Opening Reception: October 22nd, 2010, 7 - 10pm
The majority of landscape painting seems to cling to a tired and devalued stereotype to such an extent that a drawing course at the Alberta College of Art and Design was introduced to address this issue, subverting the stereotype and expanding concepts and possibilities by re-examining what could represent landscape - it was called Representations of Nature.
I have always liked this title and though I thought I could never envisage painting landscapes, I have often thought about how broad and varied a response to the genre could be and now after years of making a variety of imagery I have found a deeply engaging response to landscape in the form of small painted constructions in glass cases depicting a 3 dimensional landscape image defined by a portal form and reflected in the mirrored back side of the case.
The duality of the reflection can be likened to many things - new states of consciousness , revival , renewal and the notion of a journey of self discovery as exemplified in Joseph Conrad ‘s book—The Heart of Darkness.
It also connects with the mysterious and much romanticised death of Tom Thomson, surely the most able painter of the Group of Seven, the constructed canoe in these cases is based on a depiction of his canoe in one of his paintings.
In addition to it’s many layered meanings I also realised that the constructions had developed into a kind of homage to Canada and paralleled my decision to leave the U.K. and live here since some of the constructions that preceded them referred to black rivers polluted by the coal mining industry in S. Wales where I grew up and vowed to leave as soon as possible.
The constructions are always placed with the mirrored back side against the wall and are effectively only seen in 180 degrees which affirms their close affinity with painting as opposed to sculpture; in fact some of the thick impasto paint accentuates and parodies some traditional forms of landscape painting including of course The Group of Seven.
The Heart of Darkness...representations of nature...is an exhibition of fifteen new painted constructions and one previously unexhibited work
The Heart of Darkness...representations of nature...Richard
Edwards’ New Vocabulary in Landscape Painting.
Richard Edwards is an artist whose practice has had an on-going dialogue between adversity, memory, and landscape. His three dimensional paintings are created from digital photographic images and cardboard painted constructions encased in plexi-glass. They house snapshot scenes of Edwards’ influences and childhood memories. His past series of works
showcase images of water systems, ships, landscapes, heavy industry and expeditions which have been reoccurring themes in Edwards’ expansive art career.
Edwards’ current series offers a departure from his childhood memories of living in Wales into a reflection of the Canadian landscape and the notion of traditional painting. This series, The Heart of Darkness...Representations of Nature..., gives a fresh approach to the tradition of landscape painting. The exhibition title is derived from the novella of the same
name, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Edwards states that the underlying theme of Conrad’s book is an investigation of self. Edwards contemplates the nature of landscape painting and its departure from traditions into new painterly forms. This series of fifteen tableaux constructions depicts scenes that reference Canadian landscape painting in a new and
innovative way. Models, trees, sand and rocks are carefully placed inside a plexi-glass cube creating a tableau which removes the cliché of picturesque, plein air landscape painting in favour of displaying the imagery in three dimensions. Even though these paintings share three dimensional qualities of sculpture, they are best viewed in one hundred eighty degrees, which presents the work as having two dimensional compositional elements similar to a painting.
In this series, Edwards’ works further evoke allusions to famous artists through subtle references. For instance, a lonely birch bark canoe sits in a river system void of human presence. When applied to Edwards’ work, this could be a pastoral reference to Tom Thomson and the traditions of landscape painting, or as a macabre invocation of the mystery surrounding
the demise of one of Canada’s early landscape artists.
The canoe also evokes the idea of exploration, another thread common in Edwards’ art. Early Canadian Palliser expedition explorers utilized the canoe to gather information on the Canadian landscape for colonial settlement. This concept parallels the exploration of the Congo in Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness.
Situated in the rear of the case, Edwards’ landscapes offers the inclusion of a mirror,vwhich is a metaphoric symbol of personal reflection towards landscape painting and hisvpersonal ties to the land. After witnessing the environmental destruction of water systemsvthrough the result of coal industry, Edwards went through a period of self reflection which
served as a catalyst for an earlier art series and eventually influenced his decision to immigratevto Canada.
Images are from the exhibition Heart of Darkness...representations of nature....16 encased painted
cardboard constructions. 2010.