Denying the literal depiction of landscape in his paintings does not mean that Allan Harding MacKay engages any less with place. It is clear that he is caught up with its drama, its light, and its inevitable evolution. Utilizing a long list of media, including wax and inkjet, the artist manipulates and compresses visual information into a pre-determined squared format that quietly references the sublime intent of 19th C. Romantic landscape technique.
A new series and a farewell - Banff Blue is AHM's final series created in Banff, since, for the time being, he left his home here to return to the east coast.
The artist has long united painting and photography within his practice to position the viewer between illusion and reality. Based on spontaneous snap-shots gathered from his daily walks in Banff, the artist has then altered that image in advance of drawing into it with pastels, ink, charcoal and wax.
This new series of abstracted mountain scenes evoke mystery among the mists and trees, referencing the artist's earlier Banff, Boreal and Boreal Smoldering Series, all the while putting forward ideas of sublime other worlds, enigmatic endings and new beginnings.
Within a 21st C. context, this powerful combination invites evocations of moody sublimity, contemplation of the art history of landscape, as well as introspection of our reactions to environment – dramatic or otherwise.
Allan Harding MacKay is in the trees, the mists and the snow. This work is not literal landscape. Harding MacKay engages with drama and light, the clash of weather systems (pushing plausibility), references to 19th C. Romantic landscape techniques, in addition to employing exaggerated form by compressing the visual information into a pre-determined format.
"I have always been attracted to transitions that seem to occur with the clash of weather systems and the formidable clouds and dramatic skies that result. This Banff Series is based on the observations and images I gathered from the viewpoint of my studio and transformed the digital sources into the traditional materials of charcoal, chalk pastel, oil pastel, wax, damar and oil on paper."
I create artwork in locations where weather systems clash and evolve into subject matter for works of high drama and intrigue. On May 1, 2016 a forest fire began to engulf the community of Fort McMurray and its surroundings, eventually affecting approximately 590,000 hectares (1,500,000 acres). It was finally declared under control on July 5, 2016.
Attracted to the media coverage phenomenon, with its fervid and intense imagery, I was prompted to explore my fascination with the televised images through my own vocabulary. To do so, I painted and drew, using traditional materials such as pastel, ink, charcoal and wax, on digitally printed TV screen shots that were edited and reformatted. One could consider this layering as a means to create artistic "snapshots" of the event rather than being a literalistic depiction. Working with traditional materials and digital techniques the images depict an engagement with the visual magnitude of rogue flames and the resulting raw energy of sublime, swelling clouds. The “Boreal Smoldering Series” not only renders our mind’s susceptibility and compulsion to witness the results of the awesome natural phenomenon of a forest fire unleashed on a grand scale but also helps to underscore the continuing vulnerability of the boreal forests under threat from human and climactic interventions.
“I’m interested in idealism, which had to do with the perfect mountains I was drawing….What are the models that we look at, and what are the measures that we have or the ideal that we aspire to, or are burdened by?”
The Banff Portraits of Allan Harding MacKay are photographed faces partly obscured by built up surfaces of charcoal, chalk pastel, wax, ink, and oil wash. They evoke a sense of mystery, ambiguity and instinctual edge. Their gentleness effect an unexpected sense of depth.
Allan Harding MacKay (AHM) has, over the span of his visual arts career, accumulated extensive and multifaceted credentials as professional artist, gallery director, curator and arts administrator.
Born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, he has been a practicing artist in various media since graduating from the Nova Scotia College of Art in 1967. Mixed Media portrait, landscape, figurative and video works have occupied a major part of his interests through his artistic career. AHM served as a war artist with the Canadian Department of National Defense on two occasions: Somalia in 1993 and Afghanistan in 2002.
AHM has served as visiting artist, resident artist and lecturer at several Canadian universities, colleges of art, public galleries and national conferences, including the Banff Centre. He has been awarded numerous artist grants by the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council and Alberta Foundation of the Arts. In 2008, the artist was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy and received a Kitchener Waterloo Visual Arts Award.
The artist’s solo and group exhibition history is extensive, both nationally and internationally. His work is found in public collections including the Canada Council Art Bank, National Gallery of Canada, Canadian War Museum, Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Art Gallery of Alberta and Kunstmuseum Bern Switzerland as well as corporations and private collections in Canada and Switzerland. He has created four public art works located in Kitchener and Toronto.
AHM no longer lives in Banff, however we continue to represent this committed and evocative artist and his work.
BibliographyMastin, Cathy and Catherine Crowston. In/Here/Out/There, Alberta Biennial Of Contemporary Art 1998. Calgary/Edmonton: Glenbow Museum and Edmonton Art Gallery, 1998.