A futuristic, cylindrical city with tall, rocky spires protruding upwards from a lush, green surface. The city is surrounded by water, featuring boats and various structures. Dense forests cover the tops of the spires, and mist touches the rocks.

Eleanor Bond, "Rock Climbers Meet with Naturalists on the Residential Parkade", 1989, oil on canvas. Collection of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, purchased with the assistance of friends in memory of Ian Phillips.

About the Artwork

Throughout her career Bond has alternated between her artistic practice and travel, finding, like many people, that travel is important to her understanding of the world. 

“We’re compelled to see what’s going on elsewhere. My work doesn’t have horizons or fields. But they are Manitoba landscapes in that they’re not Manitoba landscapes; they’re about other places being brought here.”  

In Rock Climbers meet with Naturalists on the Residential Parkade, Bond takes ideas or objects we are familiar with – rock climbers, naturalists, and the parkade – and gives them an imaginative twist. But is Bond’s residential parkade a natural structure, or is it built? It appears to be neither one nor the other, which gives it an edgy quality. Maybe it could be built, but why would you want to build it? 

In Bond’s skewed urban setting the parkade – where commuters’ vehicles are usually warehoused for eight hours a day – becomes a massive spiraling parking garage for mobile homes. To this imaginative leap Bond adds lush greenery, as well as vertical projections and irregularities. These elements might be considered as a necessary habitat for the naturalists and the rock climbers mentioned in the title … except that Bond’s dark and disorienting parking tower houses hundreds of identical motor homes. Why someone would want to live there is anyone’s guess, but perhaps that’s one of the questions Bond wants us to ask ourselves.   

About the Artist

Eleanor Bond was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1948, and graduated from the School of Art at the University of Manitoba in 1976. In addition to visual art, Bond has pursued studies in several other areas including English literature, comparative religion and interior design. She also has a particular interest in the built environment and public space. This is evident in her paintings and drawings, where she explores the impact of technological developments and urban design on humans and animals, and reflects on current ideas of space, place and community. 

Bond produces large canvases that represent the city, but she chooses unusual perspectives that threaten to give the viewer a sense of vertigo, or a case of dizziness. Her cityscapes are familiar to us, but at the same time they have a strong sense of unreality about them. Bond compounds this feeling of unreality by painting primarily in black and white, with just a few hints of color, giving her fictitious cityscapes a sleek, futuristic quality. 

While Bond gives us a kind of bird’s-eye perspective on the cityscapes she creates, she limits our  perspective to the familiar grid of urban streets, buildings and spaces. There is no horizon that our eyes can escape to for relief from the sense of unreality in her vision of the city. This adds to the sense that her cities are claustrophobic places where life is compressed or limited by the very technologies that have made the modern city possible. 

Bond’s cityscapes, then, have no area code, but they also are not entirely works of fiction. The cities in her paintings exist somewhere in-between reality and illusion, reflecting the tensions that exist in  contemporary cities. Bond seems to be saying that technology makes the amenities of the modern city possible, but at a cost to humanity’s need for connections with nature and each other. 

Things to Think About

  • Bond chooses long, unusual titles for her paintings. She also provides research materials to gallery-goers to give them some background information about her works. Why do you think she does this?
  • We see the parkade in Rock Climbers meet with Naturalists on the Residential Parkade from a bird’s-eye or helicopter viewpoint. What do you think Bond is trying to achieve by doing this?
  • Does Bond’s painting encourage you to think about where you live and the way it influences how you think and who you are?

Post your artwork online using the hashtag #studiosundaysyqr!

Studio Activity

A colorful, whimsical watercolor painting depicts three children playing on a stack of playful, multicolored cars. Two children are positioned on various levels of the car stack, and one child is standing on top with arms raised. Bright colors evoke a joyful atmosphere.


Eleanor Bond chooses elaborate titles for her paintings. Create your own painting inspired by her title Rock Climbers meet with Naturalists on the Residential Parkade. 

What you Need:

Paper, any paint of your choice, paintbrushes, water

What you Do:

  • Read the title Rock Climbers meet with Naturalists on the Residential Parkade out loud. What images does it make you think of 
  • Create your own painting illustrating Eleanor Bond’s title. While you are working, think about your relationship to built environments, public spaces, and nature. 
  • Compare and contrast your artwork with Eleanor Bond’s painting. How are the artworks similar and what makes them different? What do you notice about style, about mood, and the visual strategies you each use to tell your story? 
A rectangular watercolor painting depicts a landscape with a river flowing through a green terrain. There are several rocky structures or islands within the river, connected by narrow pathways. A small orange tree stands near the center.