Anchored by the Art Gallery of Guelph’s major Tom Thomson canvas of the same title, the exhibition The Drive highlights the complexity of the representation of landscape—particularly as it relates to the land and its industrial transformation in Canada. Thomson’s The Drive (1916-1917) is considered one of his most significant paintings and captures logging activities in Algonquin Park, a frequent subject for the artist and one often overshadowed by his paintings of seemingly untouched landscapes. That industry was a primary shaper of the terrain Thomson made famous, situating the landscape as postindustrial, not the pristine wilderness it is so often perceived as.
This work also offers a lens through which other works of art such as paintings of Lake Superior by Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson’s images of mining settlements, and scenes and views made accessible by rail by J.E.H. MacDonald, can be considered and contextualized. Locating this work of Thomson and the Group of Seven in relation to other Canadian and Indigenous artists, the exhibition speaks to the effects of colonization and changing relationships to the land through creative responses that advance ecological sustainability and environmental justice.
Curated by Shauna McCabe and Brian Meehan, The Drive is organized by the Art Gallery of Guelph with the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage, Government of Canada, as well as the Canada Council for the Arts and Ontario Arts Council. This circulating exhibition is presented in conjunction with Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Museum London, and Thunder Bay Art Gallery.