Windows on the War of 1812

A Two Person Art Exhibition by Stephen J. Arthurs & Rebecca Nash

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The Blended Perspective's Blog will feature information on the creative process, gallery tour, events, opening receptions and more along our journey. Please join us as Stephen and Rebecca set out on this adventure.

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Rebecca will be Appearing on Daytime London for Remembrance Day

Posted on November 9, 2013 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Tune in this Monday as Photographic Artist Rebecca Nash joins Daytime London on Rogers TV London for their Remembrance Day Special.

See the Rebecca's photographic works from Windows on the War of 1812 and hear her speak further about the inspirations, the experiences, and the pieces themselves.

Updated Essay: Windows on the War of 1812 by Joan Murray

Posted on January 17, 2013 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

WINDOWS ON THE WAR OF 1812

By Joan Murray, 2013

Wars exist for many reasons. Certainlyin our time they exist in certain areas of the planet and endlessly, or so itseems, to sell the news on television, movie tickets, DVDs, books and plasticaction figures. But depictions of wars, those brave men and women in uniform,allow us to believe that if we were there, if we partook of the action, wecould do the impossible. We could transform ourselves and somehow come awaytransfigured from the experience.

Windowson the War of 1812, a show which featuresthe work of two artists, Stephen Arthurs and Rebecca Nash, thrives on the sameexpectation: look closely at the work, imagine yourself in the same place andsee if you don't feel different. To an extent all warriors are playing a roleinadvertently thrust on them by circumstance, their true identity concealed, andso in their own way, are human beings such as you and I.

Stephen Arthurs has long made a claim onthe world by envisioning wars seen from a bird's-eye view, likening himself inhis thoughts to a boy playing with toy soldiers in a sandbox or organizing aboard game. He came to art in the mid 1970s, at the same time as the emergenceof a counterculture, of artists who considered themselves "other" andachieved art world recognition with work that was characterized by experimentalapproaches to process. He has long followed certain strategies to create theideas that dominate his work, first researching his subject with great intensity,then chosing certain battles, usually ones that show the invader at an impasse,as here, in the Battle of Crysler's Farm, "Invasion Stopped cold in itstracks" where a band of red-coats face disorganized groups of the men inblue, some of whom have fallen. Between them lies a band of smoke; the musketshave fired, the action is over. Determined defenders also appear in his The Battle of Chateauguay: In defence ofMontreal, they cannot pass. They shall not pass. For other works, heselects specific episodes or the most striking event of a battle, as in his Death of Tecumseh, subtitled"Warrior chief and Statesman: One nation's hero is another nation'sterrorist. Thus begins America's resolve on Terror." (He wants his titlesto evoke discussion, thought, even controversy.)

In these small acrylic works, sometimesdiamond in shape, Arthurs creates a panorama, freezing the image in action inthe centre of the composition and fanning out to its four points. He carefullyhas depicted an accurate time of day, season and weather, direction to theattack as related to the compass, formation of the unit, and uniforms usingwhatever is available in historical materials, but much of the scene, such asthe lighting, remains his invention. For instance, he added a detail of burningtents and supplies to help illuminate the battleground in his scene of the battleof Stoney Creek, since the battle took place at night. The result in Arthurs'swork is a choreographing of history, a dancing with events that hone in on thedramatic. As for the War of 1812 itself, Arthurs fits it into his Big List ofWars under "Justifications" -- that is, a war that was"justified" into being like the Crusades and Jihads. It may have beenone of the most dramatic and longest-running wars to ever take place on Canadiansoil but the War of 1812, for Arthurs, makes a strong claim on his main theme, thefutility of war.

Rebecca Nash, on the other hand, a photographerintoxicated with the power and possibilities of the medium, makes her claim onthe subject by recording the actions of the "re-enactor," andactually accompanies them to capture the way they represent their version ofhistory. Yet even though she records say, a moment of pretended death as in Sleep of the Fallen, she also records momentswhen the re-enactors are themselves, attending social gatherings betweenengagements.

Hers is an interesting creative path.She photographs in colour, prints her work in black and white. The results arepowerful and aided by contrasts within the work -- sections are in detail,others blurred. Firing Behind the Lineis the signature piece: it says it all for Nash's work, encapsulating theaction of war and combining it with delicate detail. Leaves enframe the sceneof soldiers firing muskets.

Nash became fascinated with the War of1812 due to her husband, Ross Emerson, who had been a re-enactor from the timehe was a child and enjoyed following the events. She began photographing thescenes and the results set her on a course toward the work in this show. Whenshe met Arthurs in a mentoring program, she suggested this two-person exhibition,Windows on the War of 1812, to helpthe general public better understand Canada's past through images.

Opposites balance. Arthurs's work isintimate enough for close art encounters, Nash's large enough for the viewer tofeel drawn into the scenes. The exhibition is a departure from the dry historicalsurvey since the intention of these artists is to provide the more imaginativeside to the events. Of course, the war supplies the exhibition's principalorganizing theme. Quite a few of the interpretations are fairly literal. Butbeyond commenting on the battles and acted-out incidents, these art works tellus that a fascination with extreme, often violent, sensibilities is not dead,and that an attempt to understand the nature of the brutal conflict that is warcan still be a viable basis for contemporary art.

 

Norfolk Arts Centre - Opening Reception

Posted on December 9, 2012 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Many thanks to all who came out to our Opening Reception in Novemeber. We were thrilled to have an opportunity to meet you, discus the works, and enjoy an evening together.


To those who were not able to attend here is a sneak peak of the exhibition of Rebecca's Works on the upper level (tour of Stephen's works to follow shortly)




Stephen's Analysis: Diptych: American withdrawal across the Detroit River

Posted on November 9, 2012 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Diptych: American withdrawal across the Detroit River

Analysis

As the year 1812 drew to it's campaigning halt, the several invasions launched into Upper Canada by the American forces, withdrew for the winter months and has brought the necessity for shorter lines of supply and communication, as the force has been led back across the river barrier to their winter quarters.We can see that the panels. while stitched together by the landscape and both sides are bathed in the same open air light, the panels are quite different in make up. The left panel has US. regular troopsmoving off carrying their wounded in a wagon transport. There is an officer directing the teamster to a field hospital. The men shuffle along in an attitude of resignation, a blind following of orders, in spite of the year's fruitless campaigning. Some militia are seen intermingled with the march route of the line soldiers.The right side has more chaos. The upraised muskets of the Kentuckians is evidence of their spoiling mood. With lots of fight in them still, they are disquieted over having to give up their gains in Upper Canada. It is an invasion of conquest and their efforts are now going unrewarded. They have only sharp words for their commanders.Into this mix of near rabble, we see mounted troopers of dragoons, pushing their way through the bottleneck to clear the mob in their haste to make their report to their commander, a recon role.The symbolism of crushing numbers and the flow of the composition has everyone working from bottom to top to clear the logjam. Being hemmed in by the trees adds to the claustrophobia as experienced by a body of men more accustomed to living their rugged individualism; a love of open spaces. The practice of drill and discipline is lost on them at the outset of the war.Their wounded pride gives rise to the ranker and disgust in the expressions of the militia. They have been joined by some of the regulars. It is implied in this work, that the two paths depicted by two distinct panels, represents the reflective mood of the army and the government administration to their commitment to this war. The older revolutionary leaders must now be cashiered and replaced with a more vibrant and energetic cadet of younger emerging officers like Winfield Scott, willing to prove themselves in battle.It is the moment of a paradigm shift, where they know they can't keep doing what has proven to be a failure and waste of war materials and resources. They need a new plan, new leadership. The right panel of the painting provides the impetus and the muscle to transform this army into something that will give a better accounting of itself in the next year's campaigning.

Stephen's Analysis: Diptych: John Norton exerts the Grand River Clan of Mohawks to move to the sound of the guns at Queenston Heights.

Posted on November 9, 2012 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Diptych: John Norton exerts the Grand River Clan of Mohawks to move to the sound of the guns at Queenston Heights.

 

 

                                                                                                          Analysis

 

 

The importance of the Battle of Queeston Heights for both Upper Canada and Canada as a whole, is a centerpiece to this touring show. I wanted to pay tribute to the battle and one very important phase of the battle is the warriors' arrival on the battlefield creating havoc among the US. troops. The natives contained the advancement of US infantry and thoroughly disrupted the flow of reinforcements as US militia refused to embark to cross the Niagara River, citing constitutional grounds of not having to invade outside their state proper.

Definitely the world's best skirmishers, native warriors focused on ambush, ruse, deception and secrecy to foil greater numbers than their own. In this painting, I wanted the focus to rest on the braves as they near the chaos of that October morning.

We see them in single file, a well known tactic of the braves to hide their numbers, as their footprints on the ground accumulate along the path and shuffle into a worn path. Their snaking route between the trees, provides them the cover they need to arrive unannounced and bring the element of surprise with them.

The longish shadows are reflective of the time of day, late morning, as the battle rages for control of the radon. This painting represents the marking of time and the arrival of the game changer that will alter the outcome of this battle.

The Invite Is Out...Join Us for the Opening Reception

Posted on November 6, 2012 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (0)

You're invited....



We would love to meet you, get your feedback on the exhibition, and celebrate the launch of the exhibition!


The War of 1812 Revisited by Joan Murray

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (0)

We are thrilled to share with you a mini essay by well known Canadian Art Historian Joan Murray about our upcoming exhibition.


TheWar of 1812 Revisited

Joan Murray

The art of Rebecca Nash and StephenArthurs, two London, Ontario artists, who have created this showcase on the Warof 1812, has a special edge to it. Their work is that of a photographer andpainter, both having an especially intense War of 1812 moment.


Inside their work are many factors whichinspire them -- Nash in her wish to develop greater insight into subjectmatter, Arthurs by a form of childhood play with toy soldiers which hasinspired his entire career. The complexities they achieve using their specificand particular visions help us gain a fresh respect for the omnipresence ofartistic revelation.


Nash is a professional photographer whoworks in varied assignments, including wedding and portrait photography.However, her personal quest at present concerns reworking re-enactments of theWar of 1812, which at the moment is considered something of a standard resourcefor photographers. Nash gives such work a novel quality by following not onlythe re-enactors as they act out various moments of combat, but recording thedaily life of the camp follower. She photographs events not readily seen by thepublic, such as their tents at night or cooking pots over a fire, or socialgatherings attended by the re-enactors themselves -- with Nash as a participantand witness. She has a wide range to her work, one which captures the ruggedlifestyle of the period and combines the images she finds with aestheticqualities, composition and balance, and colour that adds a quality of pureoptical pleasure. Animating Nash's vision is a feeling for good design, and acool reportorial eye, especially in works such as "Sleep of theFallen," which gives her work a slightly mysterious air, as if she wereharbouring secrets about the images she presents. The result is that herphotographs extend beyond mere appealing commodities to embrace almost everyconceivable dimension of the war environment.


Arthurs, by contrast, has used a reservedtouch and wary mood to convey his vision of the conflict, utilizing the aerialview which is such an important part of his work. His approach has evolved fromsomething deeply inward from about 1975, the year before his graduating year atthe Ontario College of Art in Toronto. During his time at the school, he had studiedwith five teachers who were widely diverse as artists, ranging in their workfrom figural abstraction (with Graham Coughtry) to detailed representation(with Hugh Mackenzie). Arthurs was a student in the experimental area of artand felt that each of his teachers, though diametrically different, had aquality uniquely his own but one from which he could learn. The result in hisown work was a form of appeasement of what he saw as a confrontation of different modes. "I wanted to paint what I thought would be best for me to paint, something that was within me," he recalled later, in 1981.


Out of his memory he drew a recollection of childhood play and specifically a memory of toy soldiers which he had focusedon using in a sandbox. As he reminisced, he discovered a new and potent sourcefor his work -- one which could unite the disparate elements of his training. An aerial view, as though posed over his play toys, became his wellspring and allowed him a great variety of approach. As he said, "I look at my aerial views as cartooning formalized art, the sense of line, flow, movement. "But combined with this level is another, a sense of something larger than formalized art, for Arthurs through his art is dealing with history and with the contemporary world. War is his favourite subject, but he also has painted cyclingevents (in 2003 he was selected as the official artist for the World RoadCyling Championships). His vision gives his chosen theme a sense of the stage-set, along with a choreography of forms. Typically, we see figures from above set on a colourful background. In his depictions of the War of 1812, forinstance, we find people, often soldiers or members of the First Nations,involved in different interactions, often battles, horses and flags, as well ascircular trees, and geometrical shapes which suggest buildings, combined withstraight lines which suggest roads. Arthurs always titles his work suggestively to imply or hint at social and historical interactions and linguistic analogies to the visual images. Besides giving us a few words on the meaning of theevent, he may also tell us part of the story of the moment in history. In the show,for instance, he titled a street scene, "The Pugilists: Baltimore Riots ofJune, 1812; Blowing off steam is in our hard-drive. It's part of the DNA. How it's channelled is the Measure of a civilization." He titled three battlescenes as follows: "The Battle of Chateauguay: In defence of Montreal;...they cannot pass, they shall not pass!," "TheBattle of Stoney Creek: ...just then the sound of Geese overhead rendered the scene below as Truly Canadian," and "Battle of Crysler's Farm, November 11, 1813; Carnage and chaos. Invasion stopped cold in its tracks."


His work today has developed from years ofreflection related to war in general, specifically applied to the War of 1812.He has been at pains to try to present a balanced view, one that suggests thesocial and psychological aspects of the combatants. For this reason, his titlessuggest universal subjects that extend beyond the time frame of the show."Essentially," as he writes, "I follow the flow of each specific engagement, researching time of the day and direction of the attack but for thesake of the composition, some invention is necessary and so I may createbacklit burning tents and supplies to illuminate night battles -- the battle of Stoney Creek, for instance, took place at night. However, I try to be as accurate as I can,  using a wide variety of sources."


Arthurs sees his work as having fivedimensions, from the first level and its reference to experiences of earlychildhood, to a second level in which he views the scene from on high, askinghimself questions related to destiny, fate, life and death, to a third level whichhe considers the metaphysical and more of an exercise in philosophical concerns, to a fourth level in which he views the work as though he were a timetraveler. The fifth level he leaves to the viewer to consider, but feels that it deals with the perspective of the cannonball at its apex, hovering for a few seconds in the sky before its earthbound descent. "You are headed plummeting downward towards a point of finality which has its own, very subtle message," he has said.


Thus, the two artists in the show bothcompliment and diversify our reading of the war. Nash gives us a compelling vision of it close-up, Arthurs an overview. Their feel for the colour and sense of rhythm of the war is particularly acute. The show does a service by reminding us of the serious nature of the conflict and spells out the many issues it raised. In a curious way, Nash preserves in photographs incidents of which wehave no photographic record and Arthurs views of the battlefield that we would otherwise not know. You might call it a trick of history that they seem to supply us with such an amazingly vivid depiction of the past.

 

Stephen's Analysis: Battle of Chateauguay

Posted on September 13, 2012 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (0)

"Battle of Chateauguay: In defence of Montreal,they cannot pass, they shall not pass!" by Stephen J. Arthurs


Anaylsis:

This scene depicts the Voltiguers Canadien blocking theAmerican invasion attempting to attack Montreal.

I have chosen to paint the Canadians in a slightly smallerscale to better portray how they were outnumbered by their Americancounterparts and emphasize psychological intimidation. The Canadians defensiveposition is manned behind a barrier of fallen logs chopped from intermittentstands of trees. This is to clear their field of fire as much as provideprotection while on the firing line. This is evident by the remaining treetrunks, denoting a no mans land between combatants.

The Indians engage the Americans as skirmishers drawing theAmerican forward  into range of theCanadian defenders just prior to unleashing their volley fire.

As the battle was based on subterfuge and concealment, Ihave used lush greens to reinforce the use of cover.

Flickers of smoke by discharged muskets break horizontally acrossthe field indicate the closeness of action about to unfold. Warrior facial warpaint breaks the monotone of uniforms, conforming to the individualism ofaboriginal warfare.

While some wounded French-Canadian indicate prior shotsbeing fired and hits scored, the real action is about to commence.

 

Stephen's Analysis : Battle of Crysler's Farm

Posted on September 13, 2012 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (0)

"Battle of Crysler’s Farm, November 11, 1813: Carnage and Chaos, Invasion stopped cold in it’s tracks" by Stephen J. Arthurs

Analysis

I included the date because of the significance of the day105 years later. We tend not to think about the warriors of 1812-1814 when weobserve Remembrance Day.

This three to four hour battle takes place the mid-morningafter a torrential rain the night before. Men on both sides are cold and hungry.

Witnesses nearby on their farms report hearing the massivevolley fire of the British verses the ragged popping of American muskets. Ihave depicted how the US attacks were uncoordinated and a unit breaks beforethe disciplined musketry of the Brits, running in broken lines to escape.

The ground would have been muddy and soaked with smallstreams, ponds, and a near shallow water table being close to the St LawerenceRiver.

A second unit on the left is just advancing as the Britishline straightens before delivering another whopping fusillade.

The center plane is clearing as smoke disapates after twovolleys. The American dead and wounded lie in two discernible lines, eachreflecting the calculable casualties relative to distance from the musket men.

As US and British infantry lie about the field, their crossbelts are symbolic of being walking “targets”; X marks the spot.

It is only the faces of the dead that can be seen, face upto the viewer with a strong intent to haunt the viewer with a wasted and spentforce, the blood life of a generation.

With the British fighting set battles and losing more men ina single engagement in Europe than all the available forces in all of theCanada’s.

The frugalness of Provost to marshal his resources hasnecessitated that British tactics reflect a high yield of enemy casualties versetheir own loses.

As both US commanders were laid up sick on the day of thebattle, I project this on the retreat of the US soldiers. There is no commanderto slow their retreat and reform them. This is to contrast with the Britishofficer directing and co-ordinating his force to counter a much largeropponent.

 

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Posted on September 9, 2012 at 8:20 AM Comments comments (0)

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