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Canada Gallery – 
Barbara Rae: The Northwest Passage

With Inuit sculpture from the Belle Shenkman Collection

Canada GalleryCanada Gallery - How to find us
Canada House, Trafalgar Square, SW1Y 5BJ
Pall Mall Entrance, free admission (security screening in place)

Until 16 February 2019
Monday to Saturday
11:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Collage - Barbara Rae: The Northwest Passage

Ice Tracks, 2017, Barbara Rae | Halkett Boat, 2016, Barbara Rae | Owl, Kiawak, Belle Shenkman Collection

Canada Gallery, Canada House, London: The Canada Gallery is pleased to present this exhibition of Barbara Rae alongside a selection of Inuit sculpture from the Belle Shenkman Collection.

The Arctic and the history of exploration in the far north has long been a subject of fascination for renowned Scottish artist Barbara Rae.

Inspired by the voyages of a namesake, Arctic explorer and fellow Scot Dr John Rae, who was born in Orkney and explored Canada’s Arctic during his time with the Hudson Bay Company in the 1830s, Barbara Rae set out on a series of four journeys of her own.

Starting in 2015, on the first of four annual trips, Rae followed the route of the Northwest Passage from Greenland, through Baffin Bay to Cambridge Bay in Nunavut, Canada.

Aboard the ship One Ocean, Akademik Sergei Vavilov, Rae’s sketches and photographs of encounters with icebergs, walls of blue ice, the local Inuit who she met and the graves of sailors who died aboard the doomed voyage of British Captain John Franklin’s HMS Erebus and HMS Terror all informed her body of work.

Colin R. Greenslade, Director of the Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture, extols Rae’s ability to deliver audiences to her memories of travel in his introduction to the companion book Barbara Rae: The Northwest Passage.

"Captured by the artist in paint and ink, these stories travel to us by sight and whisk us to that distant place. This is the skill of the great artist. To collect and curate research into a visual medium in order to tell us a story which we can read and interpret for ourselves."

Essayist Duncan Macmillan further details Rae’s voyages, during which she experienced brilliant sunshine, thick, cold fog, ice-blocked harbours and polar bears occupying a planned landing place. He tells how the Vavilov slipped through the narrowest point of the Bellot Strait, where the southern shore marks the northernmost point of North America and where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet.

Rae’s work reflects the conditions she met on each of her voyages, the stark isolation, the cold, the blinding light and the growing worry about the melting ice cap and rapid climate change.

On her third journey in 2017, this time aboard the Akademic Ioffe, Macmillan describes Rae’s new route taken, travelling west to east and a few weeks later in the season, where she experienced the late September vegetation, a new daylight and the spectacular Northern Lights blazing across the night skies.

All of her astute observations led her to this current exhibition, displayed here alongside a selection of Inuit sculpture from Canada House’s Belle Shenkman collection that serve to further set the scene for this body of work.

This exhibition, curated by RA Artistic Director Tim Marlow, began as a larger project in Edinburgh at the Scottish Royal Academy and it forms part of the 250th celebrations of the Royal Academy of Arts in London of which Barbara Rae is a member.


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Date Modified:
2018-11-14