Coal in Alberta

Over the span of the last 140 years, carbon, in all its forms and for good or evil, has irremediably been linked to the economic and social fibre of Alberta. 

A small collective within the Monochrome Guild (Fred Braakman, Nigel Goldup, Arturo Pianzola, Robert Pohl, Court Smith) have been working since 2015, to document both what remains of the coal industry of the past and contrast it with that of today, and possibly tomorrow. For us, what started as an ideal subject to demonstrate our art form has taken on a much broader emphasis – current affairs. Art may have a wider emphasis in society than its creators first anticipated. This may well apply here; the viewers will decide.

Our exhibition attempts to illustrate the past history of the coal industry in Alberta. We have also chosen to include some pieces that present the impact and scope of the modern industry. The monochrome print perfectly showcases the look and feel of what one imagines the coal industry to be like. The grit and coarseness and the dark and black mood of some of the work is intended to reflect the artist’s interpretation of the industry. Historically it was a very difficult existence for the men and women that dedicated their lives and well-being to an industry and a resource that was both demanding and sometimes deadly. A walk through a cemetery in any of the old mining towns paints a grim picture. Many lives were shortened by hardship, health issues and accidents and this is demonstrated in our interpretation of these memorials. Yet the dream of prosperity proved irresistible, and the industry forged ahead undeterred.

Our exhibit also touches on the present, and hints at what the future might bring. It is our goal to present some realistic visual direction as to where we have come from, and where we may be going. Our artists demonstrate the hardship and the costs of the industry in both human and environmental terms. Certainly, coal provided a huge benefit to society, but our work reveals the true toll it has taken…..

Coal in Alberta has most recently been exhibited at Crowsness Pass Public Art Gallery, Oct 16-Nov 14, 2021.