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Ottawa Art Gallery curator Ola Wlusek talks about new exhibition

Jessica Bennett | Fulcrum Contributor

THE OTTAWA ART Gallery brings together the many journeys of Canadian artists with its newest exhibition, Expeditions.

The exhibit features the art of six Canadian artists and, according to the gallery’s website, “explores the notion of how an individual artist’s identity is defined by the geography and climate of the landscape.” Gallery curator Ola Wlusek explained the inspiration behind the exhibit during Ottawa’s first Nuit Blanche, one day after the opening of Expeditions.

“I like to showcase the artist’s journeys, and show different pieces and fragments of their art from the beginning to the end of the artist’s career,” she says.

Viewers get to see the artists’ growth throughout their careers, learn why they made certain pieces, and hear about what expeditions have inspired their work.

Wlusek’s theme of expedition tied into the theme of Nuit Blanche, which was, “Life is beautiful.” When you are exploring, you’re “interested in life, and learn new things by leaving a place of comfort,” she says.

“Expedition is the celebration of what is out there, and finding how beautiful life can be,” Wlusek continues. “Expedition can be different for everyone.”

It can be merely taking a trip from downtown Ottawa to the east end; it could be moving from Ontario to Québec; it could be leaving the country entirely and starting a new journey. Expedition means leaving your place of comfort and throwing yourself in a whole new environment.

But Wlusek feels expedition is more than a physical experience.

“Expedition can be psychological, like a daydream,” she says.

Katie Bethune-Leamen is one of the artists whose work is showcased at the Expeditions exhibit. Bethune-Leamen is a landscape artist whose collection, entitled Iceberg for Fogo Island When There Are None, was inspired by her adventures to Greenland, Iceland, Northern Canada, and Newfoundland. She was particularly interested in Newfoundland; one of her pieces strictly focuses on a Newfoundland tradition she fell in love with when she explored the province.

Aside from Canadian paintings and sculptures, Wlusek also likes to include architecture in her exhibitions. The space structure built by Tony Smith seemed out of place at Nuit Blanche, but Wlusek explained how expedition is actually closely related to architecture. “Space is related to expedition because we are always surrounded by something, and we will always position ourselves to where we feel the most comfortable,” she said. “You have an intuitive response to a space.”

Wlusek feels a responsibility to continually challenge the community and its artists.

“I like to bring in different pieces many people may not like, to challenge the public and give the public new perspectives and angles of art to look at,” she said.

Expeditions is on display until Jan. 13 at the Ottawa Art Gallery, 2 Daly Ave.