Landscapes in Peril

September 7 – October 26, 2019
Opening reception: Saturday, September 7, 2019 from 3-5 p.m.
Adam Gunn & Holly King : Landscapes in Peril
Art Mûr Montreal, QC

Text by Katherine Lissitsa

Whether it be crystalline lakes, lush forests or seemingly endless rolling hills, the environments which encompass nature’s wonders often evoke beauty, awe and grandeur. But although their magnitude may suggest strength, some natural landscapes have fallen victim to the perilous process of climate change. Through the works presented in Landscapes in Peril, artists Holly King and Adam Gunn highlight nature’s underlying fragility and the consequent need to preserve and protect the places we call home.

King’s interpretation of nature’s struggle takes the shape of small-format oil paintings, which depict landscapes merged with vessels that work to destroy or protect the environment above them. The imagery contained within the vessels at times represents a threat symbolizing global climate change, or a solution to it. In Barbed Paradise (2019), a dreamlike island runs the risk of being tangled with barbed wires rising from below, while Arid Storm (2019) portrays how the preservation of water keeps a verdant land from turning arid. And the topic also translates into King’s large-scale paintings. Namely, the black ovals masking parts of the landscape in Blindspots (2019) signify the action of turning a blind eye to the changes occurring in nature, and thereby expressing a lack of empathy and responsibility to the issues at hand.

Gunn’s paintings, originally showcased as part of his series Island of the Dead (2019), continue to delve into climate change through the depiction of romantic, yet desolate seascapes. Borrowing from naturalist Tim Flannery’s “vision of a world with a dead purple ocean and a poisonous green sky,” Gunn’s vivid paintings point to a dystopian future in which nature has suffered the consequences of global warming, leaving little life behind. “This stark yet colourful world will be sublimely beautiful, but there will be no one around to see it,” writes Gunn of his work. 

Conversely, King’s photographs of antique glass bowls offer a sense of relief by echoing conservation and celebration. Shot against a dramatically dark backdrop, miniature landscapes are seen safely nestled within ornate crystal bowls dating back to the 1800s — glassware which was historically used for special occasions.

Despite the inherent beauty of natural landscapes, the combined works of Holly King and Adam Gunn in Landscapes in Peril remind the viewer that nature is not necessarily powerful and permanent. Rather, the paintings and photographs reflect on how nature’s beauty is slowly deteriorating and decaying as a result of cataclysmic change.

Holly King is a Montreal-based artist whose career spans over three decades. King is known for her large-format photographs of imagined landscapes that look at the tension between artifice and illusion, which she creates with the use of sculptural elements and painted backdrops.

Originally from Halifax, Adam Gunn is a painter whose practice was born out of a desire to subvert the traditional genre of still life. Interested in the unplanned, his most recent work is created through a partially improvised process. 

Adam Gunn would like to thank the Joseph Plaskett Foundation for the support that was given through the Nancy Petry Art Award. Holly King would like to thank the Concordia University CUPFA Professional Grant with special thanks to Devon Corman.