Visual arts at Canada Scene ranges from tiny to titanic and all points in between

CLOUD by Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett can now be seen in the main lobby of the NAC until the end of October. Happy Halloween. Photo: Trevor Lush.

Canada Scene — the massive finale to the National Art Centre’s 14 years of regional art biennials — brings 1,000 artists to the capital, including visual artists. The works range in size from the massive lighthouse of Kim Morgan to the tiny bison of Michael Belmore, while the scale of imagination is practically limitless.

Associate curator Laura Taler says that in addition to temporary installations at the NAC, there are affiliated exhibitions in eight spaces in Ottawa and Gatineau, including SAW Gallery, Karsh-Masson Gallery and others. Below are brief looks at a few shows. Find more details at

At the NAC, to July 23: Kim Morgan’s Range Light, Bordon-Carleton, P.E.I. is almost as big as the province it comes from. It dominates the mezzanine lobby, and looks like the weathered mainsail was blown from a tall ship and wrapped around a lighthouse that tipped over on its side, anchored by a clump of lost fishing net. It’s a poignant evocation of many lighthouses that are falling to obsolescence and neglect.

Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett have illuminated the main NAC lobby with their delightfully engaging Cloud. It’s 6,000 ordinary light bulbs, with hundreds of on-off chains that stream down like a steady rain. Visitors can walk among them, and pull any chain to turn on, or off, a bulb at the other end. Do you create light, or darkness, and what does the decision say about you?

Michel de Broin’s Make Soccer Great Again and other installations under construction in Endless Landscape, at La Fonderie in Gatineau. Photo: Peter Simpson

Endless Landscape — at La Fonderie, 211 Montcalm St. in Gatineau, June 28 to Aug. 30: As the catalogue says, “exceptional Canadian artists” have created “monumental in situ works” in a giant, decommissioned foundry that’s used in winter to play indoor soccer. Brought together by the adjacent artist centre AXENÉO7, the artists have made inspired use of the cavernous, hot space.

Michel de Broin (the creator of Majestic, the arrangement of streetlights behind the National Gallery) has covered the lines of a soccer pitch with small, white picket fences that visitors must step over, or choose not to. It’s titled Make Soccer Great Again, which may bring to mind a certain wall-loving politician to the south. The Bomford Studio is building a tall “cooling tower,” which visitors step into to find relief from the heat, and perhaps other insights. Dominique Pétrin, fresh from helping to decorate Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, has covered the foundry’s vast entryway with scenes of an alien invasion that hint of Canada’s colonial past. Graeme Patterson has installed more than 100 starlings in the rafters that “defecate” water onto tiny urban landscapes below —  it literally drips sarcasm.

There’s a “prismacolour forest” by Samuel Roy-Bois, which is like walking through a grove of childhood memories. There are works by Nadia Myre, Alexandre David, Noémie Lafrance and Peter Jacobs, and photographs by Justin Wonnacott. There’ll be performances and discussions throughout the weeks of the exhibition.  The director is Stefan St-Laurent and, typically, it’s all ambitious and somehow organic, as if the art has always been a part of Gatineau’s industrial landscape.

Meryl McMaster’s Truth to Power, in It’s Complicated, at Central Art Garage. Photo: Courtesy Central Art Garage.

It’s Complicated — at Central Art Garage, 66 Lebreton St. in Ottawa, to July 31: The compact show, tucked into the auto garage-turned framing shop, is 10 Indigenous artists’ considered responses to 150 years of Canada.

In a self-portrait titled Truth to Power, Meryl McMaster poses next to lines from The Onandaga Madonna, by Duncan Campbell Scott, the poet and federal bureaucrat who oversaw Canada’s residential school program. “She stands full-throated and with careless pose, This woman of a weird and waning race, The tragic savage lurking in her face. . .” McMaster stands by, impassive but strong.

There’s also work by Ariel Smith, Barry Ace, Michael Belmore, Frank Shebageget, Ron Noganosh, Rosalie Favell, Barry Pottle and JT Arcand. Leo Yerxa’s 25-foot scroll, titled Beneath the Billow, is a narrative about the federal use of famine and disease to get Indigenous people out of the path of the approaching trans-Canada railway, and how prime minister John A. Macdonald spoke freely of the policy in Parliament. The scroll is too long to see all at once, so gallery owner Danny Hussey will gradually roll the scroll forward, and the entire narrative will be seen over the course of the exhibition.

And a few more . . . 

1522: Mohamed Thiam’s Flash Sale, in Open Edition at CUAG. Photo: Justin Wonnacott

Open Edition at Carleton University Art Gallery to Aug. 20: Includes “new prints and print-based installations” by Ciara Phillips (the Ottawa-born artist who was a finalist for Britain’s Turner Prize in 2014), Ningiukulu Teevee, Mohamed Thiam, Guillermo Trejo, Erica Walker, Melanie Yugo and Étienne Tremblay-Tardif. The new works are “installed in dialogue with” prints from CUAG’s collection. More at

Explore at Canada Council Art Bank, ongoing: Housebound by health, inertia, or the disagreeable weather of summer 2017? Explore the “virtual collection” at, which shows standout works of Canadian art, from Léopold Foulem’s prettiest little teapot, to Kent Monkman’s wryly brilliant painting Rebellion, to Edward Burtynsky’s appalling yet beautiful photograph Shipbreaking #3, Chittagong, Bangladesh.

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Peter Simpson, a native of Prince Edward Island, was arts editor and arts editor at large for the Ottawa Citizen for 15 years, with a focus on the visual arts. He lives in downtown Ottawa with one wife, two cats and more than 100 paintings, drawings and sculptures.