Michael Belmore. Édifice, 2019. River boulders, copper, 485.3 kg. Purchase, with funds by exchange from Professor and Mrs. Wm. O. Fennell, Toronto, in memory of J.H. Birkenshaw, and The J.S. McLean Collection, by Canada Packers Inc., 2019. © Michael Belmore. Photo by Michael Belmore.
“Copper is the warmth, it is the fire, and it is the worth we take from the land – the hidden value locked within stone.” – Michael Belmore
For Anishinaabe artist Michael Belmore, copper is an important element in his artworks. Like the burning embers of a fire – a fire battling destruction – copper radiates in Édifice and Breadth, on view in the AGO’s newly opened exhibition.
Working primarily in sculpture, Belmore incorporates an array of materials, including varieties of wood, stone and metal. Édifice and Breadth exemplify key themes in Belmore’s practice: Anishinaabe identity and the impact of North American settlers on the land and animals. Drawing inspiration from his surroundings, he explores narratives of land extraction, our relationship to these activities and the impact they impose on the Earth. Though his sculptures conceptualize themes of death and desolation, his use of copper breathes life into his work.
Carved in sandstone and copper, Édifice (pictured above) represents the relations between Indigenous Nations and what would become Canada. The square patterning of the sculpture represents the land and offers commentary on Indigenous and settler relations over the last 500 years, citing histories of migration, displacement, erasure and resilient ties of community. Lined with copper leaf, the stones seem to radiate heat. The life force of the Earth breaks through the édifice of colonialism and nationalism.
In Breadth, Belmore reflects on the tragic intersection of urban environments and the wild through this sculpture of roadkill. Made of Raku-fired clay, the fawn is rendered lifeless in its positioning but radiates life through the glow of copper leaf inlays. Take a look at both works in the video below.
See Édifice and Breadth at the AGO on Level 2 in the Mary & Harry Jackman Gallery, gallery 238, on now until March 21, 2021.
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