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The Dubawnt River Art Expedition

River Art
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

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