Landon Mackenzie

Landon Mackenzie:
We Don’t Have a Picture Yet

15 February 2017

For the 5th consecutive year, the Canada Council has collaborated with independent film directors, in partnership with the Independent Media Arts Alliance, to produce video portraits of the winners of the Governor General’s Visual and Media Arts Awards.

Once again, the results are insightful, often inspiring, always creative. We invited some of the directors to write about the experience.

Our first meeting was in an East Vancouver café whose architectural design tried to simulate a train station. We drank coffee on an immersive railway platform, the wall décor and 19th century artifacts meant to inspire thoughts of cross-continental travel. Immediately Landon began to talk about her studio.

In the literal sense, she would refer to the various artist spaces she had worked in or continued to work in across Canada or in Europe, but it was what the studio represented in the emblematic sense that really began to guide our conversation. The studio as a creative hub, the studio as a shared space among respected colleagues, the studio as an oasis from frenetic professional and private commitments… Landon’s locomotive-like reverence for the studio clearly set in motion the central motif and thematic spine of the film.

Eventually I was invited into her workspace, and met the artist colleagues with whom she shares her Vancouver studio. Later we visited Emily Carr University of Art and Design, with a tour of more studios and more introductions, this time to the aspiring painters that were her students. Each location had its own signature charm, each represented a certain rigor and respect for artistic practice, and each of the encounters made clear the high esteem with which Landon is held.

Before we began to shoot there were some ground rules. “I won’t do interviews while I paint,” she said. “It would just end up looking fake.” And of course we had to invent a story that would ensure her Governor General’s Award was kept under wraps. As film director, I wanted to talk about the interpretation of her paintings, the public reception. I talked about the numerous galleries and public spaces around the country and the world that featured her work, even suggesting the possibility of visiting a local gallery with her to shoot some footage. But none of that mattered. The studio was the only location we needed.

Our four-person production crew arrived at her studio. We set up our lights, our camera positions and our microphones, and began to record... And the studio became a travelling vessel, piloted by a painter who could clearly navigate it wherever she chose - the empty canvas acting as a driver’s front window to those representational and conceptual landscapes that would adorn her career.

Congratulations, Landon. We loved working with you. And if I may I’d like to do the honors of announcing the next stop… “Ladies and Gentlemen, next station…Rideau Hall.”


Anthony Grieco

Anthony Grieco is a filmmaker and writer based in Vancouver. 

Tagged As Artist Stories Behind the Lens Prize Winners