The Coast reviews THE NATIVE TREES OF CANADA

“The Native Trees of Canada” / The Coast / Sean Flinn / December 2, 2010

The Native Trees of Canada
Leanne Shapton (DRAWN & QUARTERLY PETIT LIVRES)

by Sean Flinn
The Coast

The illustrator, a Canadian in New York, re-imagines this country’s trees, each for its abstract possibility. Shapton identifies the trees by their leaves, rendering structure, pattern, texture and pigment in lush watercolour, needles, buds and cones. But the colours are wrong, and purposely so. This is not how the trees actually appear to the empirical observer, but how they’re remembered later by the dreamer. Jack Pine, for instance, is a series of gestural white marks on a yellow background. Black Spruce sinks into opacity, while Showy Mountain Ash is anything but with its subdued green and mauve. Shapton used a 1956 reference text as her guide, published by the forestry branch of the federal Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, a precursor to Natural Resources Canada. Yes, it’s ironic that this is a book about trees but it’s a delicious, necessary irony for seeing and appreciating them fully---for saving them.

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