A woman looks at a large-scale sculpture made up of assorted objects including fabric, crates, a bull skull, golf clubs and many other items.
Installation view, Guernica Remastered, 2021, Remai Modern, Saskatoon. Photo: Carey Shaw.

Guernica gets new life through installation, political posters and film

Today’s meet the artist post is an introduction three more of the artists featured in Guernica Remastered in Remai Modern’s Picasso Gallery. 

Guernica Remastered positions Picasso’s art as an inspiration for contemporary artists. By taking Picasso’s 1937 work Guernica — a symbol of antiwar sentiment and political action — as their starting point, the artists in the exhibition produce works that emulate Picasso’s composition while speaking to present-day concerns. These recreations provide a powerful example of Picasso’s lingering impact on contemporary art, and exemplify how Guernica is called upon as a model for activist, political art. 

Adad Hannah

American-born, Canadian artist Adad Hannah works in a variety of media, including photography, film installation, performance and sculpture. His “still videos” have gained national and international acclaim for their ability to use moments in the history of art as a means to reflect on present-day issues and concerns. In a new piece, commissioned specifically for this exhibition, Hannah returns to Picasso’s Guernica, making a nearly life-sized recreation of the work in the gallery space.

While Picasso’s painting shows the fractured aftermath of a vicious bombing, Hannah’s version incorporates the ubiquitous materials of everyday life, allowing viewers to clearly see how the work was put together. A group of students from the University of Saskatchewan — Atrayee Basu, Brody Burns, Emily Conlon, Gabby DaSilva, Louisa Ferguson, Jesse Fulcher Gagnon and Narges Porsandekhial — assisted with the creation of the installation. The exhibition also features Hannah’s video work Backyard Guernica.

Additional reading/viewing:

Rudulf Baranik, Stop the War in Vietnam War Now!, 1967. Reproduced with permission. © Rudolf Baranik; Courtesy of the estate of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York.

Rudolf Baranik

Rudolf Baranik was a Lithuanian-born, American painter, writer and lifelong political activist. By isolating a single element from Picasso’s Guernica — the figure of the fallen soldier at the bottom of the painting — and reversing the colour palette, Baranik (1920-1998) created a powerful political poster. The poster addressed the urgent political concern of the day: stopping the Vietnam War. These artistic choices are a powerful statement on the countless lives that were lost, forcing the viewer to focus on the empty eyes and listless body of the dead soldier.

Additional reading/viewing:

Alain Resnais and Robert Hessens

The short film Guernica by French filmmakers Alain Resnais and Robert Hessens is itself a work of art, combining text, sound and images. Against an eerie score and the impactful words of Picasso’s friend Paul Eluard, the directors created a cinematic montage comprised of details taken from Picasso’s paintings. The images are set in motion and woven together into a poetic narrative of pain and human suffering.

The film reaches its culmination in a dramatic scene where the painting Guernica transforms into a moving image, with the camera travelling between different figures in the painting, ultimately enhancing the poem’s impact.

Alain Resnais (1922-2014) and Robert Hessens (1912-2002) were French filmmakers. Resnais was one of France’s most lauded auteurs, creating cinematic masterpieces such as Hiroshima Mon Amor which also speaks about the horrors and cruelty of war.

Additional reading/viewing:

Guernica Remastered is on view at Remai Modern until February 27, 2022.