Rémi Thériault: Front

Extended to June 8, 2014

Twenty-fourteen marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War. To commemorate this significant conflict in the history of Western civilization, Front reflects on the role nature plays in helping individuals heal and remember. 

The exhibition consists of a series of large-scale colour photographs by Ottawa-based artist Rémi Thériault who is focusing on the physical transformation of European sites where Canadian armies fought, such as Beaumont-Hamel, the Courcelette Sugar Factory, Flanders Fields, Hawthorn Crater, Hooge, Loos, Mont Saint-Éloi, and Vimy Ridge. Often void of people, the photographs depict the geographical scars of these contested sites, inflicted by gas attacks, fires, bombardments, the intrusion of military vehicles, deep trenches, and ground warfare. 

Though these locations seem familiar, from black and white images in history books and silent films at local museums, Thériault spent a significant amount of time walking in search of hidden areas left unidentified. Revisited in his photographs, the sites become portraits of unmarked graveyards. The exhibition presents a subjective and poetic view of what these sites of trauma look like today. 

Some of the sites, such as Vimy, are commemorated by impressive monuments and informative plaques, while others appear forgotten, such as the iconic monument at the Hawthorn Crater, now taken over by forest and overgrown with greenery. Other places such as the Sugar Factory in the town of Courcelette, where Canadian Forces celebrated a victory, are occupied today by farmers and local industry. As Thériault states: “Visiting the spaces once ravaged by war intrigued me to explore the transitory nature of war’s relationship to place. Every place has a different relationship. While some are physically marked in commemoration of the First World War, other landscapes are seemingly untouched. The narratives of these places are subjected to time and transformation, thereby potentially contrasting their contemporary realities considerably.”

These sites of violence and vulnerability hold more than a historical importance as they still contain remnants of war, such as grenades, shells, bullets, and even human bones. Forever trapped in the moment of war, only nature and human perseverance can reclaim what have since become psychic spaces. 

Ola Wlusek, Curator of Contemporary Art

Talk and Tour with Artist Rémi Thériault

Thursday May 8, 7:00 pm | Free

Join the artist for a closer look at the works in the exhibition Rémi Thériault: Front. Hear firsthand accounts of his travels to France and Belgium, where he photographed private, public, hidden and revealed sites of historical significance to the unfolding of the First World War.