Survey, Observe, interpret

New gallery show depicts the changing Peace District landscape

Artist Mary Mottishaw studies the best placement of the show pieces.

Quesnel Art Gallery’s current show Convergence is the work of two long-time Peace Region artists Mary Mottishaw and Kit Fast, with similar passion for the landscape, two bodies of work with a similar theme, collaborative pieces and layers in the works themselves, both physically and metaphorically.

“We reflect the changing Peace region landscape without judgement,” Mottishaw said.

“We are observers of what is going on between industry and the landscape.”

In her work, this conceptual mixed-media artist was searching for a way to give her landscape paintings more meaning and context and thus began painting some landscapes over map pieces and historical writing of the area.

This led Mottishaw to discover Dawson Creek’s mapping pattern is according to the Dominion Land Survey (DLS), unlike the rest of B.C.

“DLS is based on one mile by one mile sections,” she said.

The grid pattern appealed to Mottishaw and she took it one step further, likening the pattern to a cross-stitch design where numbers are assigned to colours and the pattern is worked. This created a seemingly random design but was in fact, orderly. She went so far as to fashion conversations with dots and spaces in some of her work.

With surveying as just one way humans interact with the landscape, both Mottishaw and Fast have taken that interaction in several directions. Fast, a photographer, has several large canvases in the show with bold lines either horizontal or vertical running through his work. These lines are actually two separate photographs, stitched together to create a new reality, also following the grid theme in both artists’ work.

Mottishaw uses the grid to observe human’s imprint on the landscape in a variety of ways. Straight lines depict power lines, roadways and of course pipelines whereas the line of jumbled elastic bands remind the viewer that nature is still very evident in such things as brambles in a ditch.

“To describe the fracking process, I used polyester threads in bright colours and acrylic yarn, which are products of the oil and gas industry,” Mottishaw said.

Symbols, such as the continuity of the grid pattern throughout both artists’ work, are powerful messages to the viewer.

“We want the viewer to find their own interpretation of our work, to observe for themselves,” she said.

Fast has ventured along a new direction where he finds objects in the landscape, mounts them for display and includes the exact mapping coordinates and a few words of his own about the find.

Mottishaw admitted this is an ongoing body of work and she’s not sure where it will lead her. Currently she’s back to considering the map and what is implied when land is surveyed.

Convergence runs from Sept. 11 – Oct. 3. Meet the artists at a reception Sept. 19, 1 – 3 p.m. in the Quesnel Art Gallery at the Arts and Recreation Centre. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Tuesday – Saturday. This show is sponsored by West Fraser Mills.

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