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Away: The Artist as Traveller

Travel provides opportunities to see new things, meet new people, and learn about different cultures.

In doing so, we gain new perspectives and an appreciation for diversity while reawakening curiosity about ourselves. This exhibit, drawn from the Permanent Collection, considers the importance of travelling away from home and how travel manifests in artists’ work. From exploring landscapes and witnessing different cultural events to making pilgrimages to historic and cultural sites, artists offer us both familiar and unfamiliar images of the world.

For many artists, travel to cultural sites—museums, galleries, historic sites, gardens—is a kind of pilgrimage. Geoffrey James creates broad vistas of historic formal gardens with his panoramic camera. Jan Westendorp captures the beauty and colour of Claude Monet’s personal garden at Giverny. In contrast, people become the focus of Ronnie Tessler’s travels to Israel’s ancient sites and Hari Sharma’s visits to the Indian subcontinent.

For many of us, the idea of travel is to explore, to see the sites and experience different culture. Les Linfoot lived on the Greek island of Naxos for an extended time and made art based on the land and architecture that surrounded him. Ann Nelson travelled to Wales and created work that explodes with the colours of the coastal landscape in spring. Alistair Bell studied the urban landscape of London and its Thames River. Toronto-based artist Edward Burtynsky traverses the world, photographing industrial sites that have spread across many continents and transformed the global landscape.

The artist as a witness is another theme of this exhibition. Religious rites are observed by Cameron Mathieson in Peru and by Molly Lamb Bobak in France. Burrel Swartz documents the social conditions under military dictatorship in Chile, while Étienne Zack paints a tribute to the community’s heartfelt response to a terrorist attack in Spain.

With an eye on the Canadian travel experience, Kevin Schmidt presents an ironic look at the Canadian road trip with his sales ad pictures of his car in different landscapes. Vikky Alexander takes a critical approach to the West Edmonton Mall, a tourist shopping mecca and “staycation” escape for locals.

Artists: Vikky Alexander, Alistair Bell, Edward Burtynsky, Geoffrey James, Molly Lamb Bobak, Les Linfoot, Cameron Mathieson, Ann Nelson, Kevin Schmidt, Hari Sharma, Burrell Swartz, Ronnie Tessler, Jan Koot Westendorp, and Etienne Zack.

Curator: Brian Foreman
Origin of Exhibition: Surrey Art Gallery

Image credits from top to bottom:

Cameron Mathieson, Easter Procession (1987), chromogenic photographic print on paper, 32.4 cm x 36.8 cm. Collection of the Surrey Art Gallery.

Jan Koot Westendorp, Untitled (From Monet's Garden, Giverny '88 Series) (1988), 4 colour photographic prints on paper. Collection of the Surrey Art Gallery.

Les Linfoot, Good Night Naxos (1979), enamel paint on paper. Collection of the Surrey Art Gallery.

Burrell Swartz, Chile (Latin American Series) (1984), graphite drawing on paper. Collection of the Surrey Art Gallery.