October 28 – November 15, 2020
High Arctic Light: paintings and book works
High Arctic Light: wilding and cultivation
My current body of work presents “landscapes of consciousness” from a month’s immersion in high Arctic geography. I visited Pond Inlet, Grise Fjord and areas of Devon, Philpotts and Ellesmere Islands.
Paintings reference the artist’s “being” in the natural world and encounters with those for whom the high north is both wild and home. My paintings are reflective of my personal experience, always aware that indigenous voices must be heard to tell their own stories and history. My work tells the story of a visitor, a sojourner to a remote and sublime region of Canada.
My purpose is to highlight this region and the themes of “wilding and cultivation.” These themes invite the viewer to unpack moral, aesthetic and legal relationships to the land and the people for whom it is sustenance and spirit: landscape and home. The wild is evident in the land and sea. Cultivation is the sea as resource and garden.
My paintings stem from a deep connection to place and immersion in the natural world. Christian Bernard Singer, curator, says, “Janet Read’s abstract works are like landscapes of consciousness that metaphorically interpret various states of being of the natural world.”
Paint is applied spontaneously in a process of improvisation that is refined over the period of the painting process until the work is itself a metaphor. Oil, cold wax, multiple layers and scraping out and flinging paint mimic natural processes of wind, rain, cloud and light. Spatulas are the primary tools.
This work, via painting, engages with the land and the community. Carla Garnet, curator sees the sublime in past work, “…informed by the 21st century notion of the metaphor. As viewers of her [Read’s] exquisite works, we are invited to become aware that this metaphor of embodiment extends beyond the picture, to a view that perceives the beauty in the oscillation between when to cultivate and when to let be wild.”
Works on duralar play with translucency and transparency with the media of graphite and thinned oil paint. The luminous ground evokes the clear arctic air and its nebulous evanescent distances.
Cultivation and wildness have contesting claims in the arctic where cultivation can mean exploitation of pristine landscapes for the riches beneath the surface by southern interests. Cultivation for indigenous people references the coean. “Our garden is the sea,” says Susie Evyagotalak from the community of Kugluktut. The natural world of the arctic is remote and unknown to most of us, even as Canadians. The high arctic landscape compelled my imagination with its austerity, light, space, fragility and beauty.
Wilding and cultivation go hand in hand in this delicately balanced environment.
My work explores these dualities to raise awareness of this fragile and beautiful part of our country through explorations of light, earth and sea.
Janet Read 2020