By Joseph Fusco, The Guard –
Every two years, the Canadian War Museum hosts a special exhibit dedicated to the Canadian Armed Forces Artist Program (CFAP), where talented civilian artists get to display the artwork they’ve created through this partnership established in 2001 between the Museum and the Directorate of History and Heritage, Department of National Defence.
For 2020, the exhibit is displaying art done by six civilians who were chosen to work in close quarters with members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) between 2016 and 2018. While some years of CFAP have had the artists travel the globe with deployed members of the CAF, the focus for this year’s group was to remain on Canadian soil to see how members of the CAF work at home. The 2020 cohort – Philip Cheung, Rosalie Favell, Aislinn Hunter, Simone Jones, Emmanuelle Léonard, and Andreas Rutkauskas, observed search-and-rescue operations, avalanche control, and multinational military exercises. The exhibition also includes a drawing by Inuit artist Timootee (Tim) Pitsiulak, who participated in CFAP in 2010 and based his drawing in part upon his own experiences as a member of the Canadian Rangers.
“Military art has long played an important role in depicting Canadian history,” said Caroline Dromaguet, Acting Director General of the War Museum. “We are pleased to be presenting a display of works created by CFAP artists at the Museum. The works created by this particular group of artists reflect contemporary themes that resonate broadly, and will contribute to an understanding of what it means to serve with the Canadian military on the home front.”
While some may believe that art’s sole form is found in paintings, the art on display in the CFAP – Group 8 ranged from photographs, to drawings, to narrative documentaries, to portraits, and video clips. The various forms of art allows for museum visitors to experience different emotions and connect differently to each artists’ work, all in their own way.
Every piece of art has a connection to the CAF, even if the artist have absolutely no relation to the organization. A few of the artists that the Guard had a chance to speak with had the underlying thought that even though they have no immediate relation to the CAF, they felt it was almost an obligation as a Canadian citizen to go and see what it is like to be part of the CAF. Aislinn Hunter is the creator of “A word and a body are not the same thing”, a video dedicated to the training for Exercise PRECISE RESPONSE, an annual multinational NATO exercise held at CFB Suffield in Alberta. She told the Guard “There is always distant respect for our men and women in uniform, but once you are with them up close like I was for nine days, you start to feel even more respect than before. Being that close bridges the gap from being a civilian to being a military member.”
While the main theme for this exhibit was Northern Canada, some artists did not have the chance to reach our country’s most northern lands. That did not stop artists like Simone Jones, who created the Narrative Documentary “Rescue”, from creating her artwork. “I wanted to go up north,” she said “but there was no doubt in my mind that even if I did not get the chance, I wanted to partake in this fantastic opportunity.” Simone ended up being sent to CFB Gander, NL to capture the work of 103 Search and Rescue Squadron. Her work was incredibly rigorous as all five days of her deployment were spent onboard SAR helicopters while the SAR team was undergoing training exercises. It was not until her fifth and final day when a call came in. It was then she knew this call was going to be the heart of her narrative documentary. A portion of the documentary that Simone highlighted was the element of comparison. “The juxtaposition that was created between my close friend Corporal Danno Schut who worked with the 442 Squadron at CFB Comox, who is now retired and a brand new member of the SAR team at CFB Gander, was a part of my work that I took extreme pride in,” she explained.
As stated, one of the core themes was for several artists to travel to the Canadian North and spend time with the various groups of CAF members who are deployed there. Philip Cheung was one of the six artists who was lucky enough to have that chance fulfilled. He deployed with Operation NANOOK in Rankin Inlet and accompanied a separate Canadian Ranger Patrol based out of Taloyoak, Nunavut. Philip was also one of the few artists who has a direct relation to the CAF, as he was a Reservist as a teenager and trained with the Gjoa Haven Patrol in King William Island, in Northern Canada. “I want my photos to resonate with viewers in a variety of ways. I want them to see the Canadian Rangers in the North, but at the same time, I want them to see what post-Afghanistan era looks like for CAF members,” he shared. “I feel like my pictures are able to convey those messages.” Philip found that spending almost three weeks in Northern Canada allowed him to capture the essence of CAF life while at the same time, being able to solidify the message(s) his pictures were conveying.
Canadian Armed Forces Artist Program – Group 8 at the Canadian War Museum opened on 13 February, 2020 and will be presented to the public until 18 May, 2020. For more information on the exhibit visit https://www.warmuseum.ca/event/the-canadian-forces-artists-program-group-8/, and if you’d like to know more about the Canadian Armed Forces Artist Program visit https://www.canada.ca/en/services/defence/caf/showcasing/artists-program.html
Photos courtesy of the Canadian War Museum
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