Arcadia, the title Nancy Petry chose for this exhibition, is a Greek term that refers to an ancient civilization in harmony with nature – the land, the animals, and every living thing - existing in a principled, peaceable and idyllic world. This optimistic philosophy, like everything about the artist’s work, speaks to what is joyful and what can be the best in us.
Nature and travel are the twin wellsprings from which Petry continues to draw her inspiration. The idea for this body of work came to her as the aircraft flew across the polar route on her way back from London. From this height, the great rivers appeared to flutter like ribbons across the vast uncharted wilderness of the northern landscape. They were to engage her over the course of the next three years, from 1969 through 1971, as paintings, prints, and works on paper emerged from both her London and Montréal studios. Particularly relevant to the period are the serigraphs. The remarkable interest in printmaking, which emerged internationally in the 1950s, allowed artists to create works that could be sold for reasonable prices to a growing collecting public. Agnès Lefort, who was Petry’s dealer for many years, opened the first commercial space specializing in print works in 1960. L’atelier Libre opened in 1964, La Guilde Graphique in 1964, GRAFF in 1966. Atelier Circulaire, which opened some years later became Petry’s printmaking studio of choice. The influence of the Pop Art movement popularized serigraphy (silk screen printing) because it allowed for the use of high colour and the graphic imagery that we see in this river series. Home design and decoration magazines are predicting that high colour is coming back in style. What could be a better moment to re-introduce these wonderful portraits of our native rivers in colours that virtually pop off the wall? Petry has done it all – drawings, paintings, performance, happenings, dance, video, photography. This time she has given us a truly “feel good” moment at the onset of spring. Fragments Unfolding, are her most recent works. Colourful, delightful and, released from the bounds of frames or borders, they float unfettered across the walls like painted birds to welcome spring.
Lucienne Lefebvre Glaubinger
Jacqueline Hébert Stoneberger
Montréal, Canada, Spring 2016