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Features / September 11, 2008

Diana Thorneycroft: Tragicomic Canadiana

Diana Thorneycroft  Group of Seven Awkward Moments - Beavers and Woo at Tanoo 2008

Winnipeg artist Diana Thorneycroft is well known for masterfully rendered and aggressively poetic photo works that pull no punches when it comes to tackling issues at the core of the human condition, from sexual ecstasy to physical torture. Take, for instance, the dark theatre of her black and white portrait series from the 1990s, The Body, Its Lesson and Camouflage, or the disturbingly provocative colour series Still-Life: Stilled Lives and The Doll Mouth Series. In recent years, though, Thorneycroft has turned to black humour and contemporary mass culture as props to stage further investigations into what she calls humankind’s hopeless attraction to “spectacles of violence.”

For her latest exhibition, “Group of Seven Awkward Moments,” currently on view at Michael Gibson Gallery, Thorneycroft takes a satirical jab not only at classical notions of violent martrydom but also the stereotyped imagery of Canadiana as portrayed in the national art canon. With toy figures as her subjects, Thorneycroft depicts a pantheon of pan-Canadian comic tragedies—an igloo burning in the arctic night while a Mountie and other spectators look on, Bobby Orr falling through the ice in a Hall of Fame game of shinny, a lonely dogsledder adrift in an iceberg ocean, and beavers and a lumberjack chopping down west coast totems—all wryly staged against backdrops of Tom Thomson, Emily Carr and Group of Seven paintings. (157 Carling St, London ON)