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Hunter Gatherer

Nicholas Crombach, Emily Jan, Philippa Jones, Meryl McMaster
September 22 – December 10, 2022

Curated by Helen Gregory

Opening Reception: Thursday, September 22 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Nicholas Crombach, Nature Morte, 2016, polyurethane resin, paint. Courtesy of Art Mûr, Montreal.
Hunter Gatherer is a meditation on the complex network of relationships between hunting and collecting in the context of the museum. With an emphasis on representations of the animal body, artists Nicholas Crombach, Emily Jan, Philippa Jones, and Meryl McMaster consider this dynamic from art historical and postcolonial perspectives. The exhibition creates points of intersection through references to sport hunting; acquisition, power, and dominance; decadence and excess; still life and vanitas painting; and institutional critique. Depictions of the hunted animal body are common throughout art history – particularly during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries – and are closely linked to the human desire to control nature. In addition, many of the taxidermy animals held in museum collections were acquired through hunting. This occurred during a period of intense development of natural history collections, which mirrored an era of colonial expansion. Hunting in the colonies was viewed as both sport and scientific pursuit, and many hunters justified their killing by claiming an interest in scholarly pursuits and in acquiring specimens for scientific collections. Some of these hunted animals came to form the basis of collections in natural history museums. Such collections are now subject to a rethinking and re-evaluating of their value and meaning, given that they can be perceived as metonymic to the colonial project itself. The work in this exhibition encourages us to reflect on past and present relationships with animals in an age when we are increasingly attuned to the notion of interspecies relations and kinship.

Throughout his practice, Nicholas Crombach explores human-animal relationships, seamlessly combining animal imagery, art historical references, and material culture. The works in this exhibition integrate references to game paintings, hunting trophies, heraldry, and Victorian architectural ornamentation with a critique of deeply entrenched power structures. Juxtaposing images of dogs and dead animals – the hunter and the hunted – Crombach questions not only the hierarchies between humans and animals, but also the ongoing legacies that carry over from colonialism. Emily Jan’s After the Hunt (2014) reimagines Franz Snijders painting Still Life with a Roe Deer (c. 1630) in the form of a textile-based installation. The spoils of the hunt are assembled here in felt and found objects – a boar’s head and the suspended body of a roe deer is meticulously recreated, juxtaposed against decaying fruit, flowers, and various tropes associated with seventeenth century Dutch still life. Jan critiques the imagery associated with the genre of the post-hunt tableau – each luxurious object functioning as a reminder of the excesses, exploitation, and violence of colonialism, as well as a reminder us of the transience of existence. Philippa Jones presents three monumental drawings of moose necropsies, disrupting the notion of the grotesque by revealing the beauty previously hidden below the surface of the skin. These drawings are exquisite depictions of the aftermath of a moose hunt in Newfoundland, an event that reminds us of the interrelationship of death, consumption, and sustenance. Created in an attempt to come to terms with the death of a close friend, one of the drawings also subtly references Caravaggio’s Incredulity of Saint Thomas (1601-1602), fingers delicately probing flesh, seeking explanations and solace in the bodies of the dead. Meryl McMaster has created three multimedia works in response to the nineteenth century bell jars containing taxidermied birds, held in the collection of the McCord Museum in Montreal. Combining photography, video, and sculpture, McMaster questions the desire to capture and preserve animal specimens in an attempt to freeze their bodies in time. Furthermore, she draws parallels between this mode of representing animal specimens to the way in which Indigenous peoples have been portrayed in ethnographic museums wherein Indigenous people and nature were both viewed as something to be tamed and domesticated.

Helen Gregory extends her gratitude to research assistant Megan Godard for her help with this project.

About the artists

Nicholas Crombach (BFA, 2012) currently works in Kingston, Ontario. He has been awarded the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Award and is the recipient of grants from the Toronto Arts Council, The Ontario Arts Council, and Canada Council for the Arts.

In 2017 Crombach presented a solo exhibition, Behind Elegantly Carved Wooden Doors, at Art Mûr Montreal receiving reviews in Border Crossings Magazine (summer 2018) and Vie des Arts (Winter 2017-18). His solo exhibition, The End of the Chase, travelled in 2018-2019, exhibiting at New Art Projects in London UK, Art Mûr Berlin and Art Mûr Montréal. In 2019 Crombach produced an exhibition of collaborative works with artist Nurielle Stern entitled Whale Fall, presented at The Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery in Waterloo. He has been awarded several major commissions for public sculpture, including Billy, Nanny, and the Kids, in Burlington, ON, and Horse and Cart located in Victoria Park, Kingston, ON. He is currently working on Flock, for Niagara Falls Exchange in Niagara Falls, ON, and Wind Vane for Florence Carlyle Park in Woodstock, ON.

In 2016-2017 Crombach participated in a year-long residency at The Florence Trust (London, UK), and recently was artist in residence at The Studios at MASS MoCA (summer 2022) in North Adams, Massachusetts.

Emily Jan
is a Chinese-American artist and writer currently based in Edmonton, AB. Her biophilic sculptures and installations combine the found with the fabricated to evoke the faraway and the fantastical. As a wanderer, naturalist, and collector of objects and stories, she is guided in her work by the spirit of exploration, kinship, and curiosity.

Jan has recently exhibited at the 10e Biennale national de sculpture contemporaine, (Trois Rivières, QC), Textile Museum of Canada (Toronto, ON), the Robert Bateman Centre Gallery of Nature (Victoria, BC) Galerie Art Mûr (Montreal, QC), the Museo Textil de Oaxaca (Mexico), and the Mary M. Torggler Fine Arts Centre (Newport News, VA). Upcoming exhibitions are scheduled for the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, the McIntosh Gallery at Western University (London, ON), and dC3 Gallery (Edmonton, AB). She has participated in residencies at Artscape Gibraltar Point (Toronto Island, 2018), the Elsewhere Museum (Greensboro NC, 2017), and Denali National Park (Alaska, 2016). Jan has written and illustrated three books: still life (2014), A Denali Book of Hours (2017) and Glory of the Seas: A Shell Collector’s Journey (2019, with Stephen H. Kawai), and contributed writing to catalogues for the PHI Foundation (formerly DHC/ART), the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA), and magazines such as esse: art + opinions. She currently teaches at MacEwan University, and sits on the board of directors for Union House Arts Inc, Newfoundland, and CARFAC Alberta.

Philippa Jones
has been living and practicing in St. John’s, Newfoundland since immigrating from the United Kingdom over a decade ago. She is a mother, visual artist and Executive Director of Eastern Edge Gallery. Central to Jones’ work is the exploration of constructed realities, our relationship to mortality and time, active myth making, wonder and the inquisitive mind. Jones completed a BFA and an MFA at Falmouth University (UK).

Jones’ diverse art practice includes sculpture, drawing, painting, stop motion animation, art games and interactive installations. She has exhibited at major public galleries, including The National Gallery of Canada, The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery (NL), Beaverbrook Art Gallery (NB), Two Rivers Gallery (BC) and the Confederation Centre (PEI). In 2012 Jones was the recipient of the VANL-CARFAC Excellence in Visual Arts Emerging Artist award and in 2019 won the Milestone Award. Jones was longlisted for the Sobey Art Award in 2019, and in 2020 was shortlisted for ArtsNL Artist of the Year.

Meryl McMaster
is a Canadian artist with nêhiyaw (Plains Cree), British and Dutch ancestry. She earned her BFA in Photography from the Ontario College of Art and Design University (2010) and is currently based in Québec, Canada. Known for her large-format self-portraits that have a distinct performative quality, she explores questions of self through land, lineage, history, and culture, with specific reference to her mixed nêhiyaw (Plains Cree), British and Dutch ancestry.

McMaster’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Urban Shaman, Winnipeg (2021), McCord Museum, Montréal (2021), Canada House, London (2020), Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2019), Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto (2019), Glenbow, Calgary (2019), The Rooms, St. John's (2018) Momenta Biennale, Montréal (2017), Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe (2015), and Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, New York (2015), amongst others.

From 2016-2020 her solo exhibition Confluence travelled to nine cities in Canada, including stops at the Richmond Art Gallery (2017), Thunder Bay Art Gallery (2017), University of Lethbridge Art Gallery (2018), and The Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery, Sarnia (2020).

Her work has appeared in group exhibitions at Sprengel Museum, Hannover (2021), Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa (2020), Australian Centre for Photography, Australia (2019), National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2018), Ottawa Art Gallery (2018, 2019), Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery (2016, 2019), the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (2019), Plug In Institute for Contemporary Art, Winnipeg (2017), and Art Gallery of Guelph (2017), amongst others.

She was shortlisted for the Rencontres d’Arles New Discovery Award 2019, longlisted for the 2016 Sobey Art Award, and is the recipient of numerous awards including the Scotiabank New Generation Photography Award, REVEAL Indigenous Art Award, Charles Pachter Prize for Emerging Artists, Canon Canada Prize, Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship and OCAD U Medal.

Her work has been collected by significant Canadian institutions, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, Montréal Museum of Fine Art, and the National Gallery of Canada.

McMaster is represented by Stephen Bulger Gallery (Toronto, ON) and Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain (Montréal, QC).

Related Programming

McIntosh Gallery & Art Now! Presents: Hunter Gatherer Panel Discussion
Thursday, November 17 at 7PM

Join us for a virtual panel discussion featuring exhibiting artists Nicholas Crombach, Emily Jan, Philippa Jones and Meryl McMaster, presented in partnership with the Department of Visual Arts' Art Now! Speakers' Series. Moderated by exhibition curator Dr. Helen Gregory, panelists will discuss their work in relation to the issues addressed in this exhibition as well as within the context of their broader studio practices.

Registration required: