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Northern Landscape, 2007

Simon Hughes
Canadian, 1973
watercolour, pen and coloured ink, graphite, fluorescent paint, glitter, coloured plastic decals and collage on wove paper
136.5 x 532.5 cm installed
Purchased 2008 with the Joy Thomson Fund for the Acquisition of Art by Young Canadian Artists, National Gallery of Canada Foundation
National Gallery of Canada (no. 42328.1-5)

Struck by "a portrait of this country that doesn't exist," Simon Hughes creates drawings that propose various architectural fantasies, scenarios, and "northern" landscapes, each infused with clever pop cultural, historical, and Canadiana references, multiple narrative possibilities, and a good dose of humour. "Northern Landscape", an epic five-panel drawing, features buildings inspired by icons such as Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome and Moshe Safdie's Habitat 67, a recurring motif in Hughes's work. Some of the apartment inhabitants peering out their windows might be looking at the whale that successful hunters are busily cutting into large cubes and hauling away on snowmobiles. Hughes's vision is not wholly utopian, however: hints of ominous activities lurk behind these walls of glass and rough logs and a sense of foreboding overshadows this landscape. While the buildings might be born of survivalist optimism, the jagged ice forms breaking ever closer to their foundations endanger them.

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