Anatomy of a Pipeline, 1999-2000

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Thaddeus Holownia

Anatomy of a Pipeline, 1999-2000

Artist Statement


This is a series of work inspired by the construction of the Sable Gas Pipeline (travelling a 568 kilometer stretch from the coast of Nova Scotia at Goldboro through New Brunswick to the Maine border, north of St. Stephen).


This work, as is the case with much of my recent landscape work, draws on the notion of human intervention into a landscape. The format (7” x 17” colour) has an inherent ability to deal with very fine detail. This ability resolves many of the formal concerns that I wanted to address in this work. I have been drawn to many of the markings and symbols involved in a mega project such as this. Machine scrapings on a large boulder, tracks left on a temporary road, red spray paint on the ground, tripods and surveying stakes in the landscape, flagging tape, and a bevy of other artificial symbols are the signifiers that this work revolves around. The pipe becomes an entity unto itself. The monitoring devices in a landscape become the architecture of a new age.


As I progressed in the making of these photographs the project became less and less about the building process and final result, rather it is much more about the intervention. I am not trying to be an environmental critic or cast judgement on the possible rights and wrongs of such a project although at times it is hard not to position oneself in such a reading. The images, as seems to be the case with all my work of late, rely on a grouping.  Single images supporting an idea as a collective.


Thaddeus Holownia explores the intersections of nature and humanity. Specifically, he deals with how humanity changes landscape, how the forces of nature mould human structures, and how the two coexist. His work calls attention to various ecological and political issues that are of growing concern. Holownia's practice uses altered landscapes to convey the precarious relationship between man and nature. To expose these landscapes he returns to a place over years, even decades, and creates a photographic catalogue of the transformation.

As a young artist, Holownia was part of Toronto’s hip and burgeoning art scene. He left Toronto in 1977 for a two-year teaching job at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. Professor Holownia became Head of the Photography Department and is now Head of the Fine Arts Department. Enchanted by his surroundings, Holownia remained there and has never returned to living in an urban environment. His move to the Maritimes served to heighten his awareness of deeper moral and spiritual issues that are now the foundations of his ecologically conscious work.