The Dubawnt River Art Expedition
One of the most difficult things about trying to produce artwork
as part of an Arctic expedition isn’t the cold and unruly
weather. “The hardest thing was the bugs,” laughs artist
Christine Persaud. “If you look closely at the finished piece,
you can see them painted over.”
Persaud, who lives in Ottawa, was part of a fourwoman team sponsored
by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society that spent a month last
summer canoeing Nunavut’s Dubawnt River, and capturing
the experience on video, film and a giant fiveby- seven-foot canvas.
The expedition aimed to document the trip for both educational
and artistic purposes. Persaud’s photographs and film — shot
with support from the National Film Board — show the group
meeting other travellers along the river and includes interviews
with them about their reasons for tackling such challenging northern
excursions. “I was trying to show what connects us to the
land,” she says.
Persaud, who has a background in fine arts and film studies,
says the chance to paint was a nice break from the documentary
work of video and photography.
But travelling with such a large canvas wasn’t easy. She
kept her artwork rolled up in a plastic plumbing pipe that doubled
as a structural support for some of the group’s shelters.
Persaud says the purpose of carrying the large canvas during
the entire expedition was to paint on it continually so that the
land’s textures and colours could permeate the canvas.
And permeate it did. Since the tight schedule didn’t allow
for her to stop regularly to work on it during the day, Persaud
painted on the uneven ground only when they were pinned down by
weather or when they completed their paddling a bit early.
“Painting distracted me from the logistical part of the
trip and had me think about the beauty and the landscape,” she
says. “It allowed me to create and think in abstraction.”
— Jacques Krzepkowski
Photographs courtesy of Margo Millette