Wednesday, April 18, 2012

nang sdang a painting by Robert Davidson

Robert Davidson is testing the boundaries of Haida art as he is “provoked by the inventiveness of the earlier masters, while building dialectically and actively on his experience of the present” (Karen Duffek).

There is an almost scientific quality to the work in the exhibition, "The Abstract Edge". Some of the art works explore single elements of Haida art and examine it from the inside out. The other pieces in the exhibition, which seem to build on the single element pieces, use Haida myths and legends to create a new visual language within the well-traveled territory of Haida art.

For example the acrylic painting “nang sdang” looks like an exploration of form. In fact, the name comes from the concept of sdang or “two”. Duffek relates this painting to “the Chief’s name nan sdins (anglicised as Ninstints), meaning a chief who was equal to two: literally, ‘one that is two.’“. The idea or at least the interpretation of this work is that there is more than one way of looking at something and that one thing can have two meanings. For example, this painting has value as a Western art object, as it is acrylic on canvas, painted by a master artist and has a clear provenance. From a Haida point of view, it honours a Haida name, which means a lot in all NWC cultures, in which names are passed down from one generation to the next and in doing so they gain prestige.

Work cited

Davidson, Robert, Karen Duffek, and Robert Houle. Robert Davidson : the Abstract Edge. ed. Karen Duffek. Vancouver: Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in association with the National Gallery of Canada. 2004. Print.