Exit through the gift shop and a brief jaunt into Quebec


After spending the miserable, rainy morning catching up on writing and e-mails, I was ready, on my last day in Ottawa, to have a final exploration. From research, and the still mixed weather forecast, it made sense to head to the Canadian Art Gallery. It was a short walk away from my very centrally located accommodation.

The Guaguin exhibition was not open until May 24th: I just missed that, so purchased a general admission ticket: which at $14 was unbelievable value. The first problem was to know where to start; deciding on the Canadian and Indigenous Art Gallery as the most appropriate.

It was a fascinating journey through time and place, best recorded in the following images of some of my favourite exhibits.

Taking us back to Montreal, in 1790’s this picture of Beaubien by François Beaucourt captures the essence of the bourgeois elite. The subject is seated at the gaming table and with a confident smile towards us, he lays down an Ace of hearts next to a pile of gold coins.

Two details taken from the large painting by Legare. The setting of night time, with the inclusion of great detail, skillfully captures the horror and devastation that the plague caused.

Portrait of a nun,  seated with the back light emphasizing the black veil in contrast to the white wimple.

I loved the quietness and innocent beauty of this portrait of Sister Saint-Alphonse.(Antoine Plamondon) The clever use of light in the background emphasises the contrast of the black veil and the immaculate white wimple. The viewer is caused to linger aand absorb her inner depth of peace and spirituality.

Both these paintings are by Cornelius Krieghoff illustrating his use of his native Dutch style. Even though they have the same style and attention to detail in colour and texture, I love that they show the artists ability to capture changing moods and subject matter. First, pause in front of the storm, and feel the wind blowing through the pines, whistling down river and pulling us towards the river tumbling over the rocks in white topped foam. Then, watch the horses strong, confident gait as they pull their load, finally, to the shelter of the Inn. They have served their master well, and deserve the rub down, food and evenings rest they know will be their reward.

All these show the intricate designs of glass bead work on fabric. The moccasin in black is striking in itS floral pattern and intricate bead work. They all reminded me of works I had seen in the textile museum in Toronto.

Another work by Antoine Plamondon. This is just a detail of the flautist’s eyes and mouth because I admired the skill in giving enough detail to show the perfect position of the lips and the concentration and thoughtfulness in the upwardly looking eyes. The master works at painting a master at work.

Homer Watson 1901

The Flood Gate

Both the subject matter and the style reminded me of Gainsborough and Constable.

It took me a long time to work round that section of just this gallery, and I was aware of time passing quickly with much more to see. I was also in need of some refreshment, so headed for a the Second Cup: indulging in a large Earl Grey Latte.

Image shows a china cup of Earl Grey Latte tea.
Always a favourite, Earl Grey Latte. A large cup serves well as a nourishing snack.

Wanting a contrast of styles, I tried the contemporary gallery for the last hour. Obviously a complete change, with much to challenge and consider. A few of my favourites follow.

Danie Mellor

Maba-I-Bala Rugu (of power in Darkness)

This work records the presence of indigenous peoples within the imperialist landscape. The details of star’s and celestial bodies, reference the stories from indigenous perspective.

Kelly Mark: REM 2007

This one was particularly interesting as the artist is from Welland, close to Port Colborne where I lived when in Canada.

It is also an incredible work.

The captions are my estimates of the years represented. What do you think?

Watching the film a little in each room was also fascinating; a trip down memory lane watching familiar scenes, characters and clips from films and TV shows, unfold in a new drama.

As a former teacher it was interesting to catch glimpses of school student’s reactions as they stormed through the gallery…

Particularly this work

Chloe Wise 1990

Olive Garden of Eden.

A satirical view of our modern Western habits of consumption and branding based on desire.

As I was contemplating this work I witnessed a teacher expertly guide her no nonsense, “this isn’t art” students into helping them find the skill in the exquisitely formed pieces, the pattern of randomised placement, and find an interpretation for themselves. So, is it art?

Olive Garden of Eden – detail.

So much more to observe, admire and ponder but it was almost closing time. Shall we exit through the gift shop?

Tourism and promotion at its best but who can resist? I bought books for the grandchildren, and resisted buying anything for myself mainly due to limited luggage space. I have all my photographs and most precious memories; more valuable than any trinket.

Out into the real world, and a fresh rainfall enticed me to take advantage of all the beautiful parks and green areas Ottawa provides. Tulip time!

Sights and sounds of Ottawa in the spring.

Just enjoying the views, and the fresh air and exploring I chose the long way home: via the Alexander Bridge, a short walk in Quebec and back across the Portage bridge to the now familiar Wellington Road. A perfect ending to Ottawa adventure in the art of man, and the creation of God.

And now my story is done. Taking over a week to process the images, complete the writing and work between other activities and family duties has given me a taste of the writing life for real. Thank you for being patient. Most of all, huge thanks for your support, likes and comments.

Now, for these last few days in Toronto, before I return to England, I will be concentrating on gathering more material, having mother-daughter time and last minute business. I may not have much chance to post but you can always follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

May is ending, June bursts forth. Happy Summer.



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