Dawson Creek Art Gallery

meandering with mottishaw

By Haley Bassett, August 5th 2020

For this week’s column, I was fortunate enough to sit down with local mainstay of the arts community mary mottishaw, whose exhibition meander opens alongside Karl Mattson’s Thoughts of Love, Meditations of Violence and Barbara Swail’s Solistalgia at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery on Friday, August 7th. The opening is now fully booked, but you can find a live stream of the event on DCAG’s Facebook page.

While both mottishaw and Mattson address the environment in their practices, mottishaw’s work is a serene rejoinder to Mattson’s harsher aesthetic. In her art, mottishaw has often looked at the impact of humans on the landscape. In an earlier exhibition titled Convergence, she addressed concerns surrounding a booming oilfield by incorporating surveyor maps into her imagery. In that body of work, she filled in the grids of the maps with colour, reintroducing life and vibrancy to a landscape that had been stripped down to its bare topographical qualities for the purpose of industrial expansion.

Maps have been a recurring motif in her work, and the artist has developed a personal glossary of symbols that she continues to draw on and expand. In her printmaking, mottishaw has successfully distilled the natural patterns of streams, rivers and mountain ranges into elegant stitched or printed lines that are immediately recognizable as such. The repetition of the stitch and its meandering lines lull the viewer into calm contemplation and guide them through an abstract landscape.

The centrepiece of meander is a suspended installation of large-scale prints, titled the artist’s book of meanderings 2, that unfolds like a map or an accordion-style book, and like both, chronicles a journey. In it, the master printmaker seamlessly threads together a variety of different printmaking techniques including lithography, monoprint, direct transfer mono print, etching, chine colle and embossing, to create a work that is contemplative, subtle and deceptively complex. mottishaw’s winding lines plot the changes in an individual’s relationship with nature and allow room for that relationship to shift over time. About this she says, “As we meander through our lives, I ask that we consider the choices we make and how each choice affects the landscape.” 

In order to create this unique piece, the artist travelled to Victoria to find a printing press large enough for her ambitious project. Due to its size and physicality, viewing this piece is much like navigating a journey and becomes a bodily experience that reinforces the artist’s intention to place the viewer within the work. Through her repeated use of a human figure in the print, which the artist maintains is a stand-in for the viewer, she places them within the landscape and persuades them to consider their impact on the earth.

meander, Barbara Swail’s Solistalgia and Karl Mattson’s Thoughts of Love, Meditations of Violence were developed through curator Paul Crawford’s mentorship as part of the Peace Liard Regional Arts Council’s Artist in Residency Program. Applications are now open for 2020 intakes. Please visit the PLRAC website for more details.

Stay tuned next week for my conversation with Barbara Swail on her contribution to the AIR exhibit, Solistalgia.

Do you have an artistic endeavour you would like to promote? I would love to speak with you! Please email me at programs@dcartgallery.ca.

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