Take a walk through François Gaudet’s Stories from the Forest Primeval

Take a walk through François Gaudet’s Stories from the Forest Primeval
By Renée Brisebois, Collections and Outreach Assistant

Whether you have lived in the Annapolis Valley your whole life or are simply visiting the area, it is never too late to make an afternoon stop at the Acadia University Art Gallery. Our current exhibition, Stories from the Forest Primeval, showcases the work of Acadian-Métis artist François Gaudet. The exhibition questions identity, religion, sexuality, assimilation, transgression, and the idea of paradise lost. All of these motifs are used by Gaudet to explore his identity and articulate a home for himself. In the exhibition, three key symbols are explored: the horses of Sable Island, the landscape of Grand Pré, and the story of Evangeline.

Sable island, located about 300 kilometres southeast of Halifax, has long been the home of wild horses. During the time of the deportation, the horses were removed from Grand Pré with the intent of being relocated along with the Acadians. Many were left deserted on this small island due to the death of a naval captain; their location died with him. François Gaudet finds inspiration in these Acadian horses and considers them to be symbols of resilience, survival, and freedom. The horses are found in various paintings and wall hangings in the exhibition in an array of colours.

As Gaudet considers himself to be a photography-based artist, many of his works are conceived through this method. While photographing the landscape of Grand Pré, he discovered a technique which revealed mythic-like figures in the trees. He believes that trees bear witness to the events of the land surrounding them and thus the trees of Grand Pré tell the dark tale of Le Grand Dérangement, when, between 1755 and 1764, approximately 10,000 Acadians were deported. Many to this day feel the effects of this great upheaval and carry with them a sense of displacement.

With this exploration of trees, Gaudet interprets the rings in trees as a method of storytelling. He was thus drawn to the grooves on vinyl records as they are both circular storytellers. Using various techniques, including stencilling and spray paint, Gaudet transforms these records. Throughout the gallery, vinyl is found with various designs – each with a story to tell.

Shown through various interpretations, Gaudet explores his connection with Evangeline, the protagonist of the poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: a young woman who never gave up who she was despite losing everything. Although fictional, Evangeline became a symbol of hope and perseverance to many, including Gaudet, as she presented a sense of identity and belonging. Those who feel a sense of displacement are drawn to her as an anchor to the land of their ancestors.

The exhibition of François Gaudet’s art is a representation of visual storytelling for the search of one’s identity. Filled with colour and emotion, this show is a great way to spend one’s afternoon. The exhibition will be on view until December 4, 2019.

Acadia University Art Gallery: gallery.acadiau.ca
10 Highland Avenue, Beveridge Arts Centre, Acadia University
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