Dark Salon

Dark Salon, CSA Space, Vancouver, January 27-March 6, 2022

Get the key, turn on the light, and see the Dark Salon:
Potatoes: underground, cheap eats, you are what you eat, no eats, dirt…
Butter: sun energy, grass, cows, fat, paint…
Copper: distillation, electricity, currency, economy…
Sticks: folk art, folk, the woods, the “sticks”…
and so on…



Liquid Mountains

Exhibited at Wil Aballe Art Projects (WAAP), Vancouver, BC, April 27-May 27, 2017


Included in the exhibition Mantle at the Evergreen Cultural Centre, July 13-Sept.1, 2019



Exhibition text:

Once upon a time

This seems to imply a thing resting upon a larger thing. Is this larger thing linear, like a ribbon stretching backward and forward? Is it more like an endless flat sheet, stretching all around? Or is it like outer space, extending in all directions?

Once upon a time there were no mountains. They were pushed into the sky by colliding tectonic plates. The rock composing these mountains was formed from liquid magma, hot lava, bits of old rock, and the fossilized remains of creatures at the bottom of the ocean. The mountains will eventually be ground into dust through incessant weathering and glacial friction. Then, carried in rivulets of water and pulled earthward by gravity, deposited as sand or clay.

What does this clay look like? What is its form?

The clay beneath Vancouver is laid down in flattened layers, a pulverized version of the mountains surrounding the city. It is typically a cool grey colour, sometimes warmed to an ochre tint through the presence of oxides. Its particles were formed by the grinding action of ancient glaciers. We dig underground to see ice age mountain tops. The clay I have used for this project comes from various sites along the Fraser River, exposed by the river’s winding cut through the landscape.

If our lifespan was geological in scope, stretching over millions of years, we would see the mountains behave like the river, like liquid. We could watch them rise, take shape, change shape, and melt down again. They would be in constant motion, malleable, and plastic. The main thing leading us to perceive the material world as solid is our truncated perception of time. However, if we imagine time extending beyond ourselves, solid matter is liquid and it may also be time.

Sean Alward


Pressure, Light, and Oxygen (Glenrose Cannery)

Pressure, Light, and Oxygen (Glenrose Cannery)

Exhibited in Views from the Southbank 1: Histories, Memories, Myths, curated by Jordan Strom at the Surrey Art Gallery, 2015


Two pieces from this series also exhibited in Flow: From the Movement of People to the Circulation of Information, curated by Jordan Strom at the Surrey Art Gallery, 2018



The large tapestry and 3 smaller framed collages are concerned with the Glenrose Cannery, a salmon cannery built on top of an ancient village site on the Fraser River. The title, “Pressure, Light, and Oxygen (Glenrose Cannery)” refers to how the tapestry was made and also the conditions affecting the visibility of material at the site. Pressure: paint rubbings, Light: cyanotypes, Oxygen: hand dyed indigo. This small area of land was used more or less continuously for around 9,000 years and encompasses the full range of human occupation on the Northwest coast, from the continuous First Nations presence to more recent European and Asian cannery workers (1896 -1980’s). The cannery was torn down, the shoreline capped with boulders, and the midden covered by a highway as part of the South Fraser Perimeter Road development between 2011-2014.

Fern Facade

Permanent glass frit mural installed at Newton Recreation Centre, Surrey, BC, 2017.

text from onsite attribution plaque:

“Alward’s design is based on the athyrium felix-femina, or common lady fern, which he says is “subtly persistent feature in the neighborhood of Newton, a place that has been thoroughly urbanized over the past few decades”. One frond spans the windows, with one or more leaflets inside each pane of glass. Alward says, “The sequence of image on the glass panels emulates both the general structure of a fern frond and the fragmented time sequencing of motion picture film.” A closer look at the glass reveals that the design is made from thousands of dots, which mimic the round spores found on the underside of fern leaves—the plant’s hearty reproductive system. Spores convey the genetic pattern of the fern across time, in a way analagous to how the dots in the mural convey the pattern of its structure. Ferns have been thriving in the Newton area since the emergence of rain forests sometime after the last ice age, and their legacy stretches back millions of years.”


Exhibited in Gleaners, curated by Jesse Birch at the Nanaimo Art Gallery, 2015


The central painted area in Screen is “green screen” green, commonly used on film and video sets so that different scenery or props can be digitally composited during post production. Despite the green paint’s vibrancy, its ultimate function is invisibility. The two figures hunched over the screen are archaeologists working on the coast of BC at an ancient village site dating from just after the last ice age, approxiamately 10,000 years BP. The site has no known name other than its archaeological designation of EJTA4. It is located on the Kwakshua Channel near the Hakai Institute on Calvert Island.

The Salal images are solar photographs made using an emulsion of plant chlorophyll on paper. These fugitive prints were then digitally scanned and re-printed as inkjet on paper. The series is inspired by a diary entry by the Scottish botanist David Douglas, recording his first direct contact with the Pacific Northwest coast in 1825.  After stepping off the ship that brought him, the first plant he touched was salal. He later shipped its seeds back to Britain, where in a sort of reverse colonialism it is now regarded as an invasive species. The date of 1825 corresponds with the world’s earliest photographs made in France by Nicephore Niepce.

A Vertical City Goes Both Ways

Solo exhibition at Access Gallery, curated by Shaun Dacey, Oct.26, 2012 – Jan.12, 2013.

A version of this larger wall piece, False Creek Midden, also shown in Beside Yourself curated by Marina Roy at the AHVA Gallery, UBC, October 22 to November 15, 2014


The work in this show is a response to the material buried beneath Vancouver’s streets unearthed during construction and real estate development. Sites such as the development above the so-called “Marpole Midden,” or Cesnam, and an early Vancouver municipal dumpsite near the Olympic Village are key sources.