Black Gold Art Exhibit – Contemporary Art Features on the Alberta Oil Industry

The exhibition Black Gold presents the art works of contemporary artists who shine a spotlight on the oil industry in Alberta. Presenting personal perceptions concerning this development, through their work these artists invite reflection on the diverse and complex environmental and social issues associated with this industry. (AGA)

This exhibit is currently on display (until November 5th) at Turner Valley School. A local artist is one of the exhibitors.

Bruno Canadien, Black Diamond Alberta

A member of the Deh Gah Got’iéóé First Nation, Bruno Canadien is an artist and activist. According to Canadien, his “…work speaks to the modern presence of Native peoples in the Americas, and honours them in their resistance to colonial governance and industrial invasion. The Freedom Fighter series of paintings is evidence that, headlines or not, Indian nations continue to assert themselves in their traditional territories.”

Bruno Canadien, Assail, Fight, Protest, Slam, 2011, Mixed media on canvas, Collection of the artist
Bruno Canadien, Assail, Fight, Protest, Slam, 2011, Mixed media on canvas, Collection of the artist

Through his work Canadien wants the viewer to realize that First Nations peoples exist in contemporary Canadian culture and are actively engaged in contemporary culture, issues and events.

Canadien’s visual language starts by referencing and putting together visual printed materials. This is a technique he started in his final year of college where he added the names of important First Nations figures (Freedom Fighters) to drawings of the sun. In the case of his works in the exhibition Black Gold, the artist has used vintage Alberta Tourism or promotional materials as the ‘surface’ of his images. This use of found printed materials gives a hand-made quality to the work, providing it with a ‘messy/bumpy’ essence the artist wishes to come through. Over this very tactile surface, however, the artist creates a whitewash. For Canadien, this whitewash is both literal and metaphorical in meaning. Literally speaking, the use of white paint provides a uniform backing for additional images and helps to unite the series. Metaphorically speaking, the whitewash is a cover up by the artist, rather than by ‘the man’/government or big business. While the original source material, which generally provides a positive message of the province and, in many cases, industrial development, is allowed to show through, Canadien’s whitewash serves to deny this view.

The pow-wow ribbons Canadien attaches to his mixed media paintings also serve both literal and metaphorical functions. For the artist the ribbons take the work away from being pictures on the wall and turn them into objects with a presence. Perhaps more importantly, however, the ribbons reference traditional First Nations artwork and elements. In the Freedom Fighter series of works the objects refer to First Nations shields or hand drums which often have decorative elements – beads, feathers, fur, ribbons – attached to them.

(Art Gallery of Alberta)