What Remains: Vanessa Hall-Patch

January 18, 2019 by

“Through photography and printmaking I form a system of research” says artist Vanessa Hall-Patch.

Her subject is a dwindling group of abandoned cabins located in a rural part of Bowen Island, British Columbia, where Hall-Patch lives. She has been observing and documenting the transformation of these structures and others like them over the years, considering what they represent about “fragility, necessity, history, and [as] markers of the past.”

“My interest and obsession with the cabin image is rooted in nostalgia,” explains Hall-Patch. “Since birth and through my early childhood my family would vacation on Pender Island BC at a rustic resort called Roesland, in modest cabins with no hot water, shower, [and] limited space. To me, that space and those memories are what I associate with home.” Inspired by her initial encounter with these cabins, she continues to document structures that speak to a specific place and time, “I have always been drawn to vernacular architecture rather than polished designer homes. Many of the structures I record are in a slow but inevitable process of decay. I want to preserve their present state [and] remember what once existed.”

Hall-Patch is constantly “collecting, collecting, collecting.” She often begins a suite of prints with a written idea or a rudimentary sketch, she then pulls from her extensive image bank of the houses and cabins she photographs. From there she builds a digital mock-up that serves as a loose guide to the final print or series. “In my studio practice, process informs outcome at an intersection of traditional and digital print methods.” By combining print techniques, such as screen printing, photopolymer etchings, plate lithography, and chine colle, she creates subtle layers of detail and contrast that examine the house as an object reflective of history and narrative, “I’m interested in the fact that a house can embody [and] characterize a particular time and is the keeper of [these] experiences.”

During her residency at WSW, Hall-Patch continued addressing these themes in different ways. Working with transparent paper and printing on both sides, she broke apart an image of a cabin and screen printed the fragments so as to “float in an organized chaos,” while on the other side we see the cabin fully intact. “I am interested in exploring the deconstruction of the cabins in these prints,” she explains. The imagery from each side interact to create a ghostly shadow effect and collapse the lengthy and mostly unseen process of decay into one simultaneous moment.

Her interest in documenting and collecting has lead Hall-Patch to make work in reference to museum archives, regarding the cabins as “more of an object to be cataloged rather than a functional structure.” In her ongoing series Cabin Cutouts, we see detached cabins float directly above a landscape interrupted by a matching cabin-shaped void. In her piece House Sampler, Land Sampler, Hall-Patch gathers isolated images of houses into one large print, accompanied by a hand-bound book featuring each of the altered landscapes from which the structures were removed–the result looks as though someone took a scalpel and cleanly extracted the house from the surrounding wilderness. In these series, the vacancies in the landscape and isolation of the structures create a cross-referential system that brings the houses and their environment into new context.

Hall-Patch presents to us “a visual diary” of her surroundings through the lens of the house. Viewing her prints is like looking at a portrait: the details she highlights or alters in the printing process become focal points that offer a story of time and place, preserving what was lost and bringing attention to what still remains.

Vanessa Hall-Patch is a Canadian artist who received an MFA in printmaking from the University of Alberta (2004) and a BFA from Queen’s University (2001). Focusing on themes of collecting, recording and preservation, Vanessa documents vernacular structures within her rural surroundings of Bowen Island, British Columbia. She creates works on paper by layering multiple photo-based printmaking techniques, including etching, screen printing, relief and embossment. Recent exhibitions include: Highpoint Center for Printmaking, Minneapolis, MN; International Print Center New York, NY; Novosibirsk State Art Museum, Novosibirsk, Russia; LA Print Space, Los Angeles, CA; Bankside Gallery, London, UK and The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, St. John’s, NL, Canada. Vanessa lives on Bowen Island with her family and commutes by boat to Vancouver where she works at Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

Marisa Malone is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been published in Selfish Magazine and BlazeVox Journal   and she has self-published two chapbooks of poetry.