Adrian Stimson’s bison paintings force viewers to reckon with Canada’s colonial history

by AryanArtnews
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A lonely bison walks through the snow-covered prairie plains, surrounded by rich colors of red and dark brown. Otherwise it is the only sign of life in a barren landscape.

Variations on this image will appear many times in Alberta’s indigenous artist Adrian Stimson’s first solo exhibition in Europe on May 16th in London, England.

Stimson has his collection Manifest Buffalo: Bison’s DreamCreate a space for people to engage in conversations with indigenous peoples about the dark history of Canada.

The title of the exhibition is in favor of “Manifest Destiny,” a 19th-century cultural belief that North American settlers were destined to colonize the continent.

Adrian Stimson is from Alberta, who won the Governor of Visual Arts Award in 2018, the Blackfoot Visual Arts Award in 2009, the Alberta Centennial Memorial Medal in 2005, and the Golden Jubilee Medal of Queen Elizabeth II in 2003. A famous indigenous artist. (Lauren Sproule / CBC)

“As humans, we all have to get along, but that doesn’t mean we have to forget what happened, because when we forget what happened … it keeps happening. “Member 58-year-old Stimson said.Siksika First Nation talked to CBC on the opening night

With 36 paintings specially created for the exhibition, Stimson rethinks Bison in various scenes. Surrounded by a pipeline. The calf plays around with the calf and jumps in the air, with an oil rig in the background.

Bison has been incorporated into Stimson’s work since he began painting in 1999. This picture shows a jumping calf and an oil pump jack side by side. (Lauren Sproule / CBC)

This centuries-old juxtaposition of prairie icons roaming next to modern items such as planes was not lost to art fan Adam Heaton, who visited the exhibition on the opening night.

“The past, present, and future themes are underway here, but I’m not sure what the future is. There are inherent tensions,” says Heaton.

“This is something different”

Stimson’s collection, housed in a small gallery of art advisory and appraisal group Gurr Johns, is a welcome change in genre from the work of Old Master, who adorned the walls of the space just a week ago, said the senior director. Spencer Ewen said.

“This is another thing, but it’s just as effective and just as relevant,” Ewen said.

Manifest Buffalo: Bison Dream Present 6, oil and graphite on canvas. (Adrian Stimson)

He recalled the importance of indigenous voices with a platform at the historic Pall Mall, “Fortress of Traditional Art,” which was at the heart of London’s fine arts scene in the early 19th century.

Formerly home to the Royal Academy of Arts, the National Gallery and Christie’s Auction House, the artist authorized to develop and exhibit this work was a white European man.

Not only indigenous, but also having a gender-bending alter ego called Buffalo Boy, Stimson offers a strong contrast.

Manifest Buffalo, which opened in London on May 16, is Adrian Stimson’s first solo exhibition in Europe. Other solo exhibitions will be held in Germany and Japan next year. (Lauren Sproule / CBC)

Stimson’s solo debut in Europe was attended by Jonathan Sauve, Head of Public Diplomacy at the High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom, and thanked him for bringing Stimson’s art to the United Kingdom.

“Canada has a lot to do … but we really believe that art and culture are probably the best way to advance indigenous reconciliation and expression,” Sauvé said.

Stimson, whose name is Little Brownboy, began painting in 1999 after resigning from his role as a First Nations tribal councilor. He considers himself an interdisciplinary artist, and his sculptures, photographs and performances have been published throughout Canada and internationally.

This isn’t the first time Stimson’s rethinking of Bison has caught the attention of the London art scene. In 2016, two of his paintings were purchased at the British Museum for the Blackfoot Collection.

The role of bison

Bison’s historical and cultural importance to First Nations is a major part of why animals have become so prominent in his papers, Stimson said.

Manifest Buffalo: Bison Dream Past 1, oil and graphite on canvas. (Adrian Stimson)

As detailed in George Colpitts’ 2014 book, the bison is a source of food and clothing, a spiritual fixture of the sick deer, and, among other purposes, almost completely wiped out by the fur trade. it was done. Pemmican Empire: Food, Trade, Last Bison Hunting on the Plains of North America, 1780–1882..

“Every time I draw a bison, it’s a memory of one of the slaughtered people,” Stimson said.

“At the time of the slaughter, I believe that energy, those particles, were released into space, and I believe that it still exists inside and outside of us. So I am the joy of what I can do as an artist. To reach for that ether, grab that energy, bring it to yourself, and create a piece of work. “

Relationship between shishikanation and crown

At the opening of the exhibition, Stimson welcomed attendees in Blackfoot and said he wore his traditional headdress as a means of taking his ancestors and descendants to the room.

He also wore his regalia, establishing an area of ​​land for the tribe in 1877, promising annual payments from the Queen, and a crown legislated by the signing of a guaranteed treaty. Siksika continued her hunting and capture rights in exchange for transferring her rights to their traditional territory, adding that she reaffirmed the special relationship of the country with.

At the opening, Adrian Stimson welcomed the participants in Blackfoot and wore his traditional headdress. He said it was the way to take his ancestors and descendants into space. (Lauren Sproule / CBC)

Stimson argued that this “country-to-country relationship” remained strong as long as “the sun was shining, grass was growing, and rivers were flowing.”

Manifest Buffalo In the same week that other members of Stimson’s country are traveling to a museum in Exeter, southwest England, to return some items belonging to Crowfoot, the leader of Blackfoot in the late 19th century. Open

Stimson himself was invited to participate. As former President of the First Nations Federal Center for Cultural Education, Stimson said he had “submitted many laws” regarding the return of historic relics.

The artist said that by “bringing the flock” to London, Bison was once again a means of survival, arousing the painful memories of colonization and teaching the world about the resilience of his people.

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