Embracing Creation is a new record of the work of the renowned Freeman Patterson
Embracing Creation by Freeman Patterson (Goose Lane Editions and Beaverbrook Art Gallery, $55.00) is the record of Patterson’s photographic work, as seem in the retrospective travelling exhibition which, alas, will not be shown in Charlottetown.
Its title sums up its scope; its theme belongs to both religion and the physical world.
And the total collection confirms — if there was need — that Patterson is not only one of Canada’s finest artists, but one of international stature.
How did the artist reach such a peak?
It began on the farm where he was born and grew up.
Not only was he surrounded by natural beauty, but his mother was extremely sensitive to it.
“The longer she lived on the family farm, the deeper ran her roots to the world she created there in her window gardens and in the life she brought to her personal landscape.”
His father, on the other hand, saw only what would be useful and make money.
At college and later at Union Theological Seminary in New York, Patterson further developed and clarified his beliefs about the relationship between art and religion.
The title of his thesis, Still Photography as a Medium of Religious Expression, says it all.
“The questions he posed in 1962 proved prescient,” writes Tom Smart, author and consultant on artistic matters.
They framed his artistic approach, which has grown deeper and more insightful over the years, resulting in images that, in a language all their own, confirm that photography can be a medium ... of the most profound experiences confronting the human psyche.
Patterson has travelled widely, taking photographs everywhere he has gone.
Most of these places — from New Zealand to the Dead Sea, and from Patagonia to South Carolina — are represented by one or more pictures, though there is a list at the back of the book that gives the origin of each.
However the two places whose images appear most frequently are his native New Brunswick, especially those taken in and around Shamper’s Bluff where he lives and the great South African Desert of Namibia, which he now visits every year.
It is particularly remarkable to see what he can see in the almost treeless land and the long-deserted houses filling up with sand. And as for Shamper's Bluff: the subjects range from Autumn Tapestry — not nearly so hackneyed as the title suggests — to Ribbons, in which multicoloured stripes of various widths cross the page diagonally.
Elizabeth Cran is a freelance writer who writes a book review column for The Guardian. To comment or to send her books to review, write her at 111 Sydney St., Apt. 17, Saint John, N.B., E2L 2L8, or call her at 506-693-5498.