Forces of Nature

Saturday, 11 April 2009 to Sunday, 31 May 2009

As I watched the water seeping through the concrete floor outside Gallery One, our main temporary exhibition space, it struck me – there is no controlling Nature.

Water in an art gallery is a dangerous thing and as the spring thaw approached, a hard decision had to be made: as Nature couldn’t be trusted to stay out of our Gallery spaces, the exhibition of historical prints, paintings and decorative arts from the National Gallery, Lord Dalhousie: Patron and Collector, had to be postponed. Well, if Nature was going to be so present in the Art Gallery, it became clear that it must be on display. In Forces of Nature, an exhibition designed to be waterproof, video works, drawn primarily from the Gallery’s permanent collection, present four unique views on our often difficult and always complex, relationship to the natural world.

David Askevold, Katherine Knight, Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby, and Kelly Richardson have created works of art that explore meditation, danger, and seduction in both natural and constructed land and seascapes.

David Askevold’s meditative projection, Latrajarg (The Cliff), follows sea birds on a cliff, ostensibly provides an exploration of figure and ground. In this work Askevold creates a contemplative experience, examining the light and motion of the birds against rocks and the sea. The purposeful, yet chaotic movements of the birds are mirrored by the artist’s camera technique, following and suddenly abandoning individual birds. Order, it seems, is on view in this natural setting.

In a similar way, Katherine Knight layers sound and video in a hypnotic nautical portrait in her work Buoy. Beacons to sailors, the buoys of Knight’s work call to us, their mournful cries almost swallowed by the ever-present sound of the ocean. Knight photographed these buoys in Caribou Harbour, near Pictou, NS, but as the three channel video work bobs, dips and ebbs before your eyes, the scene transcends place and makes a mariner of any viewer.

Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby delve the highs and lows of human nature in their most recent work, Beauty plus Pity. Their exploration of innocence, good and evil and the human relationship to the natural world is offered in compiled vignettes and animated stories told through a varied cast, including hunters, young children, and God. The human urge to appropriate and own the “untamed” is questioned in this video as animal spirit guides offer punishment, and ultimately salvation.

In Kelly Richardson’s Twilight Avenger, an eerie green glow engulfs a stag in a twinkling forest landscape… Or perhaps that glow is emanating from the stag. That constructed tension is part of the compelling mystery of Richardson’s work. Richardson has digitally manipulated this bucolic scene, adding twilight, mist, the hoot of owls to trees and grass from different forests. She blurs the real and the surreal, creating an uneasy vision forest life.

In this, as in all the works on view, it fall s to us, as viewer, to ultimately make sense of our experience of these various “natures.” Like the water under the gallery floor, our responses will follow our own paths, mirroring, I suppose the forces of our own natures.

Sarah Fillmore
A/Chief Curator
Curator of Exhibitions