Contemporary Calgary Kicks Off Summer with Ghosts of Canoe Lake: New Work by Marcel Dzama

The art exhibition pulls inspiration from Canadian art history with a focus on climate change.

Marcel Dzama (b. 1974), Waiting on Tom’s ghost, 2023, pearlescent acrylic, ink, watercolour, and graphite on paper, 36.8 x 36.2 cm, courtesy the artist and David Zwirner. © Marcel Dzama.

A new exhibition has found its home at Contemporary Calgary for the summer, and Calgarians are invited to discover the new artwork during the free opening night event. The Ghosts of Canoe Lake: New Work by Marcel Dzama exhibition opens June 27 at Contemporary Calgary, and artist Marcel Dzama and curator Kanika Anand will be on-site to host a live discussion that evening.

Marcel Dzama (b. 1974), Ghost of Canoe Lake, 2023, pearlescent acrylic, ink, watercolour, and graphite on paper, 36.2 x 36.2 cm, courtesy the artist and David Zwirner. © Marcel Dzama.

Current affairs, historical art figures and childhood memories

After more than a decade since his last major exhibition in Canada, contemporary artist Marcel Dzama is making a return to his home country with an ode to his prairie roots. Known for his surreal illustrations, Dzama’s new body of work is in the same thread of artistic style but draws from many new references. 

Ghosts of Canoe Lake: New Work by Marcel Dzama was partly inspired by his childhood memories growing up in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and landscapes portrayed throughout Canadian history. Dzama also references historical artists like Tom Thompson and highlights issues like the wildfires and other effects of climate change. 

“It’s a way for him to talk about the political uncertainties and the sort of precariousness that we find ourselves in,” says Kanika Anand, senior curator for Contemporary Calgary. “On one side, it’s for us to be able to observe the landscape within a Canadian context. But it’s also a global overview of what’s happening in the world.”

Marcel Dzama (b. 1974), We cannot abandon such beauty, 2023, pearlescent acrylic, ink, watercolour, and graphite on paper, 30.5 x 36.2 cm, courtesy the artist and David Zwirner. © Marcel Dzama.

Of the historical artistic figures portrayed, Dzama references Federico García Lorca and his life during the Spanish Civil War, mirroring today’s wars, disruptions and political unrest. “There is some dark subject material, but he expresses it in a whimsical, surreal way that makes it a lot more palatable,” says Anand. 

Visitors can expect a range of mediums from drawings, films and prints to sculpture and installation. The exhibition draws on the vast, serene Canadian outdoors through references of camping and fishing and nostalgic moments shared with family and friends, while also offering an opportunity for deeper contemplation.

“There’s something for everyone. It’s colourful, it’s nostalgic, it references a lot of history and art history, but it’s also whimsical and fun. It could be something for the family, or it could be something for someone who wants to delve deeper into the realities of our times,” affirms Anand.

Artist in conversation

For every new exhibition, Contemporary Calgary welcomes visitors free of charge for its opening event and hosts a conversation with the artist. On June 27, Dzama will be in conversation with Anand, and guests will get to take a glimpse into his artistic mind and process.

The discussion will provide insight into Dzama’s practice and dive into the details of his latest body of work. He will share why it was important to go back to distinct historical periods and why he chose to underline political issues. 

Marcel Dzama (b. 1974), The sisters of nature parade on the flood, 2023, pearlescent acrylic, ink, watercolour, and graphite on paper, 39.7 x 40.6 cm, courtesy the artist and David Zwirner. © Marcel Dzama.

Celebrating 10 years of Contemporary Calgary 

This year marks Contemporary Calgary’s 10th anniversary, and the gallery has adjusted its admission rates to make the exhibitions more accessible. 

“We want to grow. We want more people to come in. We don’t want finances to be an obstacle for people to access art,” says Anand. 

Admission is now by donation for anyone aged 24 or younger and $12 for those 25 and up. Annual memberships are on offer for $24.

To learn more, visit contemporarycalgary.com and follow Contemporary Calgary’s Facebook and Instagram



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