Inspired by the iconic works of Emily Carr, the Group of Seven (G7) and Tom Thomson, the paintings and prints that form this series are based on degraded digital images of Canadian masterpieces that were found on the internet. Using a geometric language he created, Coupland has Photoshopped these well-known landscapes and reduced their compositions into flat planes of colour. In a sense, these classic representations of Canadian identity are recast from a 21st-century perspective using contemporary tools, raising the question of whether “Canadianness” should still be defined by a relationship with nature.

Through a wide range of media including assemblage, installation, painting, photography, sculpture and quilts, Coupland has persistently investigated Canadian cultural identity, both benign and menacing. Using imagery and objects latent with symbolic meaning for Canadians, he delineates what it means to be Canadian, offering a “secret handshake” not easily understood by others.


  • Title: Thomson Campfire
  • Creator: Douglas Coupland
  • Date: 2013
  • Physical Dimensions: w157 x h199 x dcm
  • Exhibition section: Secret Handshake
  • Credit line: Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Purchased with funds from the Jean MacMilan Southam Art Acquisition Endowment Fund
  • Type: painting
  • Medium: acrylic on canvas

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