October 26, 2013 to January 5, 2014
Organized by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and curated by Katerina Atanassova
Kim Dorland (b. 1974), French River, 2013 oil and acrylic on jute over panel, 96 x 216 in., Courtesy of the artist
The image of the Canadian primal forest has been a magnetic visual experience and a daring adventure for generations of artists whose sensitive nature has allowed them to respond more acutely to their surroundings. In the first decades of the twentieth century, better-equipped modern artists not only carried their painting gear with them, but acquired a set of skills necessary to endure extreme weather conditions and the harsh
environment of the North. Artists like Tom Thomson and the future members of the Group of Seven became experienced guides and canoeists—skillful in setting up camp and travelling long distances. Each trip into the Canadian wilderness left a deep and lasting spiritual impression on the artists; a longing and a connection to the land that they had never before experienced.
With the growth of modern urban life and the rise of abstract art, the practice of painting en plein air—hugely popular at the turn of the twentieth century—fell out of fashion. Over the past few years, however, we have witnessed a slow yet steady resurgence of the painting medium in Canada—both in terms of its presence in the public eye and its appeal to young artists. Toronto-based painter, Kim Dorland, is among those whose work has contributed to the renewed power of the medium.
You Are Here: Kim Dorland and the Return to Painting, reflects this shift and pays homage to a century-old tradition as seen through the eyes of a young Canadian artist whose interest in art is similarly rooted in a strong connection to the land. It is structured around two main objectives: to celebrate the tradition of Canadian landscape painting and; to document a process that results in certain familiar outcomes while remaining highly
individual to each artist.
The wide selection of works follows Dorland’s personal quest to understand nature and the human relationship to it. The inclusion of new works created specifically for this project during Dorland’s tenure as Artist-in-Residence will highlight his response to the gallery’s permanent collection of works by Tom Thomson, members of the Group of Seven, David Milne, and Emily Carr, as well as to the McMichael’s natural setting.
Dorland has long been inspired by the pioneers of Canadian landscape painting and never lost faith in the medium or its ability to communicate meaningfully. In his sketch You Are Here (2013), for which the exhibition is titled, Dorland brings the artist back as the focus of our attention in order to observe the human presence in nature. His paintings often depict the artist at work, caught in a moment of complete immersion and unity with his surroundings. Dripping Dream (2012), on the other hand, is pervaded by a sense of intensity and danger. The forest lends itself to a simple reduction of forms. Nature is stripped down to the bare essentials of art: line, shape, and colour. The forest seems to be closing in on the artist, either to invite him in or to warn him of an ever-present danger. In both paintings, Dorland seeks an intense psychological dialogue with his viewer—a key feature of his work.
Visitors to the gallery will have the unique opportunity to study works from the McMichael’s permanent collection by Tom Thomson, David Milne, Frederick Varley and others, alongside newly created works by Dorland. While many of the works on display were painted nearly one hundred years apart, they possess the same spirit and pure painterly approach. The exhibition’s wide selection of artwork initiates a dialogue on the subject of what makes the Canadian wilderness so appealing to generations of artists.
By Katerina Atanassova
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