British Columbia

East Van Cross artist comes home to launch horse statue in Burnaby

The art professor from University of Pennsylvania was born in Vancouver and launches his major art installation 'The Retired Draught Horse and The Last Pulled Log' at Kingsway and Edmonds in Burnaby.

Ken Lum recalls teenage memories living by Kingsway, explains the idea of the new sculpture

'The Retired Draft Horse and the Last Pulled Log' is another major public art work of Ken Lum after the iconic East Van Cross. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Ken Lum, creator of the iconic East Van Cross, is making a grand homecoming in the Lower Mainland to launch his new art installation on Monday at a bustling intersection in East Burnaby.

The artwork, The Retired Draught Horse and The Last Pulled Log, sits at Kingsway and Edmonds in front of a major residential and retail building, overseeing the busy traffic on a highway that cuts through Burnaby as well as Vancouver. 

Kingsway East Van boy

Lum is among this year's winners of the Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts. He is now the chair professor of fine arts at the University of Pennsylvania.

He was born and raised in East Vancouver. He lived in Strathcona before moving to Kingsway and Knight at the age of nine. He stayed in that neighbourhood until the age of 16.

The artist recalled his high school memory of working part-time painting signs for shops in the neighborhood in his conversation with Margaret Gallagher of On The Coast on Thursday.

"It feels like a circle...I'm really a boy of Kingsway and East Van boy," he said.

Ken Lum's idea to design the horse sculpture originated from his question: what if the horse is sitting down forever? (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

'What if the horse sits forever?'

The Retired Draught Horse and The Last Pulled Log sculpture features an old horse with a yoke around its neck, sitting down on its haunches with a slumped back.

Lum said it's uncomfortable for a horse to sit this way, and only happens at the very brief moment when the animal transitions from lying to standing. 

He said a question about the position led Lum to create the nine-foot-tall art piece that makes reference to Burnaby's agricultural past. 

"What happens if the horse is sitting down forever?" he asked.

Lum stood at the vantage point of the horse and looked at all the traffic and real estate developments along Kingsway. He views them as a "mess" instead of progress.

"Urbanity needs to be rethought world over. This idea of endless growth, endless consumption, endless development is unsustainable."

Words for his younger self

The East Van Cross was erected in 2010. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Lum studied science as an undergraduate. He said he did not know he was interested in art until he visited a museum in his final year of university.

"I loved the idea of art dealing with all kinds of content that language cannot capture," said Lum. "On a very deep level, I wasn't entirely happy with the prospect of staying on the course in science." 

Gallagher asked him what his current self would have said to his younger self at time?

"You're in for a ride. The ride wasn't entirely a straight-up ascent without any traumatic moments. There are many difficulties too, but you will somehow transcend those problems, those moments of despair, and stick to the long game."

To hear the interview with Ken Lum On The Coast, tap the audio link below:

The Vancouver-born artist speaks to Margaret Gallagher On The Coast about the idea behind his horse sculpture and his teenage memories. 6:35

With files from Margaret Gallagher and Canadian Press

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