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Photo by J. Michel Carriere (Apt613 Flickr Pool)

Exhibition: Our Masterpieces, Our Stories at the National Gallery of Canada

By Helen Lam on July 5, 2017

The National Gallery of Canada’s foray to Canada Scene is Our Masterpieces, Our Stories, a visual art exhibition on from June 15 to September 4. Truth be told, Our Masterpieces, Our Stories is not the cutting edge of Canada Scene. It is, however, a sweeping look backwards at the breadth of Canadian art from “time immemorial” to 1967. With a bird’s eye view of Canadian art through the centuries, this exhibit is a good starter before you delve into other visual art exhibits this summer.

Return visitors to the National Gallery will recognize much of the exhibits on display as part of the regular collection. The Group of Seven and New France rooms still occupy their usual place. What is new is the Gallery’s rethink of the journey through its large collection. Art from Aboriginal and Inuit artists are interspersed between the colonial landscapes and twentieth century abstract paintings. The Gallery does try to tell a better story about the place of Indigenous art and expression in the national canon.

Keeping with the past, depictions of the natural world and the search for human identity within a huge, inhospitable environment are still major subjects. Yet this is where the exhibit does present some thought provoking variations on a theme. There are interesting comparisons between civilization as depicted through cities and settlements, and civilization as known through the spiritual, inner world of human beings. Walking through the rooms you’re constantly confronted by the dialogue between European and Indigenous ideas down through time. But are they still separate worlds, or have they come together as a new whole? The exhibit doesn’t offer much of an answer to this, but presents with gusto the different points of view. It’s up to the visitor to reconcile them.

For art lovers, the indigenous art on loan to the Gallery for Our Masterpieces, Our Stories is an opportunity to see some unique pieces. There are also some interactive exhibits that will be sure to delight children (and probably some adults).

Visitors can enjoy Our Masterpieces, Our Stories at the National Gallery of Canada until September 4. Admission to the Gallery is free every Thursday evening.