These questions don’t come up that often—unless, perhaps, you’re Banff Centre director of visual arts Kitty Scott. Since 2007, Scott has overseen multiple residencies touching on contemporary plein-air practices, a theme she continues to highlight in the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec exhibition “À Ciel Ouvert: Le Nouveau Pleinairisme,” which closes this week.
Acting as a guest curator for the MNBAQ, Scott has brought together works by a range of artists spanning from international heavy-hitters to younger Canadian up-and-comers. The grouping provides various perspectives onto this theme.
On the international front, France’s Gaillard is represented by Real Remnants of Fictive Wars, a video series showing various outdoor locales being subsumed in thick white smoke. Anri Sala’s Blindfold shows a sunset and sunrise reflecting off Albanian billboards. Watercolor, a short video by Mexico-based artist Francis Alÿs, has a figure mixing water from the Red Sea with water from the Black Sea. And Peter Fischli and David Weiss’ 1983 film The Right Way adds a humorous note, with the duo’s costumed Bear and Rat characters going for a swim in an idyllic Swiss lake, among other excursions.
Closer to home, Geneviève Cadieux, a 2011 Governor General’s Award winner, is represented with two photographs of the same site, evoking the traditional plein-air practice of repeatedly returning to the same locale. Emerging artist Mark Igloliorte offers paintings that speak to his Inuit heritage. Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller document a nighttime canoe trip with video and audio. And Michel de Broin’s piece shows an urban lamppost being felled like a tree (a related sculpture accompanies).
Rounded out by works from Peter Doig, Hreinn Fridfinnsson, Janice Kerbel, Roger Ackling, Ragnar Kjartansson, Irene Kopelman, Rosario López Parra and Silke Otto-Knapp—not to mention a 36-work introduction to the show curated by contemporary Quebec painter Pierre Dorion from the museum’s historical plein-air collection, including Milton Avery’s 1957 painting Sea and Sand—“À Ciel Ouvert” promises to bring the outdoors well into art’s frame.