Laurie Papou, Mother May I 1995 33″ x 105″
Landscape idylls; mythic idols? The exhibition Idyll, at the Nanaimo Art Gallery in 2000, brought together two artists who meditate on beauty and its inevitable loss, time and its passage, and, above all, nature and its dialectical relationship with culture. In the west’s notion of Arcadia, the Garden of Eden, the enclosed garden of the Virgin Mary and the wilderness, landscape acts as a stage on which human history plays itself out. What is the connection between landscape and the humans who move through it and act upon it? Idyll offers two artists’ speculations on the complex relationship humans have with nature.
In her large-scale paintings Laurie Papou focuses on the Edenic landscape of the Canadian west coast, placing the nude or draped bodies of herself and her male partner against idyllic backdrops of lush forest, ocean, beaches and mountains at high summer. In contrast, Valerie Metz turns her photographic gaze on the Old World, representing the gardens, parks and landscapes found in Italy, France and Ireland. These are places where layers of memory and myth inform our visions of nature. While Papou’s human figures use nature as a stage for mysterious rituals, peopling Metz’s landscapes are sculptural bodies and fragments of classical architecture, alluding to the western cultural past commemorated in these spaces.
Softly whispering behind these works, animating them, we can almost hear Poussin’s melancholy refrain: “Et in Arcadia Ego” – ‘Even in Arcadia [paradise] I, Death, am present’.
Laurie Papou, One 42″ x 96″