Boat Sight – Decoding ART

Boat Sight – Decoding ART


This capsule is presented by Canadian Heritage This sculpture along the banks of the Ottawa River is a pleasant surprise for cyclists and pedestrians. John McEwen, a well-known Canadian artist, created Boat Sight in 1984. It was commissioned specifically for Portageurs Park. Boat Sight is near the historic portage area of the Chaudière district. For hundreds of years, this place was used by Indigenous peoples, fur traders, and explorers to portage as they travelled the Ottawa River. The park is a quiet, natural recreation area near the city’s urban core. McEwen’s works often include themes of culture, ecology and transportation, and feature steel silhouettes of dogs and wolves. Boat Sight symbolizes the meeting or intersection between culture and nature. Its location next to a pulp and paper mill creates associations with the modern, industrial world. The ship coming in from the river to land suggests the arrival of culture to a natural setting. Meanwhile, the dogs and wolves, which symbolize nature, respond to the boat’s arrival with fear and curiosity. The ship’s frame is imposing. Through its silhouette, you can see the
sky and river as well as the dam and industrial buildings. McEwen made the ship’s frame and the animals out of sandblasted steel plates, a frequently used industrial material.
Boat Sight sits on a terrace of limestone and brick. The artist wanted the ship to appear as though it were lying on a dry river bed at the foot of the dam. McEwen’s public art is on display
in major cities across Canada, and his artwork has been exhibited internationally. In the National Capital Region, McEwen collaborated on the Valiants Memorial located in downtown Ottawa. He also created the Royal Canadian Air Force Hall of Tribute for the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

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