Maclean - Prayer for Athabasca (description)

The sky, the stars and the environment are recurring motifs in the art of Maclean, who maps heavenly and earthly objects using a wide range of commonplace materials. Plastic tarps, moving blankets, aluminum panels and newsprint are just some of the surfaces he uses to open and explore new spaces. In Prayer for Athabasca, juxtaposed angular fragments of tarpaulin in complementary colours create different planes and the illusion of depth. Metal grommets outline two neighbouring constellations, Eridanus (named for a river in Greek mythology) and Fornax, transforming the surface into a section of the sky and giving the composition the appearance of a celestial landscape. While the artist’s highly formalist approach transports us into outer space, the work’s title calls us back to environmental concerns. Athabasca is the name of an Alberta river that flows through a region of vast tar sand deposits and is now one of the most polluted in the country. In this sense, the work is an ex-voto, a prayer for all the living beings of an ecosystem ravaged by the extraction of crude bitumen.
Julie Bélisle

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