Kelly Lycan is a photo-based installation artist living and working in Vancouver. Central to her artwork is the notion of recontextualizing interiors, everyday objects, and materials that have already been used for something else. Her latest exhibition, The Fireplace, has peeled back layers of history to turn Burnaby Art Gallery back into the home it once was in a study of art, history, and domesticity. 

Kelly Lycan, The Wallpaper (detail), 2024, repurposed mylar, fabric, scenic lighting gels, plastic packaging/garbage, resin, and 4 x 6” photographs from set dressing, dimensions variable. Photography: Blaine Campbell

The building was built in 1910 in an Edwardian Arts and Crafts style with local fir stained to look like mahogany and fireplace tiles imported from England.  Since the Ceperley family, who commissioned the house, it has been home to many residents, for many reasons: Benedictine monks, strawberry farmers,  a cult (allegedly), country retreat owners and a university fraternity. The gallery was established in 1967, and today boasts a permanent collection comprising over 6,500 works of art. Over time, the building morphed from a home into a gallery that is practical for the team to work from, where original built-in cabinets have been covered with false white walls to create a blank canvas on which to display exhibitions which the public can visit. 

In this site-specific exhibit, Lycan offers new narratives where the art and the gallery seem to speak to each other in a way that blurs the boundaries between reality and imagination, past and present. She has restaged the old house with historical furniture, photographs and sculptures made from repurposed materials that gently nod to its history. The exhibit is named after the six fireplaces that the building boasts, and each of the artworks are named after some of the more domestic fixtures: The Wallpaper, The Storage Unit, The Bathtub, The Stove, The Curtain, to name a few. She has reimagined how each of the rooms in the house may have been used by its stewards over time and the house itself has become one of her materials to work with. 

Installation view of The Fireplace, 2024; Kelly Lycan, The Take-Out Swan, 2024, tin foil, 22.0 cm x 19.5 cm x 26 cm; Kelly Lycan, The Stove (detail), 2024, cardboard, plastic, housepaint, metal, 35.0 cm x 35.0 cm x 259.0 cm. Photography: Blaine Campbell

In The Wallpaper, Lycan has layered scrap materials like old parts of shopping bags, gift wrap, mylar, fabric, garbage, and resin to create wallpaper. Shapes of plants echo William Morris’s famous print The Strawberry Thief which is believed to have adorned that same wall at one time. At the heart of Lycan’s practice lies a fascination with found objects, particularly those once used in Vancouver’s film industry where Lycan worked as a set decorator for 20 years. Huge prop houses act as waiting rooms for untethered objects which, having been removed from their cycle of use, wait to be chosen to add a new narrative to the imaginary world of film sets. Old photographs of these inventories that she collected over her career are lined up along the top of The Wallpaper. These meticulously sorted photographs also appear in bins, categorised by scale and object including couches, lamps, curtains, ashtrays and fake plants. 

Kelly Lycan, The Storage Unit (detail), 2024, plastic bins, photographs from set dressing photo collection, dimensions variable. Photography: Blaine Campbell

Elsewhere in the exhibit, The Roof documents an imaginary unruly picnic with an overflowing table, alluding to the period when the Ceperleys lived there. Another sculpture shaped like a crucifix and made from more found materials (including an umbrella and a satellite dish!) nods to the time when monks inhabited the house. In what would have been the primary bedroom of the house, a replica of Emily Carr’s stove is displayed with an archival image of her using it in her studio in 1945.

The exhibit invites the viewer to contemplate the changing value they assign to their own possessions: the shiny new objects that are adored as much as the old sentimental objects, and everything in between that comes and goes with time. We can contemplate this cyclical nature of material culture, the dynamic and intimate relationships that exist between objects, their owners and their environments, and the fact that no place can ever truly sit still. 

The Fireplace is on display until August 25, 2024. 

Burnaby Art Gallery (344 Deer Lake Ave) is a quick bus away from Sperling or Metrotown SkyTrain stations. Use Translink Trip Planner to work out your journey! Make sure you factor in time for a stroll around Deer Lake Park and a visit to the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts.

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