Big art for big questions: This PEI artist makes huge crows and golden crowns to wax philosophical

Gerald Beaulieu tackles some massive subjects in the oversized art he makes out of found materials.

Gerald Beaulieu tackles some massive subjects in the oversized art he makes out of found materials

(CBC Arts)

Outside The Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, two gigantic mysterious crows constructed entirely from rubber tires lie dead and sprawled out on the snow covered ground.

The installation is called When The Rubber Meets The Road, and it's a perfect example of how sculptor and installation artist Gerald Beaulieu carefully chooses materials — in this instance, rubber tires — to convey a larger, more universal idea, question or narrative. He notes: "As an artist I often look to what the symbolism of certain materials might be, what they might have been used for historically, and how it relates to the story that I want to tell."

Watch the video:

With massive crows made out of rubber and a gold crown of wood, Beaulieu is opening up very human questions. Filmmaker: Matthew Brown 5:13

In Beaulieu's latest work Fallen, he uses fallen trees as symbols for institutions that are currently in a state of decline or under threat of collapse. He says, "We had a number of really bad wind events in the fall — as did a lot of places in the Maritimes — and there was a grove of trees that my partner Christine has painted for many, many years, and the wind had taken them down, but there was also insect rot, so the trees had been weakened from within, and then subjected to the external forces of the wind..."

It was this observation that led Beaulieu to consider the parallels between the internal and external forces at work in nature and institutions currently under threat. He says he chose the title Fallen because of the double meaning of the word — how it can imply honour or dishonour. That led him to apply it to this series about institutions that are at risk of falling either tragically through an assault on them, or through their own internal corruption and dishonour.

(CBC Arts)

In this video by filmmaker Matthew Brown with the help of Zoë Boyd, you'll visit his installation at The Confederation Centre For The Arts, then follow him back to his home and studio to learn about his latest project. Beaulieu says that with all of his work, he is seeking to tell a story — and that his creative practice is his way of seeking a deeper truth about the world, and humanity's place in it.

"A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that artists create fictions, and because they're fictions, they're not truthful...that truth is only found in facts. But I think if you look at great art through history, I think the fictions are actually more truthful because they're more universal."

Find out more about Gerald Beaulieu here.

(CBC Arts)
(CBC Arts)
(CBC Arts)

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About the Author

Matthew Brown is a filmmaker based in New Brunswick. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts from the University of New Brunswick, he studied photography at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. He is the creator and producer of Studio Tour, a Bell TV1 show that profiled Atlantic Canadian artists and that aired for four seasons in Atlantic Canada.