The crisp, creamy stone of storefronts on Paris’s Rue Saint-Honoré can, at times, have the blinding effect of fresh snow. Here, in the window of a newly-opened Canada Goose store, art that celebrates the elements is showcased—a die cut cluster of lacy shapes inspired by Arctic lichen. Inside, there’s more: a selection of prints and carvings that respond to water, the pervasive, essential element.
Ed Pien’s Fils de Lumiere floats, tethered by aircraft wire, in the shop’s main window. Made of die cut aluminium, the work depicts organic, crystalline forms, like nostalgic visions of doilies or snowflakes. In fact, each metal swirl is based on the eerie, coral-like shapes of Arctic lichen. These intricate shapes are also evocative of lace.
The artist first discovered the remarkable similarities between hand-made lace and lichen after purchasing a book on the subject at The Louvre. It was a fateful find; Pien had already spent time admiring the lichen that carpets Iceland’s lava fields. The Canada Goose store presented a chance to explore this fascinating connection in an environment that aptly mixed the two threads of inspiration: Canada’s Arctic flora and Europe’s textile traditions.
When selecting art for the new Paris store, curator Natalie MacNamara looked for pieces that could communicate something of Canada’s culture and artistic traditions to an international audience. “It is a privilege and a responsibility to create these storytelling moments and I think the experience is most meaningful when introduced through a sense of familiarity,” she says. That sense of familiarity is best achieved by teasing out connections between Canada and the installation site. “Regional narratives tend to lose their resonance, the further away they go,” says MacNamara, “but images, symbols and even textures maintain their tenor.” Pien’s piece, for instance, uses the familiar shapes of lace and ice crystals to introduce viewers to the fragile beauty of lichen, a strange organism that is both hardy and delicate. Lichen is extremely susceptible to the effects of pollution—they do not have roots and, instead, gather nutrients and water from the air. Representing them in aluminum, a futuristic, shining metal, creates a sense of preservation, as if these strange, swirling forms have been stripped of their earthy qualities and made invincible.
Pien’s piece is not the only work in the Paris store that speaks to the delicacy of nature. PA System’s Nuna/Land utilizes ink made from recovered iron ore mined in Baffin Island. This single fact brings to mind the presence of the mining industry in Canada’s North, it’s undeniable alteration of the landscape. For MacNamara, this connection sparked the direction of all the work chosen for the Paris store. Water became a theme, underpinning the work on display. “I then focused on narratives that are linked to water,” says MacNamara, “which is why Sedna figures prominently in this location.” Sedna, the mythological Inuit sea goddess, is seen in a print by Ningiukulu Teevee and two carvings by Pootoogook Jaw and Jaco Ishulutak.
Snow, ice, rivers, and rain. Water’s changeability is the perfect symbol for nature’s ability to adapt, forever shifting and striving towards life. Pien’s Fils de Lumiere and Nicotye Samayualie’s Cotton Grass, another piece selected for the Paris store, push the theme of water to its inevitable conclusion. Both pieces depict plants, organisms that seem to epitomise the life-giving quality of water. “I thought it would be nice to reveal the little bit of plant growth one finds in the tundra spring, thanks to nourishment provided by melting ice and snow,” says MacNamara. In the Paris location, Canada Goose will reveal to visitors a collection of contemporary, Canadian art, as bright and unexpected as a tundra spring.