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'Tree Snag' public art piece by Douglas Coupland installed in West Vancouver

New sculpture inspired by artist's and community's love of beachcombing
A new public art piece by renowned artist, writer and West Vancouver local Douglas Coupland is about to be unveiled in Ambleside.

Inspired by beachcombing, driftwood, a perfect day, as well as Coupland’s friendship with the late artist Gordon Smith, “Tree Snag” is currently being installed within the public plaza of the Grosvenor Ambleside building on Bellevue Avenue.

Coupland got the idea for the piece – which measures 30-feet high and 30-feet wide and weights almost 16,000 pounds – a number of years ago after he spied a spectacular piece of fir tree driftwood from the 1960s which Smith had collected and kept at his residence in West Vancouver.

This week, crews have been busy installing the piece, which features four layers of resin and fibreglass as well as aerospace-grade platinum paint, at the site. Installation is expected to wrap up in the next couple of weeks.

The addition of “Tree Snag” completes a quartet of projects Coupland started in the Ambleside area years ago, with public art pieces “Float Stack” (2018), “Whale Vertebra” (2018) and “Deer Vertebra” (2020) already installed around the Grosvenor Ambleside property.

The entire series of artworks reflects a day of beachcombing in Haida Gwaii between Coupland and Smith, where the duo gathered drifted materials, such as fishing floats and other beachside ephemera. Coupland endeavoured to capture that spirit – as well as the spirit of beachcombing and enjoying Ambleside Beach as a kid – when he was approached by Grosvenor for the public art project.

The two-building, 98-unit Grosvenor Ambleside project was approved by District of West Vancouver council in 2014.

“The concept of strolling and encountering these ‘drifted forms as if found on a beach’ is to recreate a favourite pastime for many West Vancouverites – beachcombing along Ambleside’s shores,” according to a news release for the new artwork.

Coupland, who rose to fame with the publication of his first novel, “Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture” in 1991, was raised in West Vancouver and still resides here. He's also a well-known visual artist who has contributed public art projects and held numerous art exhibitions at galleries and museums around the world.