If you’re in need of a bit of green and have an interest in World War I history and French landscapes, it’s worth a visit to Rémi Thériault’s new exhibit, ‘Front’ at the Ottawa Art Gallery. It’s a personal study by Rémi of Canadian First World War battle sites, which is particularly fitting considering that this year is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.
“I wanted to expand on what the general population already knew about the First World War, mostly on the traditional photographs than we normally see in history books,” said Rémi. “I was curious to discover what the landscape looked like today. Front is the result of this study, looking a variety of sites that all share different stories of 100 years of transition and memories.”
The photos are of such sites as Beaumont-Hamel, the Courcelette Sugar Factory, Flanders Fields, Hawthorn Crater, Hooge, Loos, Mont Saint-Éloi, and Vimy Ridge.
“Visiting the spaces once ravaged by war intrigued me to explore the transitory nature of war’s relationship to place,” said Rémi. “Every place has a different relationship. While some are physically marked in commemoration of the First World War, other landscapes are seemingly untouched. The narratives of these places are subjected to time and transformation, thereby potentially contrasting considerably their contemporary realities.”
Places such as Vimy are commemorated by impressive monuments and informative plaques, while others appear forgotten, such as the iconic monument at the Hawthorn Crater, now taken over by forest and overgrown with greenery. Other places such as the Sugar Factory in the town of Courcelette, where Canadian Forces celebrated a victory, are occupied today by farmers and local industry.
Literary works by Andrew Vincent and Colin Vincent accompany the exhibition, which can be heard by audio recording. “I wanted to help create a new narrative for these history heavy sites. I think it’s important to remember not only what has happened a hundred years ago, but also to capture what the sites represent today,” added Rémi.
Rémi moved here from Prince Edward Island in 2000. He attended teacher’s college and later graduated from Algonquin College’s photography program in 2008. Since then, he’s been finding success as both a commercial and art-based photographer in Ottawa.
Front runs at the Ottawa Art Gallery at 2 Daly Avenue until June 6, 2014. To see more of Rémi’s work, please visit: http://remitheriault.com/.