If you want an earnest and heart-stopping portrayal of the Canadian landscape, don't look to the Canadians. Yes, we have the popular but also popularly-dismissed Group of Seven. And yes, our Documenta-rejuvenated Emily Carr gives us heart. Our (newly) scandalous William Kurelek provokes questions. And sure, we have our perennially-overlooked Quebec regionalists, like Maurice Cullen and James Wilson Morrice.
But what better way to know our own and our selves than to see it through foreign eyes? A month after the wide-flung TIFF art installations dimmed their lights and lost their stations, a diminutive work easily lost among more recognizable Future Projections talent (like Sook-Yin Lee, Peaches, Jeroen Eisinga, and Kelly Richardson) stands out.
Liang Yue, a Chinese artist best known for her "diaristic portraits of everyday urban life," exhibited a three-channel video titled "Quiet Room," enclaved in the Gladstone's diminutive Art Bar, stole the show. The artist, recalling Mark Lewis's artfully studied portraits full of mastery and pause, exhibited an uncanny 'outsider' perspective onto the Canadian landscape. Keen on picturing the devolution of ice to water,
Liang produced in the background of her films a stunning portrait of the Canadian landscape, picturing it as both inaccessible and familiar. In a recent interview with ARTINFO Canada, Liang said she "was wondering if I[she] could capture something behind the looking," and that her interest focused on our "huge nature" while she "looked for a visual angle that was going to touch the deep inside heart of people." It did. While the Art Bar provided too-small a venue, the work's power was outsized. Said Liang, "I wanted to capture some frozen moment in my mind, one that might always be hidden in people's inside." "I was trying to make people clearly feel their own," Liang said. An uncanny thing that she did.