AN INNOVATIVE, MULTI-SENSORIAL EXHIBITION EXPLORING HUMAN NATURE IN THE LANDSCAPE OF WAR THROUGH FLORIOGRAPHY, SCULPTURE AND SCENT
During the First World War (1914-18) Canadian soldier Lieutenant-Colonel George Stephen Cantlie picked flowers from the fields and gardens of war-torn Europe, pressing and drying them within a book. Every day, he sent one flower home, along with a short, affectionate note to one of his children, including his one-year-old baby daughter Celia in Montreal, so that, as she grew up, she would have something to remember him by in the event he didn’t survive that terrible war.
Flash forward. A century has passed, and with it all living memory of the First World War. But Cantlie’s letters and flowers have been preserved and ultimately passed to his granddaughter, the late Elspeth Angus, in Montreal, who lovingly preserved them in a special red box. And that’s where, four years ago, a Canadian filmmaker, Viveka Melki, toher utter amazement, first encountered them, speaking to her from the past, and the germ of an idea was born in Melki’s mind.
WAR Flowers - A Touring Art Exhibition is produced by Les Jardins de Métis/Reford Gardens
The exhibition is made possible thanks to the generous support of
the Government of Canada and many private partners and individual donors.
Now, more than one hundred years after he picked the flowers, and on the 100th anniversary of the end of that horrific conflict, Cantlie’s touching wartime ritual can be experienced anew in WAR Flowers - A Touring Art Exhibition, now running through January 5. 2020 at Château Ramezay - Historic Site and Museum of Montreal.
Melki has reinterpreted ten of Cantlie’s flowers using floriography, a Victorian-era method of communicating meaning and emotion through flowers, to tell a larger story of human nature in the landscape of war.
As conceived by Melki, the exhibition is comprised of ten stations, representing ten of her core beliefs about the nature of war. Each station showcases a different flower picked by Cantlie and draws on his wartime letters, exhibited publicly for the first time. Actual artifacts of the First World War era complement each station.
For each station, optical crystal sculptures created by award-winning Toronto-based artist Mark Raynes Roberts portray scenes that illustrate different aspects of human nature, while scents at each station developed by Magog, Quebec, olfactory specialist and perfumer Alexandra Bachand evoke memory.
Louise Brazeau, Education and Promotion Coordinator