We are all familiar with and embrace the history of the Inuit vision, as illustrated in the beauty of their art. Their vision of the transformation of animal to human and vice versa as subject matter in their work has intrigued me for many years.
Now there is another transformation taking place, that of the land. My purpose in this project is to explore that environmental transformation and how I interpret it with Southern visual language.
I myself feel a distinct disconnect from the effects of the changing global climate on the North, where it is the most dramatic. Here in a growing city in the South I do notice a change, but the effect on my daily life is negligible. I’m Canadian, and should by definition be sensitive to what North means other than a point on a compass. This is indeed virgin territory for me.
I strongly feel that this is a perfect, albeit lamenting time to look at the North with a visually examining eye. We need a visual record of the environmental revolution taking place, its effect upon the land and all that walk upon it, the ocean and all that lives in it, and the sky and all that flies through it.
It is essential that an awareness of the changing North is seen by us in the South from as many angles as possible. We have all seen reports in the media. People like Dr. David Suzuki have been instrumental in cultivating that awareness. I see the task at hand as taking the awareness into the realm of the creative: to visually portray the effect our progress is having upon a place that is as ancient as the earth itself; to see the effect upon the human and animal inhabitants that have lived with and of the land since time immemorial.
The scope of The Tundra Project shall have two facets. The first will comprise the creation of large scale paintings made out on the land. The paintings will provide both of our cultures an opportunity to see the North as it is changing with Southern visual language. The second will be the making of a documentary video to chronicle the process of the project, and those bearing witness to it as well as their reflections upon it.
The process of the project will entail propping the working surface of full sheets of plywood (8’ x 4’) against built easel structures out on the land facing the plain air subject. Besides the painted imagery I will also employ a router to carve out dream images that relate to the painted composition, as I have done in past paintings. The paint itself, (oil) will be applied using a number of brushes, scrapers, rollers and whatever else seems fitting for each piece.
In keeping with past works the resulting pieces will neither be photo real nor abstract but a distinctive hybrids. As far as how many paintings will be executed I will only know after the beginning of the series, but I do plan on taking approximately 2 months to complete the project.
I plan on employing an Inuit film maker to chronicle the journey. The film maker will have complete creative freedom as I want the project to be witnessed through Northern eyes. This element is critical to the successful marriage of North and South. There would also be a marriage of languages mixing of both Inuktitut and English, a further enhancement of the cultural bridge.
As I have never been to our youngest province, I’m sure there will be some tactical hurdles to get over. Finding a studio to store the work and supplies is one that immediately comes to mind. Not to mention a place to live for 6 to 8 weeks.
My research so far is bearing some early fruit as I have been making contact with some very helpful people in Rankin Inlet. Already I have been in contact with one possible film maker for the documentary. There is of course a lot more work to be done.
by Kurt Rostek
www.kurtscanadianart.com, The Artword Blog