By Brittany Tiplady

From now until April 17, the Burnaby Art Gallery presents Unsettled Histories, an exhibit by Vancouver-based artist Dan Starling, curated by gallery director Jennifer Cane.

Unsettled Histories is comprised of 40 drypoint works, opening with a replica of Rembrandt’s renowned work Christ Crucified Between Two Thieves: The Three Crosses (1653) as a starting point for Starling’s reimaginings of Jerusalem through past, present and future. With these works, Starling questions the legitimacy of colonial histories, prodding at the foundations of settler-occupied cultural narratives. 

If you’re unfamiliar with drypoint, it’s a technical art practice not commonly used today. The artist works using a sharp metal point to incise an image into a pliable surface, traditionally copper.

Dan Starling’s dry point of Rembrandt’s Christ Crucified Between Two Thieves: The Three Crosses (1653)

Starling, revered as a rigorously researched and technical artist, also has a sharp tongue for popular culture, as seen in his past works exploring the likes of Star Wars and Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. However, this time, Starling explores a different element of culture, discussing and challenging one of the most famous art sites in history, Jerusalem.

“The one that you’re seeing, the original Rembrandt, is one that Dan printed himself, but it’s an exact replica,” explains Jennifer Cane. “With that as a starting point, Dan began to look at the site shown in the piece itself and examine where the shadows fall. This work was interesting to Dan because we think of Rembrandt as one of the most canonized masters of Art History, but actually, he had revised his prints many times.”

It’s an interesting point about the centuries of historic art that we study. The assumption that all masterworks we’re created fully formed and without any trial and error.

“I think [Starling] is pointing out that Rembrandt was very experimental, and we don’t always think of him that way. But in the present, artists are pushing boundaries, and even in Rembrandt’s time, he was doing that,” adds Cane. 

Before visiting Deer Lake to see the exhibition in person, Cane narrates ‘Unsettled Histories’ beautifully in a virtual tour online. The gallery’s first floor takes us through Starling’s reimaginings of historical narratives. The top floor then carries on to the present day, and into the future, ending the exhibit on a cosmic note, leaving the viewer up to their own galactic interpretation. 

“I think the concept of this show is sophisticated, but those interested in history will also enjoy it– that’s why it’s called Unsettled Histories– because it’s really about challenging colonialism and the impact we can have on the future. We’re making history right now, which I think that’s really beautiful and filled with possibility.”

Dan Starling: Unsettled Histories is on now at the Burnaby Art Gallery until April 17, 2022. Located in beautiful Deer Lake Park, the Burnaby Art Gallery is open for visitors from Tuesday-Sunday. Plan your visit here.

 Detail from Dan Starling, Unsettled Histories, 2019-2021, drypoint on paper

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