Forlorn Visitations

Written by Nat Cann

Photo: Forlorn Visitations, Memory. Collagraph 14.75″ x 52.5″, set of 4 variable editions. Fox jaw courtesy of taxidermist Cheryl Johnson w/ installation of a cottage kitchen. Photo credit: Sarah Fuller.

Exhibited this past fall at Winnipeg’s Martha Street Studio, Forlorn Visitations is a detailed series of repetitious print-made investigations into the depths of New Brunswick – the backroads and little lost places within central Atlantic Canada. Not only was it my first comprehensive and thematic solo exhibition in years, but it was also a sharing of local tales outside the quietness of the Maritimes. In that sharing flourished critical discussions of commorancy, climate, and past snuffed economic aspirations that seemed all too customary. It was an accord to both artist and viewer that Maritime issues arisen from colonial decisions have kinship across Turtle Island, an understanding not capable without funding from artsnb’s extensive programs. Yet, some reflection is required to truly appreciate their contributions to this sharing of stories.

Photos: Fresh Snow and Fresh Snow (detail). Etching, set of 6, editions of 21. Print 2″ diameter w/ collected keys. Photo credit: Sarah Fuller.

Photo: Stoic. Acetone monoprints and dentil blocks, 16″x60″ Print. Photo credit: Sarah Fuller.

In early 2020, before the world had its collective breakdown, I had traveled to the Magdalen Islands of Quebec for a two week residency co-funded through artsnb’s Career Development Program – Artist in Residence component, and the host organization: AdMare, Centre d’artistes en art actuel des Îles-de-la-Madeleine. This visitation resulted in a series of work inquiring upon the archipelago’s isles, a place of things well painted. And while the intention with this residency was to find that which draws people to places of expulsion, cold waters and winds, it was found to be a mixture of everything sprinkled in francophone culture via the Acadian expulsion and how said migration has claimed this land, particularly the many lush houses of untameable colors. Houses not painted to match their wild surroundings, rather, to emulate them – a land of Well Painted Places (Kara Au). It’s an idea that extends to almost every corner of the isles, from their boats to the dog’s house; everything has a style formed, finalized, and withstanding.

Photo: Lost. Acetone monoprints. Unknown Paper. 18×24 Print. Photo credit: Sarah Fuller.

Photos: Well Painted Places, Admare, Îles de la Madeleine, Quebec. Installation, Acetone & Xylene photo transfer types. Various shells & sand dollars, lobster bobs, broken glass/glasses, beer cans, milk containers, foam and driftwood.  18” x 24” Print. Photo credit: Nat Cann (left) and Nigel Quinn (right).

This inquiry into Quebec’s lonesome archipelago sparked a yearning for deeper narratives tying colonial subjects to environmental issues, economic impacts, histories, heritages, and so on. Communal tales seemingly extending to every corner, hamlet and forgotten place within the Maritimes, and through cross country residencies funded by artsnb, finding kinship with further places. Still, amongst that communal experience existed a quietness only tangible with accountability; forgotten communities, compliance with pre WW2 Jewish interment and embattlement regarding Indigenous fishing rights to name a few. All things sheltered behind archives, rumour, and the penultimate product of colonization in the form of extraction, of heavy oil based industries, agriculture, aquaculture, and all things forestry. Cities of bricks savouring a faddily documented history, something which original peoples have had little say in or in the outcomes of said industries taking shape as a shifting climate.

Photo: The Neighborhood. Relief Print 18″ x 24″ each, Variable Editions of 22, unframed. Basswood, Red Tape, Pencil Crayon on reclaimed paper. Photo credit: Nat Cann.

Of course, it’s very easy to get absorbed in that past, it’s raptly designed that way for the heritage-infatuated and those like myself who can’t help but pry things apart. I’d be lying in saying I wasn’t intrigued by the allure of Victorian homesteads and tall brownstone townhouses, to fall for the dissuading hand-wave against current issues in favour of what has already transpired. Yet when looking at current affairs, it always seems to be a matter of aftermaths either ignored, forgotten, or wilfully unremarked. It’s a cyclical affair that doesn’t want to end in an era when so many things need to. And it’s very easy to get lost in that business, to become as forlorn as all the other legends.

Photo: The Neighborhood. Relief Print 18″ x 24″ each, Variable Editions of 22, unframed. Basswood, Red Tape, Pencil Crayon on reclaimed paper. Photo credit: Nat Cann.

Thankfully, with the assistance of artsnb’s programing in creation and presentation, the Canada Council, and so many other acquaintances, this accumulation of work was able to come to fruition and find a greater national and international audience. That’s not to say Forlorn has reached any sort of conclusion. There are still so many stories to exhume and share.

Nat Cann’s (he/him) work hones upon the haunting of lands—relentless industries keeping afloat Canadian notions of colonialist heritage, intentions which often find themselves misguided and victim to degradation by nature, time, economics, and shifts in our understanding. This printed matter is often paired with minor installation so as to further query a place, what haunts said place, and inquisitive draw of such places, systems and traditions. And more often than not does this intrigue lead to different tales, things acting as a commutation of histories, landscapes, peoples, something sacred or something scarred.

Nat Cann has exhibited both in Canada and internationally, and has gratefully acted as a mentor, instructor, and technical assistant to numerous students and professionals unversed in printmaking. Nat has been granted residencies across Canada and his recent print projects have been commissioned by numerous organizations. His residencies have taken him to nearly every corner of Canada and his efforts in these endeavours have been consistently supported by artsnb’s Career Development, Creation & Documentation programs. Nat obtained a BFA from Mount Allison University (2012) and now resides in Moncton, New Brunswick, a colonial city which sits on the unceded territory of the Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) and Mi’kmaq Peoples.

Photo Credit: Holly Brown Bear

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Instagram: @nattcann