The myth and imagery of the North is embedded in Canada’s national identity. We are smug about our ability to suffer extreme conditions. We are gratified with the increasing centimetres of snow outside our door in a seeming test of endurance. We are convinced of our connections to wilderness and excel in developing technology and innovating our industries to cope with challenging and vast environments. We routinely surpass many other nations in winter sport and recreation.
But in reality, the majority of Canadians live in the most southern regions of this country. Do we really comprehend the “true north?” How do we define this north? Is a “true north” only to be found subsequent to certain latitudes? Is the “true north” merely a romantic ideal that includes the requisite snow-dusted forest and serene lake? Do we consider that this symbolic national “true north” differs from the geographical north, a place that is home to a diversity of communities?
This exhibition brings together seven artists who create work addressing many conceptions of north. Rather than claiming to give definitive answers to the notion of the “true north” these artists illustrate an array of perspectives investigating the myth, imagined and lived experiences.
– Patrick Macaulay,
Head, Visual Arts, Harbourfront Centre
“North” is too many things. It’s creatures and canoes. It’s landscape and mythology; snow and stereotypes. But it’s also dark, suburban, contradictory and mundane. It’s not easy to pin down or articulate in any kind of linear description, which is why it’s a favourite subject matter. My work is about exploring contradictions. I am interested in the language of painting in all of its forms: thick and thin, abstract and representative, grandiose and intimate. The paintings in this project operate as snapshots – flashes, memories or single thoughts on the thesis. A demonstration of the thought process conjured by the concept of “north.” Alone they are elusive, oppositional and fleeting. Together they form a confusing, but familiar conversation.
– Kim Dorland
Born in Wainwright, Alberta, Kim Dorland pushes the boundaries of representation through an exploration of memory, material, nostalgia and identity. His refusal to remain faithful to one medium or approach plays into the symbiotic nature of his work; the deadness of acrylic, the sheen of spray paint and the density of oil paint all convene to engage the viewer. The loose yet identifiable scenes are interjected with areas of heavy abstract impasto, adding to the raw, fleeting quality of his canvases. Dorland has exhibited globally, including shows in Milan, Montréal, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. His work is featured in The Sander Collection (Berlin), Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art (Kansas), Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, Blanton Museum of Art (Texas), The Glenbow Museum (Calgary), Museum of Contemporary Art (San Diego), and numerous private collections.
David R. Harper
I am drawn to the form and idea of memorials, those markers that formalize links between memory and present experience. My main fascination is for the ways in which people bring facets of these ritual systems and objects into domestic spaces in order to amplify their personal identification with them, or perhaps with the cultures that support them.
I refer to certain periods, modes of craft, and domestic embellishment that articulate peculiar links to an “ordered” natural world – the presentation of taxidermy in the home or museum setting, for example. These eccentric fusions of nature and culture are the uneasy disguises of pathos and pride that allow us to recognize and even celebrate an animal’s mortality while deferring our own.
– David R. Harper
David R. Harper was born in Toronto and currently resides in Chicago, Illinois. He received a BFA in 2006 from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and an MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2011. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions in the United States and Canada including Oh, Canada at MASS MoCA, and Builders at the National Gallery of Canada. Harper has also had numerous solo presentations of his work – recent exhibitions include Better, Still at Press Street Antenna in New Orleans and When Aura is Made at ARTSPACE in Peterborough.
My current studio practice explores non-linear visual narratives through drawing-based installations that use both 2D and 3D surfaces. The images in this installation serve as narrative fragments, allowing for an infinite number of stories to be constructed from them. The works presented in True North are derived from my ongoing exploration of rural landscapes north of the city. The use of farm imagery often plays into the work as a means of considering both the isolation of the landscape and the possibilities of what can exist within the vast spaces between its architectural structures.
– Catherine Lane
Catherine Lane received both her BFA in 2006 and MFA in 2010 from York University, Toronto. Her work has been exhibited throughout North America and internationally. She recently participated in artist residencies with the Open Studio (Toronto) and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art (Omaha, Nebraska). Lane currently teaches at OCAD University and at Sheridan College in the Art and Art History programme.
I think of the shield region from my current home in Port Severn to my mother’s birthplace in Shawanaga First Nation as sites of my Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) family presence and history. In Still Here, I present myself as a shadow figure that appears and disappears on an area of the Canadian Shield. Through this gesture, I insert my presence to disrupt the iconic ‘northern’ landscape often represented in historical Canadian landscape paintings as untouched, pure and uninhabited. During an artist residency in Dawson City, Yukon, I screened this work onto a small snow covered garage located outside my studio window and ran the video from 10pm to 3am. I wanted to take a work that was about interrupting national narratives of land and project it into Dawson City – a northern place also romanticized in art and literature.
– Lisa Myers
In addition to being an artist, Lisa Myers is a curator, musician and chef. These disciplines inform her various practices. She uses cooking and walking as methods of making work. In 2011, Myers earned her Master of Fine Arts in Criticism and Curatorial practice from OCAD University, which focused on the use of food in Indigenous art practice. She has exhibited her work in a number of group exhibitions in venues including Onsite[at]OCAD (Toronto), MacLaren Art Centre (Barrie), and the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto). Myers lives and works in Port Severn and Toronto.
My animation work, Baffin Island/Fortress of Solitude, conflates the iconic Lawren Harris painting, Baffin Island, with the arctic hideout of Superman’s The Fortress of Solitude. Both painting and superhero have Canadian connections with Group of Seven member Harris completing the painting in 1931 and the Canadian Joe Shuster drawing the superhero for the first time in 1932. Interested in the conversation between Canadian art history and pop culture, I make formal connections to the stylistic conventions of image-making in comic books to the particularly graphic sensibility of Harris’ painting. I have re-envisioned Harris’ painting, translating it into an animation that uses the flat, graphic nature of the original work as a starting point, but soon the painting begins to animate and three-dimensional space is created. The mountains and ice of the celebrated Harris painting become transformed into the icy remote lair pictured in the pulp pages of Superman.
– Luke Painter
Luke Painter is an artist and educator living and working in Toronto. Recent exhibitions of his work include two solo exhibition entitled Anterior at LE Gallery (Toronto, 2012), Par Nature at Bonneau-Samames Art Contemporain (Marseille, 2009), and a group exhibition, Drawing Now Contemporary Art Fair (Paris, 2011). He has received numerous research and artist grants from Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council. His work has been reviewed by many notable publications including Canadian Art, Border Crossings, the Globe and Mail, the National Post, Now magazine, and was included in Carte Blanche Vol 2 – Painting, a national survey of Canadian painters. Painter is assistant professor of Drawing and Painting and chair of the Printmaking department at OCAD University.
In my series, One Empire Wide, I’ve reinterpreted discarded Canadiana as architectural models of ice fishing huts. Akin to their full-sized counterparts, these scaled-down versions engage in the process of reclamation, but in lieu of scrap building materials they reuse the debris of recent Canadian history for their designs. These discarded cultural and social fragments, from failed companies, defunct government commissions, abandoned corporate branding to outdated military technology and disposable fast food containers, have been reborn as useful, ice bound structures.
– David Trautrimas
David Trautrimas’ work has appeared in both group and solo exhibitions around the world, including The Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art and LE Gallery (Toronto), The Korean Arts Centre (Seoul), KlompChing Gallery (Brooklyn), the Photo Eye Gallery (Santa Fe), Johannson Projects (Oakland), Queensland Centre for Photography (Australia) and Eckhart Gallery (The Hague). He has received international acclaim from publications such as ArtNews, the Globe and Mail, NOW magazine, Immobilien Zeitung (Germany), Can magazine (China), and The New York Times. Trautrimas is represented by LE Gallery, Photoeye Gallery in Santa Fe, and dnj Gallery in Los Angeles.
I prefer to work late at night when my day-to-day responsibilities slip away and I can enter into a world of my own making. I paint simultaneously with oil and water-based materials. The monochromatic image surfaces through a network of cracks that continue to develop until the piece is dry. Because this technique is difficult to control, it often feels as though I am drawing with eyes closed.
My intent is to create imagery that evokes a memory of a landscape, imagined snow, trees and water. A place that does not exist, but is familiar.
– Douglas Walker
After graduating from the Ontario College of Art in 1981 Douglas Walker received early acclaim for his work in photo-drawing, photography, and sculpture. In the 1990s, he turned to painting and soon after began the current Blue and White series. Through these disparate media he has consistently articulated a vision of the beautiful residing in the strange.
Walker has an extensive national and international exhibition history including shows at the ICA, AGO, and The Power Plant. In 2011, he began touring Other Worlds, an installation of large paintings that will include a catalogue and exhibitions at six venues across Canada.