Gwen MacGregor

Circumference/Circumstance

Part A: Circumference

installation

six looped videos, carpet, tablecloth, cans and boxes of food—all inserted into the historical galleries of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 2015

In the summer of 2015 the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria presented a comprehensive exhibition of the work of Jock MacDonald from The Painters Eleven. I was invited by curator Michelle Jacques to create work in response. Jock MacDonald kept a diary starting in 1935 during an eighteen month period while he and his family lived on Nootka Island. This diary became the centre point in time for the creation of the installation. Circumference, then, refers both to a kind of demarcation of time and place centred on Jock MacDonald, the Mowachaht-Muchalaht who historically called Nootka home (but now mostly only based in Yuquot) and the island itself.

The exhibition consists of five main elements. Six videos shot on Nootka are accompanied by photos of details of Jock MacDonald’s paintings that relate to the period: a Stewardship Map of Nootka reproduced as a carpet and placed on the floor; an accompanying legend turned into a rubber ‘Welcome Mat’ inside the door of the gallery; and Jock MacDonald’s diary reproduced on a tablecloth that is draped over the table in the Kearly gallery. These are accompanied by examples of drygoods that MacDonald listed in his diary that were necessary for his stay on Nootka, placed in the glass cases in the gallery where usually china plates and cups are displayed.

Circles of politics, history and artmaking are brought together by combining these interventions with the dominant Victorian(ish) architecture of the rooms. It is also the intent, however, to puncture the hermetic state of the rooms and to allow through a living, changing understanding of MacDonald’s experience of Nootka and the effect the island had on his art practice.

Jock MacDonald’s diary
Stewardship Map of Nootka as a carpet
welcome mat
drygoods
photograph of a detail of a painting by Jock MacDonald
photograph of a detail of a painting by Jock MacDonald
one of six Nootka videos (installation view)
one of six Nootka videos (installation view)
one of six Nootka videos (installation view)
one of six Nootka videos (installation view)
one of six Nootka videos (installation view)
one of six Nootka videos (excerpt)
one of six Nootka videos (excerpt)
Gwen MacGregor :  Circumstance

Circumference/Circumstance

Part B: Circumstance, with Paƛšiʔaƛma (The Fire is Just Starting)

intervention by Emily Luce and Rodney Sayers

six looped videos, smokehouse constructed from Vancouver Island sourced cedar and fir, steel, glass, 120 × 120 × 200 cm; exhibited at the Art Gallery of Victoria, fall 2015; feast dinner including numerous salmon dishes with walnut and cranberry cake served in the exhibition, November 2015

Part B of this exhibition presented an additional set of videos on the flat screen monitors. As well, the artists Emily Luce and Rodney Sayers were invited to intervene in the exhibition. I invited some questions about making cultural references (or not) in artworks across indigenous/non indigenous lines; and relationships to the land and its representation (also across indigenous/non indigenous lines). This started a conversation that is ongoing. Luce and Sayers created Paƛšiʔaƛma (The Fire is Just Starting) on their land in Port Alberni that was used to smoke salmon. It was then dismantled and reassembled at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Paƛšiʔaƛma (The Fire is Just Starting) works with two forces quietly present in the diary of Jock MacDonald during his year on Nootka Island, when he made the breakthrough in his work towards abstraction. The first is his wife, Barbara Niece MacDonald, whose contribution to that year and that work shouldn’t be understated. The second is the Mowachaht / Muchalaht First Nation, who not only modeled how to live off the land, but, present abstracted forms and concepts in their visual language. These presences are subtly acknowledged alongside the concepts of warmth and food security that the sauna-smokehouse embodies.”

—Emily Luce and Rodney Sayer

The project culminated with a feast in the galleries of food made from the smoked salmon from Paƛšiʔaƛma as well as ingredients brought from Ontario. The food was presented on the tablecloth in the exhibition that was printed with Jock MacDonald’s diary.

Gwen MacGregor :  Circumstance
Gwen MacGregor :  Circumstance
Gwen MacGregor :  Circumstance
Gwen MacGregor :  Circumstance
Gwen MacGregor :  Circumstance
Gwen MacGregor :  Circumstance
Gwen MacGregor :  Circumstance