Talking Historical Canadian Art – The Multiverse of Art

I had a conversation with an art dealer the other day, it was about contemporary Canadian Art versus Historical Canadian Art. Myself being a Canadian artist, and a contemporary Canadian Artist at that, I have a unique perspective, particularly in today’s world, about the importance and significance of contemporary Canadian Art. I also believe we are in a period of revolution in The Arts, perhaps we are entering the Multiverse of Art period?

the multiverse of art

Let Your Backbone Rise, 2016, Brandy Saturley – Private Collection Quebec

Can contemporary art also be considered historical?

Yes, contemporary art can indeed be considered historical. While contemporary art refers to art created in the present time or within recent decades, it eventually becomes a part of history as time passes. Art reflects the social, cultural, and political contexts in which it was created, and as such, it serves as a historical record of the era in which it was produced. Furthermore, contemporary art often responds to and engages with historical events, ideologies, and artistic movements. Artists may draw inspiration from past historical periods, reinterpret them in contemporary contexts, or directly address historical narratives and themes in their work. As contemporary art ages, it becomes increasingly significant as a reflection of the time in which it was made, offering insights into the concerns, values, and perspectives of that period. Therefore, contemporary art not only contributes to our understanding of the present but also becomes an essential part of the historical record for future generations.

the multiverse of art

Sold Out, 2023, Brandy Saturley – Private Collection Alberta

Could this be considered the multiverse of art?

The idea of contemporary art as a “multiverse” is an interesting metaphorical concept. In a way, the term “multiverse” suggests the coexistence of multiple parallel universes or realities. Similarly, in the realm of art, contemporary art encompasses a diverse range of styles, movements, and perspectives, all existing simultaneously.

Just as in a multiverse, where each universe may have its own set of rules and characteristics, contemporary art reflects a multitude of artistic expressions, influenced by various cultural, social, and individual factors. These diverse artistic realities intersect and interact, creating a complex and dynamic landscape of creative exploration. Like the concept of branching timelines in a multiverse, contemporary art often diverges from traditional norms and conventions, offering alternative narratives, perspectives, and approaches to artistic expression. This multiplicity allows for the exploration of different ideas, identities, and experiences within the artistic realm.

So, while contemporary art may not adhere to a singular, unified narrative or style, its richness and diversity can indeed be likened to a multiverse, where myriad artistic possibilities coexist and intersect, shaping the ever-evolving landscape of art history.

multiverse of Canadian art

With Hearts on Our Sleeves, 2017, Brandy Saturley – Private Collection Ontario

What can contemporary artists bring to your exhibit or gallery?

Contemporary artists can bring a fresh perspective, innovative interpretations, and provocative dialogues to a historical exhibit. Here are some ways in which they can enrich such an exhibition:

Reinterpretation of History: Contemporary artists can reinterpret historical events, figures, and narratives through their unique lens. Their perspectives may challenge conventional interpretations and offer new insights into familiar historical themes.

lawren harris homage painting

Engagement with Current Issues: Many contemporary artists engage with pressing social, political, and cultural issues. By addressing these concerns within a historical context, they can highlight the relevance and continuity of certain themes throughout history.

Dialogue with Tradition: Contemporary artists often engage in dialogues with art history and tradition. They may reference, critique, or reinterpret works from the past, creating a dynamic interplay between historical and contemporary artistic practices.

Exploration of Identity and Memory: Contemporary artists frequently explore themes of identity, memory, and heritage. Their works can shed light on marginalized histories, amplify diverse voices, and challenge dominant narratives within historical exhibitions.

multiverse of Canadian Art

On Guard, 2013, Brandy Saturley – Colart Collection Quebec

Experimentation with Mediums and Technologies: Contemporary art embraces a wide range of mediums and technologies, from traditional painting and sculpture to digital art and multimedia installations. Integrating these innovative approaches into historical exhibits can enhance audience engagement and offer new ways of experiencing history.

Reflection on Time and Continuity: Through their artwork, contemporary artists often reflect on the passage of time and the continuity of human experiences across different historical periods. Their contributions can add layers of complexity and nuance to our understanding of history as a living, evolving narrative.

Canada flag and woman painting

To The See, 2017, Brandy Saturley – Collection of The Artist

By inviting contemporary artists to participate in historical exhibits, curators can create dynamic and multifaceted experiences that bridge the past and present, encouraging viewers to reconsider familiar narratives and explore new perspectives on history.

So, Can contemporary art also be considered historical? the short answer is YES. 

National Indigenous Peoples Day – Honouring Our First Nations in Canada

On June 21st, National Indigenous Peoples Day, we come together to acknowledge and celebrate the rich history, heritage, resilience, and diversity of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples across Canada. As someone who grew up on Vancouver Island, I am particularly aware of the presence of 50 First Nations within three distinct tribal regions: Coast Salish, Nuu chah nulth, and Kwakiutl. These nations are the original inhabitants of Vancouver Island, and you can explore their territories through this interactive map.

The 50 First Nations of Vancouver Island.

During my childhood in the community of Sooke, located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, I was immersed in the Coast Salish culture. Our home was just a short walk away from a reservation on the ocean, nestled up a long hill beyond a pasture of horses and a weather station. Many of my childhood friends and classmates either belonged to this reservation or traveled a long distance by bus (over an hour) from the reservation in Port Renfrew, which we affectionately called “Renfrew.” In those formative years, Indigenous elders visited our elementary school to teach us about their vibrant culture. I have vivid memories of learning to harvest kelp and seaweed on the rocky Whiffen Spit beach, where we would make Seaweed Soup over an open fire. Our classroom discussions often revolved around spirit animals, and I can still recall the excitement of live owls being brought in for educational purposes. As a child, I found myself captivated by this fascinating culture, and I even received a certificate upon completing my first “Nitinaht Culture Course” from a man named Randy Chipps, whose infectious smile I can still faintly remember.

National Indigenous Peoples Day

Certificate Nitinaht Culture Course, 1980

Growing up in Sooke, BC, meant a life intertwined with the natural wonders that surrounded us. Beachcombing, hiking, swimming in the Potholes, and exploring the old growth forests were regular activities. In the summer, we would harvest wild blackberries and sell them through the kitchen window to the chef at our local luxury west coast hotel, The Sooke Harbour House, which was merely a mile down the road. Building houses on the beach out of driftwood and spending hours skipping rocks at the Sooke River potholes were cherished pastimes. During our hikes, encounters with deer, black bears, and cougars were commonplace, yet we never felt afraid. It was simply part of the rhythm of life. It comes as no surprise that the art I created as a child was heavily influenced by these experiences, reflecting the blend of British, Ukrainian, and Canadian backgrounds that shaped my identity.

National Indigenous Peoples Day

Drawing, 4 years old, Brandy Saturley

National Indigenous Peoples Day – A Tapestry of Family Connections

I was born in Victoria, British Columbia, often referred to as the Harbour City and City of Gardens. However, it is important to acknowledge that it is also one of the whitest places in Canada. In Greater Victoria, nearly three-quarters of the population is of white European descent, with British (31.4%), Scottish (23.6%), and Irish (18.4%) backgrounds comprising the largest ethnic/cultural origins. German (12.3%) and Canadian (11%) identities follow closely. In 2021, 34.4% of the population in British Columbia identified as members of a visible minority group, whereas in Greater Victoria, this figure was 16.7%.

I had a close uncle who dedicated his career to social work in BC and served as the superintendent of social services for what was then known as “Indian Affairs.” He was one of the individuals working tirelessly to support communities across BC, residing on various reservations and even adopting a daughter born in the Haida Gwaii area of BC. Eventually, he helped her reconnect with her birth family. With a Native cousin from Haida Gwaii and a Métis niece, I felt that I had a deeper understanding of their cultures compared to many of my Canadian friends at the time. As a second-generation Vancouver Islander, I have often referred to my family as natives of Vancouver Island, despite not having “Native blood.”

National Indigenous Peoples Day

Painting, 8 years old, Brandy Saturley.

With the arrival of Canada150 and the subsequent conversations surrounding colonialism, I found myself compelled to reflect on my childhood and my connections to Indigenous culture. The pandemic has forced us all to examine ourselves under a magnifying glass and consider our interactions with one another. It has sparked new understandings of cultures, humanity, and the ongoing process of reconciliation in Canada. Humanity, as a whole, has been yearning to become more compassionate and understanding. Asserting our individuality is a cry for recognition, but once we have voiced our truths, it is crucial to prioritize peace, respect, understanding, and self-reflection.

As I delved deeper into learning about my Indigenous relatives, I also found a renewed interest in exploring my Ukrainian and British cultural heritage. Consequently, my recent paintings have become more influenced by multicultural perspectives, reflecting my evolving outlook on life.

National Indigenous Peoples Day

Paintings reflecting the Canadian-Ukrainian experience – Brandy Saturley, 2023

My Top 10 Favorite Indigenous Canadian Artists

Over the years, numerous Indigenous Canadian artists have ignited a fire within me through their incredible work. Here are ten Indigenous artists you should know about:

1.Kent Monkman
Kent Monkman









2. Terry McCue

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3. Jane Ash Poitras

4. Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun

National Indigenous Peoples Day

5. Norval Morrisseau

6. Rebecca Belmore

7. Christi Belcourt

8. Roy Henry Vickers

9. Susan Point



Natural Affinities: Lawren Harris and Rockwell Kent

As a Canadian artist deeply connected to the rugged beauty of my homeland, I find myself inexorably drawn to the works of Lawren Harris and Rockwell Kent. The artistry of these two painters has had a profound influence on my own creative journey, inspiring and shaping my unique painting style. Harris’s ability to distill the essence of Canadian landscapes into mystical abstractions resonates with my soul, while Kent’s romantic realism kindles a sense of longing for untouched wilderness. While they may have worked in different styles and contexts, their works share striking similarities, revealing natural affinities between the two painters. In this blog post, we will delve into the artistic journeys of Harris and Kent, examining their contrasting styles and analyzing the common threads that bind their masterpieces.

Art has the extraordinary power to capture the essence of the world and transport viewers to different realms. In the realm of landscape painting, Lawren Harris and Rockwell Kent stand as giants, each leaving an indelible mark on the art world.

Lawren Harris: Mystical Abstractions

Lawren Harris, a prominent member of the Group of Seven, was renowned for his abstract and spiritual interpretations of the Canadian landscape. His paintings often depicted rugged mountains, icy glaciers, and vast stretches of untouched wilderness. Harris possessed an uncanny ability to distill nature’s raw power and transform it into something ethereal.

Harris’s works, such as “North Shore, Lake Superior” and “Mount Lefroy,” showcased his affinity for simplicity and abstraction. He employed bold lines, geometric shapes, and a restricted color palette to capture the essence of the subject matter. The resulting images exuded a sense of serenity and mysticism, evoking a profound emotional response from viewers.

Lawren Harris and Rockwell Kent

North Shore, Lake Superior – Lawren Harris 1926

Rockwell Kent: Realism with a Romantic Touch

Rockwell Kent, on the other hand, was an American artist whose paintings encompassed both realistic and romantic elements. His artistic journey led him to various locales, including Alaska, Greenland, and Newfoundland, which greatly influenced his subject matter. Kent’s works portrayed expansive landscapes, seascapes, and the human figure against majestic natural backdrops.

Kent’s paintings, such as “Moonlight, Winter” and “Monhegan Night,” captivated audiences with their meticulous attention to detail. His command over light and shadow, combined with a rich color palette, brought his scenes to life. Kent’s romantic sensibilities infused his work with a touch of nostalgia, inviting viewers to contemplate the vastness and beauty of the natural world.

Lawren Harris and Rockwell Kent

Moonlight Winter – Rockwell Kent 1940

Natural Affinities and Common Threads

Despite the differences in their styles and geographical influences, Lawren Harris and Rockwell Kent’s works reveal surprising commonalities, suggesting a natural affinity between the two painters.

Both artists shared a deep reverence for nature and sought to capture its sublime qualities. Harris and Kent depicted landscapes that inspired awe and contemplation, inviting viewers to connect with the grandeur of the natural world. Their paintings transported viewers to remote and untouched locations, offering a respite from the modern world’s hustle and bustle. They both also embraced a sense of spirituality in their work. Harris’s abstract compositions and Kent’s romanticized scenes transcended the physical realm, hinting at something greater and more profound. Whether through Harris’s simplified shapes or Kent’s ethereal lighting, both artists infused their works with a spiritual dimension, elevating the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Harris and Kent possessed a keen eye for composition. Harris’s bold lines and geometric forms provided structure and harmony to his landscapes, while Kent’s meticulous attention to detail created balanced and visually captivating scenes. Both artists had an innate ability to arrange elements within the frame, leading the viewer’s eye and creating a sense of visual poetry.

Lawren Harris and Rockwell Kent

Where Icebergs Roam Free – Brandy Saturley 2016

Lawren Harris and Rockwell Kent, despite their unique styles and influences, shared a remarkable bond through their artistic explorations of the natural world. Harris’s mystical abstractions and Kent’s romantic realism offer distinct but complementary perspectives on the power and beauty of nature. Their works elevate the landscape to a spiritual experience, where nature becomes a source of awe and contemplation. Through their mastery of composition, use of color, and ability to capture the sublime, Harris and Kent have left an indelible mark on the art world. Their legacies continue to inspire artists, like myself, to seek the inherent beauty and spirituality in the natural world and share it with audiences worldwide.