Ontario is a somewhat enigmatic province—replete with a robust ecology and an active economy, it is not easy to characterize. Covering a geographic area of over 1,000,000 km2, this topographically varied region hosts 13.6 million people and is home to two fifths of Canada’s national population. Approximately 40% of the 250,000 annual immigrants to Canada choose to settle in the province. Ontario’s fluctuating identity, largely shaped by its cultural diversity, makes it difficult to pinpoint distinctive characteristics. British Columbia has the mountains, Quebec its unique language and customs, the interior provinces have their plains, and the eastern provinces have the coast. Ontario is a veritable blank canvas.
Landscape is the perfect artistic genre to explore Ontario’s subtle character; constantly shifting, but always present. The province is full of natural beauty. Our forests, lakes, and wetlands make up a significant portion of the Canadian Boreal ecosystem, one of the largest continual tracts of wilderness remaining in the world. This vast and varied terrain has long been depicted in the artwork produced by its inhabitants, cementing such geography as an important part of Canadian cultural identity through the work of Ontarians such as Jack Chambers, David Milne, and several members of the Group of Seven. The latter group frequently and famously depicted the Ontario landscape from Georgian Bay to Algonquin Park.
As our experience of this landscape becomes increasingly permeated by urbanization and economics, our perception of this iconic wilderness has shifted. Artists are finding new ways of addressing the tradition of landscape work. In this exhibition,Tania Kitchell’s intricate text work explores her ongoing fascination with nature,climate and human’s relationship to each. Blue Republic, a two-person collective made up of artists Anna Passakas and Radoslaw Kudlinski, describe their work as part land art, part performance piece. Their thoughtful interventions in the Georgian Bay landscape explore the paradox between momentary gestures and the duration of the natural environment. Finally, Robert Wiens’ large scale watercolours skillfully depict trees from Ontario’s forests on a 1:1 scale, their acuity appearing photographic at a distance while disbanding into individual brush strokes as you approach.
Ontario is home to a robust, wide-ranging and multi-generational art community. Each artist in this exhibition has resided at some point in Ontario and their work depicts (in one form or another) the province’s varied and complex land.