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Deep Cuts - Exposition personnelle de Rhonda Barrett

Artist Statement about the show:


The Group of Seven, though admittedly a plein air collective more interested in landscape than human activity, is nonetheless nowadays implicated by critics squarely within the colonial project we currently call “Canada”, for the vast and empty wildernesses in their paintings. This “terra nullius” – this empty “nobody’s land” in their work – was of course teeming with life, abundantly populated. The so-called “NDN Group of Seven” (PNIAI) made this clear. The series I present here carries the conversation forward, studying the spread of terra nullius throughout postwar Canadian culture; which anybody who has lived for a few decades watched very quickly become only so much paper garbage. I happen to like this paper garbage, these discarded Screen Romance magazines, the Chatelaine’s boldly proclaiming “Canadian women are masochists” while ol’ bucktooth hisself, Pierre Elliot, bares his chompers wide and broad across the cover. There is an actual landscape underneath, there is a territory the disposable map covers. To find these landscapes, to see the land, here are some rules I made up and followed:

1. Each work must be a publication either made in Canada or ostensibly about Canada or Canadian culture. Each page is to be affixed by spray adhesive to the surface in turn, one over the other. Covering the canvas or wood panel.
2. Once the pages have dried, every right corner is to be picked at and pulled, so tears appear in the pulp overgrowth.
3. Once the tears are completed, and no more finger holds and right corners can be seen, the brush is to be cut back by scraping tools. Artist discretion is here allowed to interact dialectically with the pulp, as they hack at the surface until a slurry of color and scabs and wounds appear.
4. Artists may or may not apply paint or marker to any canvas/wood panel areas exposed by the process of hacking (3 above). Here discretion is encouraged as well: the resulting landscape MUST be a dialectic between mass culture and individual, the psyche overwhelmed and drowned by the red tide of gloss and paper garbage that swelled over the land, covered the land with its technicolor repeating images, transformed the very mud beneath our feet into an imaginary psychic landscape, the terra nullius waiting to be filled by postwar consumer “Canada”, the landscape first clearcut by Group of Seven, Wartime propaganda, schools.
5. (2)-(3) may be repeated as often as necessary, until the artist is satisfied. If they decide it is necessary, the entire process of (1)-(5) may be repeated on top of the initial canvas. I call this “same publication, next decade”.
6. When the work is done, resist the urge to tinker or toy with to make it seem
prettier or somehow satisfy someone else’s notion of what “art” should be. We
are not in the realm of art, after all. We are now in the world of psychic

Terra Nullius (1).jpg
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