Wanda Koop

"I don't really work on paintings as such; I've always worked in a series, or a continuum of ideas and thoughts."

May 1998

One of Canada's most distinguished and noted artists Wanda Koop works as a painter and video artist. Aside from her artistic practice she is a committed community activist.

Koop was born in Vancouver British Columbia the second of six daughters. Her parents, both Russian-Mennonite immigrants from wealthy backgrounds, arrived in Canada with nothing having fled the Russian Revolution. The family eventually settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba where Koop was raised. As a child her parents encouraged her in the arts. She recalls Saturday morning art classes, and the moment she knew she would become an artist; it was at the age of 8 having visited a Vincent Van Gogh exhibition. As a teenager Koop attended a commercial art school after which she entered into the fine arts program at the University of Manitoba. Three years into her degree The Winnipeg Art Gallery included her work in a group show; a major coup for the young artist.

In the late 1990's Koop was involved in a documentary film produced by the National Film Board of Canada and Winnipeg's Buffalo Gal pictures. The documentary followed Koop and her 78 year old mother as they traveled to the Ukraine revisiting the country their family fled during the Russian Revolution. Says Koop "I've always lived with a kind of hand to mouth attitude; that's why I've been more concerned with intangible things, because I have always been aware of how quickly you could go from having everything to having nothing." (1997)

Koop had long been active in community regeneration projects perhaps her best know contribution is Art City. A program she designed to fill the need for free arts programming for inner-city youth. Though Art City is an art based program it also provides students assistance with everything from conflict resolution, to homework.

Though her home base is in Winnipeg, Koop maintains a residence in Rotterdam, Holland and travels extensively; including multiple trips to Japan, a residency in Paris, trips throughout Canada, China and Europe. She notes that her travels have greatly insipired her practice. However in Green Zone , Koop drew her source material from television coverage of the conflict in Iraq. She pulled from the thousands of clips that scroll rapidly across the screen during the daily newscasts. By reducing these freeze frames to their most basic forms, she challenges viewers to mentally reassemble and contemplate these omnipresent scenes of violence.

In 2006 she received the Order of Canada.