Over Three Decades of Landscape Photography
Recognized as one of Canada’s most eloquent interpreters of landscape, Geoffrey James has been making photographs since the early 1970s. His first photographs were images of gardens and expressed classical notions of beauty as they revealed the geometry and underlying structures of the formal garden. These small (8.5 cm x 26.5 cm) panoramic photographs evoke a quiet passion for the great landscape schemes and natural sanctuaries of the past. In his most recent work, James pays particular attention to way in which nature and culture intersect. While not concerned with “Romantic” notions of “the ruin,” his photographs do suggest a fall from grace.
“A retrospective of this nature gives us the opportunity to view the range of work an artist produces over the course of a career,” said NGC Director, Pierre Theberge, “It also allows us to examine more closely the various themes and patterns that emerge when a representative number of works by the same artist are assembled in one place and at one time.”
The exhibition is organized by Lori Pauli, the National Gallery’s Assistant Curator of Photographs. “I am impressed both by the subtleties of his printmaking and the graphic power of his photographs,” she explained. “This exhibition demonstrates James’s long-standing preoccupations with the way in which culture and nature intersect and his remarkable contribution to Canadian art.”
Ranging from the idyllic spaces of formal gardens and sylvan parks, to the wastelands of mining and a problematic international border, his photographs explore the planned landscapes of the past to the more unintentional landscapes of the present.
Recurring visual themes come to light in this exhibition: bridges, roads, pathways, trees and ponds and the facades of houses and stores. Works are grouped according to series: the panoramic images of European gardens, photographs of American parks designed by F.L. Olmsted, the Paris, Asbestos, Lethbridge and Toronto series, as well as Running Fence, a project that examines the Mexico/U.S. border fence.
The exhibition, Utopia/Dystopia: the Photographs of Geoffrey James is made possible by through a blend of private and public sector partnership. Loans have been secured from a number of private collections, the artist himself and through the courtesy of a number of prestigious institutions. These include The Canadian Centre of Architecture and the Musee d’Art contemporain in Montreal, the University of Toronto Art Centre, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
“We are honoured to partner with the National Gallery of Canada in our support of excellence in arts and culture across the country,” said Pratt & Whitney Canada Vice President – Communications, Nancy German. “We are pleased to present the exhibition of an outstanding Canadian artist who touches on important issues like the relationship between people and the environment.”
National Gallery of Canada and Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography and the work of Geoffrey James. The National Gallery of Canada began collecting the work of Geoffrey James with the receipt of a generous gift of three photographs by Belgian collectors, Francis and Evelyn Coutellier in 1988. This was augmented by the acquisition of prints from his Olmsted and Asbestos series by the Gallery’s Photographs Collection and the Department of Contemporary Art. In 1975, the Gallery’s sister institution, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, also began acquiring James’s photographs and now owns 108 of his works. -- www.gallery.ca