With current events having regrettably forced the temporary closure of Canada Gallery, the High Commission of Canada’s Cultural Diplomacy team have been hard at work to bring McMaster’s exhibition alive online in the new Virtual Canada Gallery. Here you can explore all the works featured in the show with exclusive, never-before-seen artist commentary and audio-visual elements. We thank the artist, Meryl McMaster, curators Verity Seward and Oceana Masterman-Smith of The Baldwin Gallery, IKON Gallery in Birmingham, and the Dahdaleh Foundation for their support.
Meryl McMaster is a Canadian artist, living and working in Ottawa. She describes her work as sculptural photography — incorporating props, constructed garments and performance to examine her sense of identity and selfhood. McMaster has dual heritage and is Nêhiyaw (Plains Cree) and a member of the Siksika First Nation on her father’s side and has British, Dutch and Scottish ancestry on her mother’s side. For her latest series, As Immense as the Sky (2019), McMaster set out to gather the wisdom and folklore of relatives on both sides of her heritage.
She traveled to sites of ancestral significance across Canada following waterways and ancient pitching trails where social, cultural and environmental histories have collided. Her self-portraits reanimate mythology and family anecdotes through her own personally transformative journey through the landscape. The series draws upon themes of memory, migration, genealogy and time as McMaster retraces the footsteps of her ancestors. Her images explore the intersections of both her Indigenous and European heritage whilst revealing Canada’s conflicted colonial legacies. McMaster is represented in London by The Baldwin Gallery, in Toronto by the Stephen Bulger Gallery and in Montréal by Pierre-François Ouellette Art Contemporain.
To listen to alongside McMaster’s images is the music of Polaris Prize winning, Jeremy Dutcher. A member of the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, Jeremy first did music studies in Halifax before taking a chance to work in the archives at the Canadian Museum of History, painstakingly transcribing Wolastoq songs from 1907 wax cylinders. His debut album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa is a response to what he heard in deep dialogue with the voices of his ancestors. Although from different indigenous backgrounds, Dutcher and McMaster share a similar desire to engage in new ways with their ancestral past.