Robert Houle: enuhmo andúhyaun

Houle’s ARTlab exhibition, Robert Houle: enuhmo andúhyaun (the road home) (Sept. 6, – Oct. 12) is one in a series of art exhibitions at the University of Manitoba. The art shows are being launched in celebration of The School of Art Gallery at the University of Manitoba move into ARTlab. Anihšināpē artist, Robert Houle will be present at his art reception, which will be held on Sept. 6 from 4-7 p.m..

While Houle’s paintings and drawings are based on childhood fears and trauma inflicted by elementary school systems, he also incorporates the themes of reconciliation and forgiveness. We all live in Canada and moving on together, while being aware of past atrocities is a very powerful concept, which can heal people along with educating them.

The School of Art Gallery director and curator Mary Reid reinforced the idea of forgiveness and being aware of the crimes of the past.

“Colonization and (the not so distant) past Canadian government policies of assimilation have had an extremely detrimental effect on First Nations culture. It was essentially cultural and spiritual genocide,” says Reid.
“Houle’s artwork is about remembering not only mentally but also physically. A lot of the memories actually came through his body first. He remembered the abuse and the subsequent shame through his body and then his memory. He created the drawings almost automatically, allowing his hand to move without thinking, and then the images came flooding back into his mind.”

“In many cases he had suppressed a lot of this trauma and it started resurfacing when he was creating this work. This act of remembering and drawing was a means to let go but not to forget, to come to terms with what happened to him and have the strength to acknowledge it and move past it, to let the sadness go,” says Reid.

“The images are very evocative and are based on experiences and memories of his time there. The rawness of the images evokes many feelings and emotions, dealing both with reckoning what happened but also having the strength to overcome and move forward. Although very personal they can be a testament for others. The demonstrate strength and power to triumph over adversity. They offer a road, a path forward.”

According to Reid, the outcomes of Houle’s art and show are lofty but noble. “I hope that this exhibition will offer hope and strength. It will raise attention about the treatment of First Nations children in Indian Residential School from a very personal perspective. This exhibition is not only about telling the truth, it is about remembering, not forgetting. It is about being able to move past the trauma.”

Filmmaker Shelley Niro’s documentary Robert’s Paintings is being screened at Urban Shaman on Thursday, Sept. 6 at 7p.m. with a director’s introduction. The film examines his life as an artist, curator, educator and cultural theorist.

Robert Houle: enuhmo andúhyaun (the road home) takes place Sept. 6, 2012 – Oct. 12, 2012. The Sept 6 show will be attended by the artist and will be held between 4-7p.m..