When one thinks of the term Moving Image, early cinema comes to mind. Yet the term “moving” or “move” has various connotations. In exploring The Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s collection of over 4500 works that range from paintings and sculpture to photography, drawing, prints, installation and video, themes begin to emerge.
Today the unprecedented movement of people around the globe has garnered international concern. In 2013 the United Nations estimated that 232 million people are currently migrating from their original home countries. There are various reasons for these moves: regional conflict, persecution and economics are among the most obvious motives for leaving one’s country of origin. Many are dispossessed and that feeling of rootlessness becomes defining. So too, do we see the mass movement of animals and birds—an instinctual response to changing seasons.
We live in the second largest country in the world with a vast landscape. The wind blowing the wheat of a prairie field, the rushing waters of a mountain stream, the scuttling clouds across a seemingly infinite sky evoke a sense of constant movement. Our history is in the land, as indicated in the recently found footprints on Calvert Island that are estimated to be over 13,000 years old. Yet disputes about this land also shape identities: from those who choose to define Canada as a coast-to-coast-to-coast nation whose borders (particularly the northern border) must be protected from other nations, to those who question the land rights within these borders based on ignored treaties brought to light most recently in the Idle No More movement.
The RMG collection, strongly defined by mid-century modernism, holds examples of movement in abstraction—colour and line creating illusions of motion. There are also emotionally moving images, both individual and collective, and, too, the physical movement of animal and humans.
There are many entry points into works from a collection that began with a generous gift of thirty-seven works by Painters Eleven member Alexandra Luke. The collection itself is forever moving—new acquisitions making new entry points and connections possible. As the RMG’s mandate makes clear, the gallery is a place dedicated to sharing, exploring and engaging with our communities through the continuing story of modern and contemporary Canadian art.