Lowbush cranberries can be found across the expanse of the Northwest Territories, as can the intelligent ravens that scavenge for morsels throughout the region.
Now, the two typically Northern images can be found in the recently renovated Canada House in London, England’s Trafalgar Square, thanks to the work of two NWT artists.
Each Canadian province and territory and the three oceans surrounding them have a dedicated room in the house, which re-opened on Feb. 19, filled with art representing their unique features including specially prepared carpets.
The NWT room now houses a carpet designed in the image of cranberries captured by Fort Smith photographer Brandy Wilson, as well as a statue of a raven created by Dene sculptor John Sabourin.
“I am thrilled to have my work seen overseas in London,” Wilson said. “I am a proud Northerner and this is a great opportunity for me to share my work with a wider audience.”
Wilson’s piece, which was turned into a carpet by Toronto-based company Creative Matters Inc., was selected for its universally agreed-upon representation of the territory.
“I was born and raised in Inuvik and now I live on the border of Alberta and from the Mackenzie Delta to the border of Alberta, the full length of the Northwest Territories, I’ve had the experience of picking berries in various communities,” Wilson said. “I know it’s a really popular activity with everybody, anybody from any background.”
Sabourin’s raven piece, a 66 cm-tall statue carved from black chlorite of British Columbia, was inspired by the shapes and flows created by Arctic snow drifts.
“I’ve been curious for many years how to incorporate the natural environment into my art,” Sabourin revealed in a press release. “I was trying to connect the abstract form of the snowdrifts to the raven, and so connecting the land to nature.”
In addition to the iconic image of the black corvid, Sabourin was inspired by the bird’s storied intelligence and playfulness.
“I hear stories about people getting lost in the bush and all they see are ravens,” he said. “They say they’re poking fun at them because they didn’t put enough gas in the tank of their snow machine.”
In addition to new pieces, two stonecut prints by artist Helen Kalvak, ‘Bear and Seal’ and ‘Capture of a Bird,’ hang from the walls of the Northwest Territories room.
Many other pieces throughout Canada House have been made using Canadian-grown woods and stones. Altogether there are 281 pieces of Canadian art in the building, 91 of which have been newly acquired for the reopening. Ten of the contributing artists identify as Aboriginal.
The “new” Canada House is a combination of three existing buildings, including the Union Club, the Royal College of Physicians and the SunLife Building acquired in 1923, 1963 and 2012 respectively. The renovations updated aging structural reinforcements and polished off the fading exterior of the building.
Parts of the structure pre-date the country it now represents. With the renovations, the roughly 240 staff working for the Canadian High Commission are now housed under the same roof for the first time.1 comment