Post & Beam (vessels), acrylic on canvas, 46” x 36”, 2017
Renée Van Halm, Post & Beam (vessels) (2017). Acrylic on canvas, 46” x 36”.

Renée Van Halm: Shape of Things

Opening Reception: May 30, 7–9 p.m.

Artist Talk: June 10 at 2 p.m.

“Cultural history and how we represent and inhabit architecture are fundamental to my work. My ongoing interests are in how we define and negotiate our private experiences in the spaces where we live.”                                                                   

People rarely appear in photographs featured in interior design magazines. Instead, carefully staged objects, such as an open book on a coffee table or a vase of flowers on a sideboard, are the only evidence of habitation, compelling readers to imagine themselves living amidst the sumptuous furnishings and spaces depicted.

In the 1950s and 60s, mainstream lifestyle magazines disseminated modernist architecture as a new and better way of living, integrating art, architecture, and design. A resurgent interest and examination of mid-century design through museum exhibitions, publications, and re-issued design classics, has popularized modern design, and the work of many architects and designers is now familiar and collected for prestige.

In Shape of Things, Renée Van Halm conflates images of modernist residential interiors and design objects drawn from secondary sources (magazines and books) into paintings that critically examine how modernist philosophy and practice, with its origins in Europe in the late 19th century, has endured despite inherent contradictions concerning comfort, accessibility, affordability, and practicality. 

Renée Van Halm was born in the Netherlands and has lived and worked in Toronto, Montréal, and Berlin before returning to Vancouver. She studied at the Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr University of Art and Design), and completed an MFA at Concordia University in Montréal.

Her work has been featured in more than 30 solo exhibitions, as well as in numerous group shows, including Follows Fiction, UTAC, Toronto (2016), The Poetics of Space, Vancouver Art Gallery (2015), New Monuments Forget the Future, Birch Contemporary (2015), Cut and Paste, Equinox Gallery (2012), Architypes in Sydney (2004) and Tokyo (2005); weak thought at the Vancouver Art Gallery (1997-98), and Songs of Experience at the National Gallery of Canada (1983). In 2012, the Burnaby Art Gallery mounted a 35-year survey exhibition of her works on paper. Her work has been collected publicly and privately in Canada and elsewhere.

Van Halm has been involved with many art-related projects, including the founding of Mercer Union, the artist-run centre in Toronto, in 1979. She taught for more than a decade at York University before joining the faculty of Emily Carr University of Art and Design in 1992, where she is now professor emerita. Her work is represented by Birch Contemporary in Toronto and Equinox in Vancouver.