Memory Landscape II
digital print on archival canvas, glass beads, thread, metal hardware, wood, deer hide
on verso signed, titled, dated 2018 and inscribed "#6-30"
12 7/8 x 31 7/8 in 33 x 81 cm
Collection of the Artist
Memory Landscape II scrolls 1-4, in the Government of Ontario Art Collection, http://ao.minisisinc.com/scripts/mwimain.dll/144/GOAC?DIRECTSEARCH
Memory Landscape II is part of a series that responds to Memory Landscape I, a set of honouring scrolls that Barry Ace completed in 2014 as a tribute to a loved one who had recently passed. The recent death of his friend, who Ace describes as close as kin, an “adopted brother,” prompted Ace to go into his own archive of slide transparencies. The images were taken in the 1980s during their travels together through their home territory of Manitoulin Island and the surrounding Algoma region of Northern Ontario. The compositions for each scroll include the digital scans Ace made of the transparencies to form photographic diptychs, with his beadwork forming the intermediary between each image.
Traditionally, the Anishinaabeg used birch bark as a material to record information, including migration stories, songs, ceremony and mythology. In Memory Landscape I and II, Ace's diptychs and beaded motifs on birch bark form a tableaux, drawing its inspiration from birch bark sheets that are stitched together to form sacred scrolls with incised information important to the Midewiwin, the Grand Medicine Society of the Anishinaabe. Using the facsimile of birch bark, which he has created by digitally scanning bark that is then printed onto archival canvas, he innovates with a modern material to commemorate the time these two friends spent together on the land. As with much of Ace’s oeuvre, he uses contemporary materials to situate the work in a current context, while still ensuring cultural continuity with the past. Lashed with deer hide strips onto either end are wooden sticks Ace sourced where he now resides in Ottawa, Ontario. The scrolls can stand alone or be further extended by lashing them together to form a longer work.
In Memory Landscape I, a very personal work for Ace that was first exhibited in Braga, Portugal at Museu Nogueira da Silva, 30 scrolls form a complete narrative documenting the seasons of life, and will remain together as an unbroken set. In Memory Landscape II, each of the 30 diptychs from this set stand alone, as Ace continues with images depicting the Manitoulin area, the traditional territory of the Anishinaabeg. Through these lush images, Ace invites us to see this stunning landscape through an Anishinaabe lens.
In the centre of this work is the Thunderbird, a manitou or spirit, important in the Anishinaabe worldview. The sky world and heavens, Animkiig in Anishinaabemowin, are the domain of the Thunderbirds, invisible forces that represent protection for the Anishinaabeg. They are also a symbol for M’Chigeeng on the Island of Manitoulin, the First Nation where Ace is from. Hovering between the winter and spring scenes, Ace has chosen to depict the Thunderbird as white, as during the coldest season the Thunderbird is dormant, re-awakening once warmth returns to the earth. The spring storms, with their thunder and lightning, symbolize the return of the Animkiig. The winter scene was taken at Whitefish River First Nation, near Manitoulin Island, and on the right is an image taken at Gull Lake, Temagami, Ontario.
We thank Leah Snyder, digital designer and writer, The L. Project, for contributing the above essay. Snyder writes about culture, technology and contemporary art, and is a regular contributor to the National Gallery of Canada's Gallery magazine and other Canadian art publications.
All quotes attributed to the artist unless otherwise noted.
Memory Landscape II is a suite comprised of 30 works, and this is #6.
Please note: this work is unframed.
This work is accompanied by a letter of authenticity and provenance signed by the artist.
Available for viewing at: Heffel Toronto – 135 Yorkville Ave
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