In tandem with Road Trip: Across Canada with Alan C. Collier and Canada’s sesquicentennial, Northern Latitudes investigates how collective identity has been expressed through the motif of landscape. That it took hold as part of the visual vocabulary in some traditions and not others indicates differing mindsets towards the environment, even within one continent. That the different “northern latitudes” of the Low Countries in the seventeenth century, England in the long nineteenth century, and Canada in the twentieth century all reveled in landscape suggests an intriguing connection between nationhood and the physical site of that social construction.
This installation is not intended to posit new arguments about artistic sources. Rather, it is meant to unite landscapes with compositional or iconographic parallels from different traditions as a platform for dialogue. As a visual prompt, the exhibition asks how humans have defined themselves through the natural topography, dramatic weather and climate situations, and cultural interventions into the land, and how each of those informs our complex relationship with the environment today.
Image: Joseph Wright of Derby, Landscape with Ruined Castle (detail), around 1790, oil on canvas. Purchase, Alfred and Isabel Bader and the Government of Canada, 1988 (31-009)