Patterson Webster
Continuum  2020-2021
Rock, water, trees, timber, newspaper, photographs
Collection of the artist

This multi-part installation stretches across a kilometer of field and forest. Inspired by the idea that life exists as a continuum in which each small change affects what follows, the artist highlights how we are each part of this process and how our actions affect our environment.

Announcing the section is a wooden cube, 2 feet on each side, elevated on a small wooden table in the middle of an old farm field. The cube is burned with letters that spell out “Continuum,” with each letter arranged in a different order on each face of the cube, illustrating the concept itself. Beside a stream, remnants of maple-syrup making equipment discovered on-site connect this installation to Orin’s Sugarcamp, the preceding section of Timelines.

The trail leads alongside a hemlock tree whose rounded sides have been removed, leaving the central heart of the tree a standing square, ready to be used as a beam or to be cut into boards. Set back from the square-cut tree are the rounded sides that were removed.

The path enters a wooded hillside where ancient maple trees, which the artist sees as Elders, mark the way. Near one Elder is a boulder that the artist drilled to outline the shape of a maple seed, or samara, a pattern that suggests growth and renewal in contrast to the ancient trees that surround it. More Elders, some close to death, stand beside an old farm road that leads to an excavated pool. Two boulders drilled with the samara shape sit at the edge of the pool; on the hillside above, boulders arranged in the same pattern form the “positive” of the “negative” drilled holes, creating a tension between presence and absence, the movement and growth implicit in the image of a seed and the immobility and permanence of the boulders themselves.

The path re-enters the farm field where Continuum began. Here, the artist has planted maple saplings around a limbless maple tree trunk enclosed in a clear plexiglass column. The tree trunk is covered with a collage of pages torn from auction catalogues that show paintings of trees in woodland and garden settings and with newspaper clippings that show the rise and fall of stock market prices. Prominent in the collage are reproductions of iconic Canadian paintings of nature, many by members of the Group of Seven.

The final section of Continuum leads through a natural allée of spruce trees. Lining the path are tree trunks that diminish in height as the path proceeds down the hillside; the final pair is barely visible, suggesting a process of decay and decomposition.

Along the length of Continuum, tree stumps and boulders provide places to sit. Maple trees at different stages of growth and decay are presented as a source of food and shelter for animals and human beings, as building materials, and as a generating force of art and commerce. Seen alongside moving water and static rocks, they embody the theme of Continuum, creating a sense of beginnings, middles and conclusions that begin again.