La maison des artistes visuels francophones: From Here to There: A 60 year Journey - The Maps, Stories and Images of Réal Bérard, August 1 - September 14

La Maison des artistes visuels francophones exhibition curated by Alex Keim.

From Here to There: A 60 year Journey. The Maps, Stories and Images of Réal Bérard - Réal Bérard

August 1 - September 14, 2019

Cartography is the science and art of making maps or graphical representations and images showing spatial concepts at various scales. Maps not only convey geographic information but can be useful in understanding topography, weather and culture depending upon the type of map. (Britney August 2018) A map lets you know where you are in the world. A map can also be the catalyst: the seed for the stuff dreams are made of; filling the explorer's soul and feeding romantic notions for lovers of this wonderful place, we call Earth. A place on a map—real or imagined—is attainable only through will and initiative, be it physical or metaphysical i.e., walking or stationary daydreaming. Whichever way one attains a journey to elsewhere, it must be an action that passes through a very real and felt sense of movement and displacement. In many levels, it takes courage to take first steps into the unknown.

The first paper maps identified were made by the early Greeks. Anaximander, Hecataeus, Herodotus, Eratosthenes and Ptolemy were amongst the first known Cartographers who through real observations and mathematical equations came to map Greece as the center of the world. These early astrologers were largely inspired by the works of Homer's Odyssey. Perhaps it is important to note here that from these maps came political and economic domination that fuelled the Age of Exploration and subsequently the social impact of colonialism which reverberates to this present day. With technological advancements, modern cartography begun to grow in the 17 th and 18 th centuries and continued to shape international trade through the 20 th century right up to our political structures of globalization. (Cole Sept 2018)

Presently, when smart phones and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are capable of providing us with real time longitude and latitude coordinates that make maps by computers relatively easy, the hand drafted maps that artist and cartographer, Réal Bérard has been making since 1962—then for Manitoba Natural Resources which is now Manitoba Conservation—transport us to a different world and time. Bérard has canoed, walked, portaged through every inch of Manitoba's waterways, capturing the stories linked to the people who call the wilderness home, drawing their faces, tracing our history and the legends which may only be conquered and recorded through his experience.

Manitoba and its waterways have played an important role in the making of Canada. The maps that Réal Bérard creates are not about the tentacles of the development of Industry, nor are they about isolation. The Manitoba Waterway maps are a labour of love; a love affair that one artist has taken on as part of understanding his place in history for almost six decades. The drawings—of faces, cabins in the woods, flora and fauna, churches, weapons, cooking utensils and even recipes—are all made by hand without use of complicated technology. The accompanying stories written in hand script are made without the use of anything that uses electricity, except perhaps a lamp to cast light during the long hours of creativity. One could argue that these are only maps which rest within a utilitarian realm and therefore not works of art. This argument falls flat when one looks at the Canoe route masterpieces that have guided tens of thousands of canoeists through the lakes and river systems of Manitoba. Writer Jonathan Berger, writing to the Free Press (article published 16/5/2015) says that Bérard's maps transport him to the rivers, he goes on to elaborate by saying, "his drawings give me my aesthetic lens through which I view the North. To me, his work is as significant as the Group of Seven."

In a 1977 article for the American Canoe Association, CANOE, John Viehman wrote, 'True to the Voyageur, Bérard is a colourful, lively character' and his maps are 'bursting with illustration, folklore and biography.' To this day, both the maps and the artist himself represent this colourful history; they are moments captured in time that highlights nature, people and their stories as seen through a rear view mirror. Bérard, though his art, magnifies the beauty of the wilderness as well as the environmental impact we humans have had over time on our lakes and rivers.

Shown for the first time all together at La Maison as part of its summer exhibitions, the exhibition, From Here to There, highlights all 14 maps and accompanying paintings, watercolours and drawings that have been inspired from these explorations. La Maison des artistes visuels francophones is honoured to be able to present these important works as a complete body and we would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Mr. Réal Bérard and Mrs. Eva Bérard for their generosity and sharing spirits. We also acknowledge our funders and Thank them for the support they give La Maison and its programming, notably Canadian Heritage, the Winnipeg Arts Council, the Manitoba Arts Council, the Canada Arts Council, and Francofonds, as well as our members, and donors—we thank you.