MAIN SPACE EXHIBITION
JUNE 2 – JUNE 24, 2000
RECEPTION: FRIDAY, JUNE 2, 2000 AT 8 PM
ARTIST MEET AND GREET: SATURDAY, JUNE 3, 2000 AT 2 PM
LOCATION – STRIDE GALLERY
722, 11 AVE S.W, CALGARY, ALBERTA
Through the Glenbow Museum’s Connections to Collections, four of Calgary’s artist-run collectives were invited to program work based on their perspective of the wildlife art genre. The Stride Gallery responded to the Glenbow’s exhibition Carl Rungius: Artist, Sportsman by asking British artist, Dick Averns to develop an installation to examine the work of Carl Rungius. The work of Carl Rungius was directly contrasted with new work by Dick Averns. Averns’ own practice presents a sensitive look at texture and human form. The work revisits the nature and feel of apparent wilderness spaces: places that have presented seemingly limitless romantic opportunities for artists and visitors alike. Co-ordinating Plots considers the human as an animal and landscape as habitat. Human form is evaluated through human performance within our habitat. The installation will also feature Rungius-related artifacts drawn from the Glenbow’s extensive collection. Avern’s photo-based work, interspersed with original Rungius paintings and photographs, probes the human tendency to consider landscape as a mere backdrop for human imposition: what Averns refers to as the “super imposition.” The work also features Averns’ own forays into the outdoors, providing an engaging journey into the hunting camp life depicted in some of Rungius’ photographs and further catalyzing debate as to how various plots co-ordinate within our lives.
DICK AVERNS was born in London, England in 1964. He was part of the Landscape residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 1999 and has recently had solo shows at Third Avenue Gallery, Vancouver; 911 Media Arts Centre, Seattle; Prince George Art Gallery, Prince George; and the at the Visual Arts Burnaby, Gallery at Ceperley House, Burnaby. Dick Averns maintains his practice in Vancouver, BC.
Tradition is, perhaps, a central element to the “myth” of the Canadian wilderness. Whereas the streets of London were once “paved with gold,” today, the avenues of this newer home and native land are increasingly riven with the trappings of luxury.
Or that is how it might appear. Rather, I suggest it would be closer to say that one person’s luxury is another’s destiny. Habitat dislocation caused by human relocation serves as a barometer for trends in human habitation; driven by a climate of population growth and fueled by that classic human tradition: conquering the land.
Co-ordinating Plots , as an exhibition, responds to the above issues and also to the work of hunter and wildlife painter Carl Rungius. Born in Germany in 1869, Rungius spent fifty years from the late 1800’s to the mid-twentieth century, hunting and painting big game in Maine, Wyoming, New Brunswick, The Yukon and then, The Rockies. His work is spirited, both in form and in the context of the time and manner in which he undertook the work. Rungius was able to ruggedly pursue the pleasures and spoils of nature at a time when backcountry expeditioning had not yet been reduced to the base level of a package holiday.
The exhibition at the Stride Gallery presupposes that the twenty-first century has confirmed the definition “wilderness,” (1) for this world at least, as an oxymoron. Yet when Rungius was first practicing, much of the New World was still very much undisturbed by human activity. This is not to say he did not recognize some imbalances, as exampled by domesticated cats ravaging bird populations. Indeed, Rungius’ father, a clergyman, “waged constant warfare on skulking felines with the aid of a .22 rifle which he carried under his long house coat during morning walks in his garden. Thus law and order were maintained, along with the dignity befitting one of his profession.” (2) In short, although death was delivered by an assumed divine intervention, Rungius did recognize the cull as a form of conservation. Not to mention discovering a handy source for cadavers to serve as “still” life subjects. (3)
But man cannot live on death alone, Rungius’ practice of strapping young bucks into jigs and poses for painting, served as an accepted construct to draw life from an otherwise dead form of fauna. Some may prefer to attribute such actions to a testosterone driven appetite for domination. And certainly, language suggests that the act of pursuing the wildest game is exactly that: a game that triggers the wildest instincts that such a form of play might induce. Co-ordinating Plots revisits the nature and feel of apparent wilderness spaces: places that have presented seemingly limitless romantic opportunities for artists and visitors alike. The artwork considers the human as animal and landscape as habitat, whereby the human form is evaluated through human performance within our habitat, promoting debate as to how various plots co-ordinate within our lives.
Photographs, text and sculpture are augmented with original Rungius artifacts to probe tendencies that consider landscape as a mere backdrop for human imposition; what often becomes a super imposition. We find that R.V.s (4) , instead of connecting their occupants to earth, tend to deliver a removal service. The energies that Rungius expended in both locating seductive habitats and then physically hauling huge beasts for work, food and play, are tangible forms of energy that are today absent from many peoples’ experience.
(1) “an area that, together with its natural flora and fauna, has been essentially undisturbed by human activity.” Longman Dictionary of the English Language, p. 1853, Longman, 1991.
(2) Schaldach, William J., Carl Rungius, Big Game Painter – Fifty years with Brush and Rifle, p. 21, the COuntryman Press, 1943.
(3) Rungius acknowledges this in Schaldach’s Fifty Years with Brush and Rifle, p. 23, A number of these anatomical sketches are held in the Glenbow Museum’s Collection.
(4) R.V. Abbreviation for Recreational Vehicle: North American term for (generally large) motorized camper home.