The opposition to Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline has been quite varied, seeing methods such as protests, petitions and even poetry. Painting is the latest act of resistance to join this list, thanks to the efforts of two South Okanagan artists.
Landscape artists Peter Corbett and Glenn Clark are the minds behind this work. After Clark pitched the idea, he received a B.C Arts Council project grant, turning his vision into a possibility. When finished, the exhibition, entitled Abandoning Paradise, will be a series of paintings depicting the land the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is set to pass through, should the pipeline be given the OK from the government.
“I feel a great sense of urgency to visit the sensitive sites in B.C.’s northern region and to document their state,” said Clark. “Our work will illustrate the grandeur of this geographic area and, as a worst case scenario, act as both a record and a reminder of a pre-pipeline landscape.”
Corbett is a fish biologist, an occupation he said gives him a deeper insight into the damage the pipeline could cause the environment. While he could speak scientifically on the impacts the pipeline could have, he said the dwindling ability of scientists to be heard in Canada forced him to come at the issue from another viewpoint; that of the artist’s.
“Scientists just don’t have a voice anymore,” he said. “The money that used to be available for independent scientific research was the kind of thing that could get an independent body out there has kind of dried up in these economic times.
“When somebody says you gotta help and your a musician, you say, ‘I’ll grab my guitar, I’ll grab the band, we’ll do a fundraiser,’ and you think about all music has done for starvation in Africa,” he continued. “It’s like, these are the tools we have, and these are the tools that people already know we have.”
The duo the finished their first of four trips along the pipeline route, one for each season, capturing the diversity of the landscapes. They will be travelling to and painting the different ecosystems the pipeline would be passing through, such as the Rocky Mountains and the Great Bear Rainforest.
During this last trip, the artists said they met a number of groups that would be impacted by the pipeline — and not just the most obvious ones. For instance, Corbett mentioned a mountain bike club which invested over $300,000 in trails that would be disrupted by the pipeline.
In the end, their hope is to have a body of work of 150 paintings, which would then be shown in galleries across B.C., along with supplemental texts detailing what the effects of an oil spill in the area would be. Citing the role that artists played in the establishment of a number of national and provincial parks in the province, Corbett said that artists play a huge role in inspiring people to action.
“Artists have played a role in activism in this province for a long time, across the country it happens everywhere, we are the kind of group of people who are looked upon to rally the masses,” said Corbett.
However, while the artists want people to walk away from their work opposed to the pipeline, they don’t want to force this stance on the viewers, said Corbett.
“We’re trying to invoke an emotion that might get them think a little bit closer to us, but at the same time, ramming things down people’s throat, this is exactly what Enbridge is trying to do,” said Corbett. “And I don’t think being over-the-top self righteous in your beliefs gets anyone anywhere. I think you have to be open minded.”