Les histoires extraordinaires de Diana Thorneycroft



Les histoires extraordinaires de Diana Thorneycroft

Past: May 11 → September 9, 2011

The Canadian Cultural Centre presents the first exhibition of the work of the photographer Diana Thorneycroft in France. The exhibition at the Canadian Cultural Centre presents in its entirety the series Group of Seven Awkward Moments, twenty or so photographs that recently marked the Canadian art world (the magazine Canadian Art picked this series as one of the ten best exhibitions of 2008) and a selection of works from the older series, The Canadiana Martyrdom Series. Through a distinctive blend of genre paintings, landscapes, personal narratives embedded in historical narratives, and martyrdoms of plastic dolls, the exhibition gives a “disorienting” vision of Canada. Diana Thorneycroft’s Extraordinary Stories presents the uncommon, hybrid and iconoclastic image of a country reconstructed using fantasized scenes from a supposed collective imagination, an unrestrained imagination where true facts, customs, taboos and stereotypes clash. The artist plays with the sentiment of national identity and reveals its artifice. In her magnificent scenes of small industrial figurines, natural light is a visible lie that refers the viewer to a manufactured, ossified (tourist) world, emptied of substance but fascinating, domestic (reassuring) and amusing nevertheless. Thus, all the scenes are darker than they seem, despite the dazzling workmanship of these small spectacles in isolation.

In Group of Seven Awkward Moments, disasters, accidents and ambiguous scenes are used as backdrops for dioramas produced using the pictorial imagery of the famous Group of Seven. This group of painters-explorers, who endeavoured to depict the Canadian wilderness and whose number varied until 1931 (there were up to ten of them, not counting Tom Thomson, who died before the group was founded, but who was its inspiration), advocated the invention of a new style to break free once and for all of the European art that had pride of place in the museums of Canada. In the 1920s, their landscapes, painted with pure colours and large brushstrokes, aimed to represent a distinctive identity, evocative of a Canadian national sentiment.

Diana Thorneycroft reduced this ideal to a simple image, gave these works a “usefulness” by making them the backdrops of an unlikely and totally heterogeneous imagination. The wilderness idealized by the Group of Seven is paradoxically filled and sullied with awkward events. As for the martyrdoms of The Canadiana Martyrdom Series, their absurdity is in stark contrast to the trivialization of violence caused by the free circulation of images in the mass media. The fact that the martyrs are Canadian celebrities represented by toys adds to the apparent cynicism of the work. Diana Thorneycroft makes use of the viewer’s attraction for idols and violence, and takes it to a caricatural travesty, the point where the cultural industry practises it “naturally”.

Presented to a foreign public for the first time, these atypically Canadian scenes will, taken out of their national context, take on a new resonance. They call into question the exportation of a certain Canadian exoticism.

07 Paris 7 Zoom in 07 Paris 7 Zoom out

5, rue de Constantine

75007 Paris

T. 01 44 43 21 90 — F. 01 44 43 21 99

Official website

Assemblée Nationale

Opening hours

Monday – Friday, 10 AM – 6 PM

Admission fee

Free entrance

The artist