Craig Commanda is a multidisciplinary artist from Kitigan Zibi who works primarily with video and beadwork while also expressing himself through other traditional techniques and music. His approach is marked by a desire to re-establish the Anishinabe culture while taking a spiritual and poetic look at nature in his work. His most recent projects include a dialogue between mysterious sculptural beadwork and video sequences animated by the appearance of animal spirits. The artist holds a degree in film from Concordia University and lives and works primarily in Montreal. His work was exhibited at the Pierre-François Ouellette Gallery in Montreal in 2022, presented by the BACA Biennale, as well as at the Festival des films sur l’art (FIFA) in 2023 and has been shown at various international film festivals.
This collaborative project brought together a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous visual artists who were asked to express their own vision of the idea of territory, using the urban landscape of the Ottawa-Gatineau region for their inspiration. It was organized in conjunction with the Mauril-Bélanger Social Innovation Workshop, an organization working for justice and social transformation.
During two walking tours and a workshop, participants had an opportunity to rediscover two historic sites undergoing major urban transformations. On May 13, the poet and Kitigan Zibi Elder Albert Dumont led a walking tour during which he explained the cultural significance and sacredness of the Akikodjiwan site (Chaudière Falls) for the Anishinaabe Nation. On May 14, historian Michel Prévost gave a presentation, followed by a discussion workshop, about the history of the LeBreton Flats and Chaudière Falls and the many transformations that occurred there in the past or are planned for the future. This is also an important area for the capital’s French-speaking community.
The key topics for discussion during this workshop were nature, the post-industrial urban setting and the democratic process. These encounters initiated a dialogue between local residents from different generations and cultures about the transformations of the landscape brought about by major real estate projects underway in the capital.
The artists were asked to create an artistic restitution by drawing upon the discussion topics for inspiration and, to varying degrees, addressing the issues that came up in the workshop. Employing various approaches, they brought their own visions to bear, using both traditional and updated practices, such as contemporary beadwork or photographic or technology-based tools such as 3D modelling. Echoing the legacy of Jean Paul Riopelle, the artists’ works raise questions in equal measure about landscapes, nature and what is sacred. The urban territory is analyzed in Mathieu Gagnon’s images and reproduced as a motif in Mathilde Forest’s work. A bestiary (medieval book of beasts) comes to mind when viewing the masterful materiality of Craig Commanda’s work, while Jobena Petonoquot’s work conveys a profound symbolism.
The project will end in the late summer with an outdoor exhibition at the SAW Gallery in Ottawa’s Arts Court. During a presentation given by the artists at the opening on July 4, the public will learn more about the project and be able to participate in a continuation of the discussions initiated during this cultural mediation exercise.
Realized within the framework of the centenary
The creation of the Foundation was inspired by the dream of Jean Paul Riopelle, who wished to pass on his passion for art, his vision and inspire the next generation of artists to explore, innovate and surpass their creative potential.