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Art Bank celebrates Canada Scene 2017

From June 5 to July 23, in collaboration with the National Arts Centre’s Canada Scene, we are presenting a survey of the Art Bank collection, highlighting the diversity of Canada’s regions, with works that vary in time and place, medium and artistic intention. Consider this a layman’s lesson in the contemporary canon.

Each week for seven weeks, artists from different regions will be introduced. From iconic household names to perhaps less familiar artists, discover the breadth and diversity of our rich collection.

The selection of 35 artists and pieces from 7 regions or Scenes, will demonstrate how artists challenge their region’s associated visual iconography and perceptions of place. These albeit vague statements about art and place will be made clear with each new Scene’s release, stay tuned each week for more great content from our collections.

The Northern Scene, more than any other, is celebratory. The works celebrate and pay homage to mothers and babies; they celebrate community through fishing expeditions, new trucks and technology. From Indigenous traditions in lifestyle and craft to the mundaneness of mass produced underpants, these celebrations challenge stereotypes of place, so intrinsic to Canadian identity and so often falsely personified.

Timootie Pitsiulak, Loadmaster (2007), coloured pencil, ink on paper

Annie Pootoogook, Brief Case (2005), lithograph

Doug Smarch, Homage to Chamber Maid (2002), pheasant feathers, cotton, abalone buttons

Mary Barnaby, Baby Strap (2004), cotton, wool, embroidery

Jimmy ManningGathering / Spring Fishing (1999-2000), photographs

British Columbia as place is the most transient for this Scene’s artists. It is then no wonder that they draw on narratives ranging from Indigenous to immigrant, and combine cultures to create new meanings. The Scene includes abstract landscapes that defy the historical and geographical, and photos that fool audiences and disrupt perceptions of the medium.

Sonny Assu, Selective History (2012), inkjet on paper

Adad Hannah, Museum Security (2010), photograph

Howie Tsui, Mindbuggery (2006), ink, acrylic and archival digital print on mylar

Landon MackenzieShe cruises … (hockey rink, Regina) (1993), acrylic on canvas

Gordon Smith, Window series (1973), oil on canvas

There are no cowboys or big oil in Alberta’s Scene, instead this group gives us pop art illusions of physical space and subject, and odes to Indigenous iconography. Abstract pieces make connections to place and sovereignty, and works feature titles that imply an inside joke, only meant for those who know their history, or the artists’ visual language.

Chris Cran, Large Purple Still Life (1991), oil and acrylic on canvas

Joane Cardinal-Schubert, Paul Kane’s Tea Cozy (1989), mixed media on paper

Ron Moppett, Lime Street Dip (1972), acrylic and dye on canvas

Alex Janvier, The Insurance on the Teepee (1972), acrylic on paper

Ted Godwin, Tartan for the Green Puff Puff (1971), oil on canvas

The vast Prairies bring us more than wheat and blue skies, these featured artists go against popular styles and subject matter of their time, while others insert hidden moral messages, and challenge notions of Canadian identity, from championing colonial histories to breaking myths about Canada’s inherent, “goodness”.

William Kurelek, Cold Lake Plunge After Sauna (1973), oil on masonite

Joe Fafard, Clarisse III (1993), painted lasercut, stainless steel

Dorothy Knowles, Emma Lake 2 (1981), oil on canvas

Diana Thorneycroft, A People’s History (Riel) (2009), photograph

Dana Claxton, Headdress (2016), photograph

Ontario’s Scene features artists who work to reclaim Indigenous identities and subvert historical narratives. Pieces criticize environmental destruction, or deconstruct traditions in medium and modes of production. More than any other Scene, this group employs irony, artifice, and protest, boldly stating, “We’re Fucked” without apology.

Joanne Tod, Kiss This Goodbye (1984), oil on canvas

Kent Monkman, Rebellion (2003), acrylic on canvas

Edward Burtynsky, Shipbreaking #3, Chittagong, Bangladesh (2000), photograph

Shelley Niro, Ghost (2004), photograph

Colleen Heslin, Dead End (2014), ink and dye on cotton

In Quebec, abstraction is a key theme of the Scene. From artists who draw on international influences, the subconscious and existentialism, to works that focus on complex changes in environment and mass consumption, challenging what we believe about our “progressive” society. These artists continuously dare the bounds of their media.

Guido Molinari, Structure Triangulaire Bleu-Rouge (1971), acrylic on canvas

Jérôme Fortin, Solitude 1 (papier romans) (2002), folded books under plexi

Jacques Hurtubise, Peinture No. 40 (1962), oil on canvas

Isabelle Hayeur, Décharge (1998), photograph

Jean-Paul Riopelle, Sans Titre (1960), gouache on paper

Canada’s Atlantic region may imply fiddle music, sad salty stories, and lighthouse paintings, but this Scene brings together artists whose work breaks regional stereotypes by contradicting idealized east coast landscapes, and by challenging gender and identity, commodification and consumption, and bring awareness to false representation in the age of information.

Ned Pratt, New Construction, Witless Bay (2007), photograph

Jordan BennettWhy Are Native Americans (2012), acrylic and gesso on canvas

Sarah Maloney, Milk and Honey (1993), bronze and bees wax sculpture

Brian Burke, Foreign Exchange (1987), oil on canvas

Léopold Foulem, Théière (famille jaune) (1992), ceramic sculpture



About the author: Julie Martin 

Julie Martin is an emerging professional in the cultural sector. She holds a B.A. in Honours History from Cape Breton University and a diploma in Applied Museum Studies from Algonquin College. Active in arts, culture and heritage on Cape Breton Island, she moved to Ottawa in 2015 to pursue her studies. Julie worked at the Canada Council for the Arts as a summer intern in 2016, and completed a field placement in 2017 at the Canada Council and Art Bank.




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