WAYSIDE – A RETROSPECTIVE
In July 2022, I was invited to exhibit a large selection of my artwork in Vilnius, Lithuania. This retrospective, curated by Regina Urboniene of the National Lithuanian Art Museum – showed work spanning the last four decades.
The venue was the historic Old Town Hall in the heart of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. And because the opening reception was scheduled to take place on July 1st, the Office of the Canadian Embassy of Lithuania offered to make it a joint celebration – my vernissage and the annual Canada Day celebration in Vilnius. I immediately saw this as a very meaningful collaboration because my artwork celebrates both Canadian cities and Ontario’s northern landscapes.
The earliest work shown was the “Expressway” series I created in the 1980’s. These lithographs emphase the visual poetry of the many interwoven ribbons of highways, and yet these roads are also a potent symbol of our harried urban lives.
The series “In Place”(2002) is a quiet meditation on the regrowth found on abandoned mill sites. Many of these settlements were bustling centres of the Canadian lumber trade in the late 19th century but almost all of them vanished due to aggressive clear cutting. The drypoints in this series show both the flora that exists there now and also tiny coloured squares that display evidence of the townspeople who once lived there.
“Meadow” (2022) is a series of paintings that point to my fascination with common wild plants that grow in fields and roadsides – often ignored by the passerby. I ask the viewer to pause – to look – and to recognize the value of these everyday elements in our environment.
“Wayside” (2016 to 2022) is the largest body of work in this exhibition. Creating a band of landscape images along gallery walls was an idea that came to me during my preparation for a solo exhibition in Palanga, Lithuania in 2016. Then, years later, when I was offered to show my work in the neo-classical Old Town Hall, I looked at the imposing gallery and decided to take the 2016 artwork from this earlier series and broaden the scope. The final result was a space where the viewer would be completely encircled by the rhythms and colours of Northern Ontario.