Our great Canadian north, a place as elusive as it is majestic, has suffered from serious ecological and industrial upheavals. The trials of technological affects on the northern landscape often remain silent in the media, but installation artist and sculptor Lynn Richardson has playfully re-imagined the northern landscape in Business as Usual.
Richardson imagines an industrial life lived on icebergs for a contextualized sculpture installation that questions the presence of corporate and government influences on the land. Motors and small engines, industrial symbols of labour and manufacturing, align themselves along the pristine lines of colonized icebergs. Coming off a series of works that recently exhibited during the Open Spaces project at the Toronto International Art Fair last year, Richardson continues this light-hearted investigation into northern themes.
Known for creating product-friendly survival kits for an impending ice-age, and abstract sculptures on both vast and minimal scales, this current body of work re-veals Richardson’s trademark aesthetic hovering between the bleak and the cheeky. Elegant three-dimensional decorative patterns conjuring colonial autocracy con-trast stark looming towers of abstract hydro electric stations. Infusing symbols of both product and process, the capitalistic corporatization of the landscape is projected as a manufacturing (and not manufactured in the vein of Edward Burtynsky) landscape.
As an Assistant Professor at Keene State College in New Hampshire, the former Winnipeg-based artist has been accumulating this body of work since 2005. Con-tinuing to search for resolution in the work, her liminal residency between Canada and the U.S. has provided much of the serious and contextual inspiration behind her pieces.
During three years of traveling back and forth over the border, she thought about the lingering effects of the attack on the World Trade Centre, Canada’s involve-ment with the Kyoto Protocol agreements and the ongoing softwood lumber arguments running through the loopholes of NAFTA. Richardson started merging all of these concerns into a body of work that looked specifically at consumerism and resources, and their irrevocable effects on the Canadian landscape.
Since moving to New Hampshire, a state that has historically predicted the outcome of the U.S. presidential elections, political rivalry over the Arctic and its re-sources has loomed large in her work. She received a Canada Council grant to explore Canada’s north, and took in the visceral effect of the ecotourism boom on the region. The result is Business as Usual.
“It’s interesting to look at the survival aspects in a future that looks both grim and humorous,” says Vince Gasparri, executive director of Harcourt House Gallery. “I’m especially interested in (Richardson’s) perspective on man’s impact on the environment. It has humorous qualities at first, but upon deeper reflection, you see some serious investigation that will inspire dialogue.”
Image credit: Lynn Richardson, 2007
*First published in Galleries West, Spring 2008.