Calgary Metro Quality Painters Article

Calgary artists tell First World War story through paint

Duplicates of the original panels will tour Alberta for the next two years.

By: Jeremy Simes For Metro Calgary Published on Mon Oct 05 2015

When David Nielsen was helping is son Oscar read a Grade-3 version of the Odyssey, he realized the book needed some cool illustrations to go with it. 

So, he and his colleague Craig Friesen got together to do just that. No, they didn’t illustrate an entire book, but painted 18 panels replicating the story of the Odyssey in the context of the First World War, as part of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Travelling Exhibition Program.

The smaller duplicates of the original panels will tour the province for the next two years, making their second stop at the West Springs School in the city’s southwest Thursday.  

The panels tell a story of a soldier who goes to war overseas, faces many dangers, and gets injured while returning home to his wife and son. 

In the panels, cyclops is depicted as a single-propeller aircraft, the lotus-eaters as soldiers who become inactive and wait, the devastated temple of Athena as Europe’s bombed cathedrals, and Circe’s poisonous drink as the clouds of poison gas. 

The exhibition’s curator, Caroline Loewen, said she chose the duo’s creation because their idea revolved around history and how it tends to repeat itself. 

“It tells our history through a different medium, and (the work) is easy to understand,” she said. “I think (the work) will grab the attention of kids and those who don’t normally go to exhibitions.”

Nielsen said he hopes the comic-book-like panels — which contain words to go with the imagery —  will strike a chord with those who view them. 

“This art is so cool,” he said. “It’ll teach kids about conflict, literature, collaboration and art itself. I think it really clicks.”

The exhibition will be at the school until Nov. 4.