Dimensions: 5′ x 8′
Ink on Canvas
This painting is very closely related to Among Shades of White, Toronto-scapes and Skyline. It is a response to the works of The Group of Seven, a group of famous Canadian landscape artists. The image loosely references a picture taken of the Don Valley close to my neighbourhood, Thorncliffe Park Drive, which is full of mostly immigrants. Although I have more or less been faithful to the composition of the picture, I have played around with oil paint, oil pastels, markers, inks, and a variety of different colours and combinations to arrive at this image. You can see the various results I reached through my experimentation here: Overcoming the Canadian Wilderness (Preliminary Studies). The patterns that I have incorporated into the tree trunks, much like the totem poles in Emily Carr’s paintings (see fig. 1), come from floral henna designs, which are used in Pakistan as well as all over the world, including India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, to decorate and celebrate. These designs are also used to decorate other ‘craft’ items such as clothes, pottery, jewellery, etc. Slowly, they are even being familiarized in Western culture. So while I find henna to be a part of my personal narrative, it is incorporated universally as a symbol of festivity and celebration, as well as femininity and craft. The patterns are hand painted without prior planning to reflect the spontaneity of henna art. And the 5’ by 8’ canvas, hung like a tapestry, memorializes craft and culture just as The Group of Seven paintings (see fig. 2), continue to commemorate Canada’s mythical wilderness.
By incorporating these designs to make up the landscape, I am infusing Canadian identity, which is so closely related to the Canadian landscape, with patterns of the immigrants who are a major component of Canada’s population and its nationality. By painting these patterns on tree trunks, I want to connect the patterns and the landscape to the idea of cultural roots that one can choose to cultivate or cut off. Rather than painting Canada as a pristine and uninhabited land, I have painted it to be a land vibrant with a variety of cultures, colour and excitement. In doing so, I am hoping to overcome the distinction between art and craft, male and female, as well as open up the possibility of what being a Canadian work of art can mean. You may read more about my inspirations here: Overcoming the Canadian Wilderness.