Gary Blundell & Victoria Ward

This multidisciplinary exhibition features works inspired by the artists’ study of Canadian shorelines and the effects of climate change on our landscapes.

Background:

Abandoned industrial places have long been the major subject matter of our art-making. For decades, we have been visiting sites looking at the impacts of natural resource development on landscape, including the human history that results from such activities. We work toward illuminating the idea that human industry and landscape are interlinked and believe the natural world is conceptual; “culture before water, wood and rock” (Simon Schama).

Our recent exhibition, (Re)Inventing Landscape at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound, explored the fact that when Thomson painted, his experience of Algonquin Park was a less pristine environment than we experience it today; a place filled with logging activity. We emphasized the point by selecting several of Thomson’s paintings to exhibit with us; highlighting that Canada’s landscape is haunted with our industrial past. This haunting is where our work exists.

Sea-change

In the spring of 2022, we traveled to the Bay of Fundy and Prince Edward Island as guests of Parks Canada, to explore the dramatically changing shorelines caused by ever-rising sea levels and an increasing number of storm surges. Shorelines have always been a significant subject for us. They are eternal areas of transformation that lend themselves to thinking conceptually about the Earth. In some ways our ongoing thesis about how “wilderness” is a conceptual idea had its inception with our shoreline projects.

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, from which we found our exhibition title, Prospero, the play’s protagonist, creates a deadly storm that punishes his enemies. Throughout the play there are many references to the sea and its relationship to the story and characters. Sea-change is a nod to the play, after viewing firsthand Atlantic coast communities having to adapt to enormous changes in the number of perilous ocean events. What we heard from the people that we met there was a consistent sense of foreboding and astonishment that the ocean they have lived on, many for generations, is becoming something they no longer know, a tempest in every sense of the word.

Landscape is both an unconscious and tactile experience and we believe that one of the most compelling aspects of climate change is its profound and disconcerting effect on our species. We feel under threat. Witnessing this change and how it is changing us is a defining moment for us as landscape artists.

Thank you to our sponsors: Parks Canada (Bay of Fundy & Prince Edward Island National Parks), Ontario Arts Council; Government of Ontario, Brookville Lime and Atlantic Geoscience Society; family, friends, and our patrons.

We dedicate this exhibition to the memory of artist, writer, and friend, RM Vaughan.