Presenting selected works from Oakville Galleries's permanent collection, Re-Envisioning Habitat examines the ways in which contemporary artists continue to respond to their environments and to depict their habitats. The works of these artists demonstrates the hold that nature still exerts as a source of identity, nostalgia—even despair. Although none of these artists claim a detachment from the pervasive influences of our urbanized condition, they share a common affinity for the artist's discursive role and, given the theme of this exhibition, art's engagement in the questions posed by the state of our natural environment and our stewardship of its resources.
The primary discourse at the time of the Group of Seven emphasized the connection between landscape painting and its cultural identity. Today the argument has broadened to include legitimate concerns about the environment, changing land use, and conservation practices. The once ubiquitous culture-nature debate has been absorbed by a broadened coalition of concerns that examine the land and our place within it, from a diversity of cultural, geographic, social, political, or planning perspectives. Thus, it is common to think of a continuous but diversified topography—as typified by places such as California's Silicon Valley, Vancouver, or even Oakville in Ontario—that share the generic qualities of urbanism but build discrete economic bases and cultural identities of their own.
Insightful and thought provoking as many of these works are, they remind us of art's continuing dialogue and our desire to see ourselves in relation to the consumerist culture or the natural world. Within the confines of our respective habitats—linked by transportation and communications networks, highways, public spaces, non-spaces, commercial zones, service industries—are the impulses that give rise to our individuality. Whether observing the rituals of daily life, the dynamics of our built or suburban environment, or the dialectics of nature, these works function as creative responses to our habitat and provide alternative mappings of a world in flux and transition.
Curated by Derek Knight
Kim Adams, Roy Arden, Jeremy Borsos, Edward Burtynsky, Robin Collyer, Stan Denniston, Susan Dobson, Rodney Graham, Susanna Heller, Geoffrey James, Euan MacDonald, Scott McFarland