Interesting timing from the Robert McLaughlin Gallery presenting Land, Sea and Air: Works from the Permanent Collection. The exhibit opened Aug 18 and runs through to Jan 22 2017. It explores the country's landscape through “portraits” of the Canadian topography. It is curated by Linda Jansma and works by Norval Morrisseau, Rita Letendre Emily Carr, Elizabeth Wyn Wood, Robin Mackenzie, Jim Davies, Alex Cameron, Yvonne McKague Housser and many others spanning the years 1860 to 2010.
Its interesting of course for many reasons but I find it more so in light of the recent cross-Canada gathering of Tragically Hip fans from coast to coast to coast on Aug 20 2016 for The Hip's Kingston concert. That show has been sensed as the band's last as lead singer Gord Downie, Canada’s unofficial poet laureate, has terminal cancer. It was viewed on CBC platforms and had an audience of 11.7 million. What that says to me is that the idea of Canada has moved from the physical to the digital and from the visual to the aural. Downie's career has undergone assessment by critics and public alike, the end result being an agreement the man has become the voice, if not the face, of Canada. The voice was heard right around the world and it spoke of an agreed upon view of the Country. He brought this country together like no other.
The “portraits” of Canada on display have literally overnight turned into artifacts, historical documents of a place that has ceased to be. Of course there is no attempt by the Gallery to present them as anything but Canada as it was, however there is always the idea that art can help us understand the future.
That future caught up with us in the words and sounds of the Tragically Hip. As Canada sets up to celebrate 150 years as a country it has grasped the digital realm firmly and will no longer be viewed in terms of just geography nor of history. Canada has embraced itself as an idea, one with no frame, no boundries, available online and in sound.
The question to be answered then by the exhibit and the artists of Land Sea and Air is, not who saw what in Canada but who heard what? A trip to the Gallery is a must now.