Magnetic North Exhibition | May 17 – July 19, 2014 | TD Gallery

Pamela Meredith: Hello, I’m Pamela Meredith,
Senior Curator at TD Bank, and we’re standing here in the TD Gallery of Inuit Art, and you’re
standing in the TD Gallery at the Toronto Reference Library. Both galleries right now
are filled with work inspired by Mayden, the Arctic. So Magnetic North brings together
two collections, the Toronto Library special collections, and TD’s collection of Inuit
Art and TD’s collection of Contemporary Canadian Art. PM: Maybe we’ll start with a little background,
so in this gallery we have work from the Arctic that was brought together to celebrate Canada’s
Centennial in 1967. So all of the Banks had centennial projects, and the Chairman of TD
at the time, Alan Lambert had spent time in the Arctic and really come to respect the
place and the people, and the art that he saw there, and so a group of consultants amassed
a collection of approximately 1000 pieces, most of them carvings, and most of them live
here now in downtown Toronto in the gallery which is open and free to the public, like
the Toronto Library Gallery. PM: So when we started thinking about this
exhibition, the Toronto Library has an amazing collection of Arctic material, books, journals,
maps, so it seemed like sort of an interesting collaboration to bring together these two
collections. So the idea of Magnetic North was really to explore the enduring pull to
represent this place, this remote place, isolated, beautiful, dangerous, endangered, all of those
things. And so we started together with the library looking at the Arctic materials, looking
at journals with really interesting illustrations. PM: We’ve roughly grouped the works into four
categories. So we have landscape, which is a huge theme; wildlife, another sort of enduring
theme in a lot of the work; people, portraiture and daily life, the rituals in the north.
I think that there will be some really amazing surprises in the show, both in the historical
work and in the contemporary work. I think we’ve come to expect certain kinds of imagery.
We think we know what Inuit Art is. It has a look and feel, but for example, in one of
the sculptural works in the show, “Young Man with MP3,” it’s the beautiful carving in stone,
but the man is holding an iPod, and is wearing baggy jeans. So he’s a real sort of favourite
for a lot of viewers because he does blend the old and the new in such an interesting,
beautiful way. PM: I think one of the most interesting pairings
is between the oldest piece, the oldest work of art in the show, it’s a map, a Mercator
map of the Arctic Circle from the late… Well 1595, and it’s a real blend of mythology
and truth and fact and imagination. And so paired with it we have a work by Shuvinai
Ashoona, a contemporary artist whose working in Cape Dorset. One of my favourite pieces
in the show from the Toronto Library collection is the “Journal of Samuel Smith” who was the
surgeon aboard a ship travelling in the Arctic in 1857, and we’ve selected a couple of pages
for the exhibition, beautiful, exquisite little water colours of the landscape, but what’s
great is that the Toronto Public Library has the entire journal provided digitally on the
Internet, so you can actually read his daily experience of being in the Arctic. PM: I encourage everybody to come and see
this show. Think about the Arctic, think about the North. Maybe it will inspire you to visit
there someday, but I hope you enjoy the show.

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