Honouring our veterans and heritage

Varley Art Gallery of Markham recently launched a major exhibition for its fall season. To honour Canada’s veterans during the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, the local gallery is featuring the highly acclaimed Witness: Canadian Art of the First World War, developed and circulated by the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. The refreshed exclusive exhibition Inscapes, organized by Varley curator Anik Glaude, is also on display.

“The first Armistice famously took place at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month on November 11, 1918,” says Mayor Frank Scarpitti. “It brought an end to all First World War hostilities on land, on sea and in the air. It is, therefore, fitting that the Varley Art Gallery is mounting the exhibition, Witness, this fall on the centenary of that event and that it will be on display to help us remember that very important anniversary.”

The 100th anniversary of the first Armistice is commemorated nationally this fall. This year also marks the centenary of F.H. Varley’s service as a war artist.

“In 1918 F.H. Varley, for whom the gallery is named, was commissioned as a captain in the Canadian army,” notes Niamh O’Laoghaire, gallery director. “He left for England in March 1918 and by mid-September was at the front lines in France where he observed the fighting at first hand. We are especially delighted to have the Witness exhibition here this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Varley’s outstanding contribution to documenting the First World War.”

Witness examines how Canadians used art to communicate and commemorate their First World War experiences at home and overseas. Some of those represented in the show, such as future Group of Seven members A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer and Frederick Varley, were official war artists commissioned by Lord Beaverbrook’s Canadian War Memorials Fund to document the conflict. Others were soldiers who made small sketches and drawings to send home to loved ones, or whose works were acquired by the Fund after the war.

Featuring works from the Varley Art Gallery’s permanent collection, Inscapes explores the genre of landscape and considers the relationship between it and the natural world it depicts. To bring new voices and perspectives to the interpretation of our holdings, six writers – Pushpa Raj Acharya, Whitney French, Laboni Islam, Sheniz Janmohamed, Hyacinthe Miller and Tina Zafreen Alam – were invited to produce original texts in response to the works on display.

Both exhibitions are available until January 6, 2019, with free admission provided by IBM.

The Varley is featuring the highly acclaimed Witness: Canadian Art of the First World War, developed and circulated by the Canadian War Museum.

Image: Arthur Lismer, Olympic with Returned Soldiers, 1919 © Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario 19710261-0343

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