Canadian Art

See It

Fiona Annis: Death in the Woods

Galerie McClure, Montreal, March 4 to 26 2011
Fiona Annis <em>Swan Song (Benjamin), Cross-border route, France/Spain</em> 2010  Fiona Annis Swan Song (Benjamin), Cross-border route, France/Spain 2010

Fiona Annis <em>Swan Song (Benjamin), Cross-border route, France/Spain</em> 2010

From its earliest days to its theorization in the 1970s by Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes to its post-conceptual presentation at recent shows like the Guggenheim’s “Haunted,” photography has long been understood as a ghostly medium, one that immortalizes people and moments and thus presents them as, to varying degrees, uncanny. Montreal- and Glasgow-based photographer Fiona Annis’ macabre, elegiac new show, opening this week at Galerie McClure, alters the camera’s immortalizing process somewhat, looking for traces of life, or at the very least presence, at famous sites of artist deaths.

Entitled “Swan Song,” the show appears to pivot on Virginia Woolf, who drowned herself in Sussex’s River Ouse: the titular work displays a swan swimming amid the reeds of that body of water. Other views of the Ouse are appropriately gloomy—the water rippling and black, the sky overcast and stormy, as if we are seeing it from the author’s perspective. These works overlap with ones featuring Tom Thomson’s death site, Algonquin Park’s Canoe Lake, and that of conceptualist Bas Jan Ader, who was lost off the coast of Ireland attempting to cross the Atlantic. Other types of sites are also pictured, like the path Walter Benjamin trod to his suicide site in Portboum, Spain, and the area near the Dakota apartment building in New York where John Lennon was shot by Mark David Chapman. Related texts accompany, with one in particular aptly linking art with its creator’s end: Montaigne’s famous maxim, following Cicero, that “to philosophize is to learn how to die.” (350 ave Victoria, Montreal QC)

This article was first published online on March 3, 2011.


  • Rick Leong: The Wilderness

    Montreal artist Rick Leong is known for approaching nature with a symbolist sensitivity that is more Gustav Klimt than Group of Seven. So fans might be surprised by his current Galerie McClure show, which tends towards abstraction.

  • David Elliott: Magic in a Box

    Montreal painter David Elliott has been working for years on the possibilities of paint. In a new series mixing boxes with flat imagery, he seems to have hit his stride; two recent exhibitions prove him as one of the more interesting painters working today.



[an error occurred while processing this directive]


  • Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller: Black Birds

    New York critic Joseph R. Wolin heads to the Park Avenue Armory where Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller are creating a buzz (and other sounds) at the US premiere of a dark, nightmarish installation originally created for the 2008 Biennale of Sydney.

  • Grange Prize 2012: Hot Shots

    One of Canada’s largest cash-value art prizes—$65,000 in total with $50,000 going to the winner, $5,000 to three runners-up—announced its finalists this week. Take in their wide-ranging works in this slideshow.

  • Wanda Koop: Into the Woods

    A visit to Wanda Koop’s cabin near Riding Mountain National Park in southern Manitoba proves intriguing for Vancouver critic Robin Laurence. There, Laurence writes, Koop bridges old Grey Owl myths with a new series of paintings on our increasingly digital culture.

  • Brad Tinmouth: Survival Strategies

    The basement of an art gallery may seem an unlikely place to create an emergency shelter. However, Xpace's lower gallery is an ideal setting for Brad Tinmouth's “If Times Get Tough or Even If They Don't,” which evokes a cold-war bunker.

  • Wim Delvoye: Blame it on Paris

    Silk-covered pigs, lattice-cut car tires and a tattooed man are just a few of the works that Belgian artist Wim Delvoye has shuttled into the old, Gothic wing of the Louvre this summer. Jill Glessing reviews, finding a terrific amalgam of high and low.

More Online

Report a problem