Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Mad Bear

Carrying on with the Aislin retrospective at City Hall from October, our relationship with Americans can be seen in the top left cartoon featuring Paul Martin, a former Prime Minister, while the bottom left cartoon with President Obama is one of my personal favourites. Those at the right feature another former prime minister, Brian Mulroney, who was a frequent target for many editorial cartoonists here during his time in office. That chin alone could keep you occupied.

Two Canadian giants closely tied to Montreal feature in the top pair- Mordecai Richler and Leonard Cohen. On the bottom, the left cartoon was a favourite for Pierre Trudeau, while the right one features the great Oscar Peterson, who often could play the piano in a way that sounded like he had to have more than ten fingers.

Here's Pierre himself in a Time cover Aislin did early in Trudeau's time as Prime Minister.

Another personal favourite of mine plays off an incident that actually happened: Prime Minister Jean Chretien strangling a protester. In this case, it's Joe Clark, one of the opposition party leaders (and a former PM himself) getting strangled. I've seen both men on occasion here in Ottawa; Chretien could still strangle someone even all these years later.

This dates back to around the time of Peter Jackson's King Kong film, and pretty much sums up how we Canadians sometimes feel about our neighbours. Pierre Trudeau noted that being next door to America was like trying to sleep next to an elephant. A giant ape will do just as well. 

This is one of Aislin's iconic works, featuring Rene Levesque and Robert Bourassa, done after Levesque's separatist Parti Quebecois won a majority provincial election over Bourassa's Liberals.

A close up of two of his hockey toons. Occasionally Montreal has a bad year, but not with anywhere near as much regularity as the Toronto Maple Leafs- a fact that fans of every other Canadian team relish. The success of Canadian women on the ice is an inspiration.

This is another of his collage works, done for the Montreal Olympics in 1976.

This shot features a cartoon Aislin did of Pope John Paul II after he assumed the papacy. The photograph below it features the pope being presented with the toon itself during a visit.

I like this pair. The top features the eternal struggle of Quebec society, while the bottom one is downright universal to anyone who's ever dealt with traffic delays.

The weather, particularly in winter, is a wonderful subject for the cartoonist, such as with these two. The top one came out of the aftermath of the notorious 1998 Ice Storm, while the second one went unpublished in the papers, but has proven popular online.

Arguably the most loathsome, unfit for office politician (which made him priceless material for editorial cartoonists) ever to appear in Canada was the late crack smoking drunken thug Rob Ford, a former mayor of Toronto (is it obvious I didn't like him?). This is an Aislin take on him.

I finish with this one, which was featured for an article on the Canadian Rockies. The bear's expression is just perfect.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Fifty Years

City Hall has a couple of gallery spaces with a rotating schedule of artists featured throughout the year. In October, one of those spaces was given over to a show on the works of Terry Mosher, who works under the professional name Aislin as an editorial cartoonist for the Montreal Gazette. Born here in Ottawa and spending his professional life in Montreal, he has worked in the field for fifty years, first at the Montreal Star before moving to the Gazette. He has recently published a volume, From Trudeau To Trudeau: Fifty Years Of Cartooning as a retrospective, the latest of a good number of books with his work. Aislin has had many honours of his profession, including the Order of Canada, the Canadian News Hall of Fame... and the distinction of being the very first editorial cartoonist denounced in the House of Commons. The entrance featured this whimsical sculpture of the man himself.

Aislin (a spelling variation on the names of one of his daughters) started his career shortly before Pierre Trudeau became prime minister, and now with Justin Trudeau in the same position, his latest book title is fitting. Portraits of him with father and son, decades apart, were also featured at the entrance.

The rest of the space was given to some of his multitude of work, ranging from sports, the city of Montreal, the province of Quebec, the country, and the world. One section featured the devout love Montrealers have for the Canadiens of the National Hockey League.

More works here included contemporary and historical figures, both here and abroad, often with a wink of the eye or a well deserved barb, as the job requires.

Here we have some examples of how Aislin has addressed the Royal Family over time, with a comparison photograph and a formal letter from the Queen's office inquiring as to the meaning of one of them accompanying the cartoons.

My American readers can relate to these two. Apologies to Donald Duck and the pig, both of whom are far smarter and better socially adjusted than Agent Orange.

The previous and totally not missed federal government under Stephen Harper is the focus of these.

Occasionally Aislin has done montages like this large one for Quebec City, carrying his brand of humour throughout.

He has also been the subject of a documentary in recent years.

These have something of an international tone, capturing Vladimir Putin, gun violence, terrorism, and the impact of AIDS in the Third World.

More international material here, particularly American presidents. I have more from this exhibition in tomorrow's post.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Victoria Cross

I am finishing my series from the War Museum today. Stepping out of Regeneration Hall brings us into the final display area, Lebreton Gallery, where vehicles and equipment are on display in the large open space. This includes two large plaques on a wall. These stood once in the Toronto flagship store of the Eaton's department store chain, and commemorated those employees of the company who fought and died in both World Wars.

There is a wealth of equipment here, from different eras and different parts of the world.

This is a diorama featuring one aspect of the First World War battle of Passchendaele. A German pillbox has been cut away to show the men inside. To the right, in one of the puddles of mud that was so typical of that battle, stands a lone Canadian. Sergeant Tommy Holmes won the Victoria Cross for courage- he and his battalion were pinned down by heavy fire, and he was able to use grenades to remove the threat. The vivid detail, with men down in the mud, captures the brutality of the battle, which marked a Canadian victory one hundred years ago this year, albeit a costly one.

Another larger view of the Gallery includes the Voodoo fighter jet.

This is Weather Station Kurt, a legacy of the Second World War. The crew of a German U-Boat installed this automated weather station at the northern edge of Labrador in 1943 to transmit weather conditions back to Germany, disguised with English lettering to look as if it was Canadian. The equipment ceased transmitting soon thereafter, and the weather station went forgotten for decades until a researcher in Germany going over records traced its existence and informed the Canadian government. Kurt now resides here.

Here we have the ramp taking us up towards the main entrance hall. Large panels of art are on the wall to the right.

Coming back out to where I had started my visit were six paintings. These were portraits of men who fought in the Battle of Hill 70, a ferocious fight between Canadian and German troops, from August 15th to 25th, 1917, near Lens, France. Casualties on both sides were horrendous, but it was a victory for the Canadians, and six Canadian soldiers won the Victoria Cross as a result of their actions throughout the battle. When you read the stories of men who did this, they won it by doing things that by all rights simply could not be done.

Michael James O'Rourke is at the left. Already having had distinguished himself at the Somme, he was a stretcher bearer at Hill 70, where he showed great courage under fire in tending to wounded comrades and getting them to the rear lines. His citation reads that he "showed throughout an absolute disregard for his own safety, going wherever there were wounded to succour." Harry Brown is at the right. He was a message runner during the battle, taking messages from headquarters to the lines, something that was done in pairs in case one was killed. His partner was killed, and Brown himself severely wounded, but he kept moving until he delivered his final message, dying shortly thereafter.

Frederick Hobson is on the left. A sergeant manning a machine gun on the fourth day of the battle, Hobson drove back a German counter attack against his battalion's lines with concentrated fire. When his gun jammed, he rushed forward into the German lines, shooting, stabbing, and clubbing German troops until he was killed in close combat. His sacrifice gave the Canadians time to regroup and push back the German counterattack. On the right, Filip Konowal was a corporal in the battle, leading other men against German lines, at one point fighting seven Germans at once, and killing them all. Wounded in battle, he nonetheless survived the war and passed away in 1959.

Okill Massey Learmonth is on the left. On August 18, 1917, he organized defences of the lines against German counter attacks. Mortally wounded, he still maintained directing his men into pushing back the Germans, dying of his wounds the following day. On the right is Robert Hill Hanna. He took command of his company after the officers had been killed in three previous assaults during the battle. In their fourth assault, he led the company in bringing down a German machine gun nest, an act that his citation commends him for: "but for his daring action and determined handling of a desperate situation, the capture of a most important tactical point would not have succeeded." Hanna's portrait is done by A.Y. Jackson, who spent the war as a military artist, and was a founder of the Group of Seven. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

New Disorder

The last time I was in the War Museum, the final section was blocked off, as a reorganization of the large space at the end of the Cold War section was underway. It was open this time, starting with an introductory set of panels.

This is a section of the Berlin Wall, given to Canada after the government hosted a conference of foreign ministers in the wake of the events of the fall of 1989 to determine the future of Germany. The graffiti is on the side that once faced West Berlin; there is no such graffiti on the side that faced East Berlin.

Canada sent military assets- navy and air force- into the Persian Gulf as part of the Desert Storm coalition, which is examined here.

Canadian peacekeepers were dispatched into the former Yugoslavia in the 90s. This light utility vehicle came under attack by Serbian forces in Croatia in 1994- 54 bullets hit it, with ten of those hitting the passenger and driver.

Another case of an attack is here. Canadian forces were in Afghanistan from 2001 through 2014 as an active combatant against the Taliban. Afghan insurgents used an IED to destroy the front of this vehicle, which used to stand in Lebreton Gallery. Three soldiers and one journalist were saved by the protective armour of the rest of the vehicle.

This is the typical uniform and equipment being used on patrols by Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan during that period.

This is a portion of a Chinook helicopter from the Afghan conflict. A corporal painted the design onto the helicopter- this is a hockey term, but also references the helicopter's two hooks on the belly for lifting equipment.

The Royal Canadian Legion Hall of Honour comes after one has emerged from the permanent galleries, and focuses heavily on commemoration. One of the display areas focuses on peacekeepers, including a model of the Peacekeeping Monument that stands downtown.

Another item here is the original plaster model for the War Memorial.

The next stop from here is Regeneration Hall, another focal point for the museum's design, pointed squarely towards the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. Walter Allward's sculptures for the Vimy Ridge Memorial are here.

With some of the Vimy sculptures off in the temporary exhibit, part of Regeneration Hall had space for a different kind of exhibit, a collaborative effort. War Flowers was done by sculptor Mark Raynes Roberts and a specialist in scents, Alexandra Bachand, with museum curator Viveka Melki. Crystal sculptures, photographs dating back to the First World War, and stored scents in various combinations could be experienced with several different examples.

Friday, November 17, 2017

War And Peace

Carrying on with the Second World War area, the effects on the home front are explored, including a series of propaganda posters of the era.

The Italian campaign has an extensive display area. This photograph from the period caught my eye.

The Normandy campaign follows. Canadians stormed Juno Beach on D-Day, with 110 ships among the Allied naval force bringing in troops and providing support. These two paintings depict the action above Juno Beach and on the beach itself that day.

There is a balcony here that looks out onto Lebreton Gallery, where military vehicles and equipment are on display.

After wrapping up the story of the Second World War, the Museum's next stage explores the Cold War through to the current day. The Korean War is a big part of that, and there are several paintings here by  an artist, Ted Zuber, done in recent years, that capture that conflict. Zuber served in that war as a young man. Welcome Party depicts a Canadian patrol coming across dead bodies in the winter.

Freeze shows another Canadian patrol halt in their steps in the light of an enemy flare.

Holding At Kap'yong features a moment in battle in mountainous country on the Korean peninsula.

A NATO control center is also recreated here, approximately what you might expect in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Simulations of what the Third World War might have unfolded as play out on the screens above.

Presented here is a model of the trustworthy Sea King helicopter.

Canadian involvement in peacekeeping operations is also featured here. This painting by Donald Connolly is titled Mail Delivery- Sinai. 

This is wreckage from a peacekeeping tragedy- fragments of a Canadian plane shot down by Syrian surface to air missiles in 1974. Nine people were killed, and it is still the single biggest loss in Canadian peacekeeping history.

There is a recreation of a Cyprus tavern here. Canadians have been involved in the peacekeeping operations there extensively.

Among the items here is a painting, Gateway To Cyprus, painted by Real Gauthier. The Paphos Gate is an old entry into the city of Nicosia. At one point it was an observation post for peacekeepers, but today serves as a police station.