewhere entirely new. While there is a recognition of complicity in humanities ongoing and accelerating inclination towards deforestation, in which we all share, the whimsical nature of this work encourages reflection and understanding. The palpable tension between the two elements of this work – the crisp, high-resolution depiction of landscapes impacted by human activity dwarfing the small, quirky handmade trees – does not avoid the complicated nature of addressing environmental destruction.