The Sleeping Green: No Man’s Land 100 Years Later opens April 1 at the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris, just one week before the centenary of the battle at Vimy Ridge, one of the most important Canadian battles of all time.
“Vimy Ridge was the turning point in the war, so it is significant and fitting that our exhibition opens so close to the centenary of that battle. The Canadian Cultural Centre actually rescheduled an exhibition to get The Sleeping Green in during this time slot,” says exhibition curator Dr. Josephine Mills, Director/Curator of the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery.
The Sleeping Green exhibition includes images of Canadian battle sites in Belgium and France by Calgary artist Dianne Bos, and books printed during or just after World War 1 as well as poetry and essays by Harry Vandervlist, University of Calgary English professor and WW1 poetry expert.
In 2014, to mark the centenary of the start of WWI, Bos visited battle sites in France and Belgium taking photographs using vintage cameras, pinhole photography and unique hands-on processing techniques. She returned in 2016 and expanded her range of images.
Bos did not photograph obvious war monuments, but rather the remnants of original trenches and battlefronts. “Some of these are relatively untouched and you can still find bullets and unexploded bombs,” said Mills. “Diane incorporated objects found on battle sites, like rocks, leaves, and a bullet, into the printing process. By scattering these over the paper during printing, she produces layers of imagery that convey the emotional depth of these extraordinary landscapes.”
“The Sleeping Green is not about the war itself or commemorating events that happened 100 years ago,” explains Mills. “The exhibition explores how a terrible historical event has become part of the fabric of our collective imagination and how WWI lives on for those who have only experienced the stories and images after the fact. The resulting photographs are stunning, beautiful, and haunting.”
Hosting Sleeping Green is a rare opportunity for the Canadian Cultural Centre, which does not often work with Western Canadian artists and institutions because of the high cost of shipping works. Mills garnered funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, University of Lethbridge Research Services Office, and a significant amount from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts for framing and shipping.
“This is the first exhibition I’ve curated that has been displayed internationally and the third international exhibition for the University of Lethbridge,” says Mills.
Initially exhibited at the U of L Art Gallery in 2015, the version of Sleeping Green opening in Paris contains almost twice the number of works because of Bos’ subsequent visits to Europe. This is an important exhibition for both Bos and Mills.
“I was absolutely committed to giving this project a longer life,” says Mills who is planning a Canadian tour for Sleeping Green, including a stop at the Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina.
In conjunction with the exhibition opening is the launch of the bilingual book The Sleeping Green: No Man’s Land 100 Years Later, which contains reproductions of Bos’ photographs, as well as essays and writings by Mills, Bos and Vandervlist. The artist and curator will attend the opening for a book signing session.