Excerpts from the Drawn like Money Series

By Mahon, Patrick | Visible Language, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Excerpts from the Drawn like Money Series


Mahon, Patrick, Visible Language


The Drawn Like Money Series is a group of drawings, made with pen and ink, based on my own photographic images of the Canadian Arctic. The works are intended to resemble the conventional engraved syntax found on paper currency. Drawn Like Money, which was occasioned by a collaborative project entitled Ar t and Cold Cash, is excerpted here to demonstrate my interest in representations of landscape and wildlife through visual rubrics that have come to confer notions of economic value upon pictorial representations.

Art and Cold Cash is an art project connecting contemporary art and discourses surrounding money with the development of works in video and drawing by a five-member artists' collective. Jack Butler, Sheila Butler and I are contemporary Canadian artists who have lived and worked in the Canadian North. Beginning in 2004, we undertook an artistic collaboration with writer, Ruby Arngna'naaq, and artist, William Noah. Those two Inuit members of the Art and Cold Cash Collective lived through the change from barter economy to capitalism in Baker Lake, Nunavut, Canada. So, the experience and knowledge of Arngna'naaq and Noah are linked with the perspectives of Jack Butler, Sheila Butler and myself. A key factor in this project is the history of twentieth century Canadian art as concurrent with the relatively recent introduction of capitalist exchange in the Canadian Arctic. As a creative response to the historical conditions around which it is centered, the project is committed to collective art making and analysis as culturally necessary and creatively expansive at this time of increasing globalization.

Specific to the Drawn Like Money Series was the idea that nationhood in Canada has in part been forged in relationship to images of the land, including those painted by artists and illustrators whose works were modeled on a British idea of landscape; by the paintings of the Group of Seven; and with regard to other such representations displayed on paper money since the midtwentieth century and earlier. Images of the land have been used to promote Canadian nationalism in a number of ways, including, as Emily Gilbert has shown, by "drawing upon the kinds of natural images that have long fed the Canadian imagination." ' Thus the circulation and flow of currency bearing landscapes in Canada has historically been a means to encourage within the minds and hearts of citizens involved in daily capitalist exchange nationalist sentiments tied to representations of the land. …

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