Victoria artist's Canadiana off to London for Canada Day

A Victoria artist known for paintings that celebrate Canadiana in all its kitschy glory has been invited to be the first visual artist featured at this year’s Canada Day festivities in London.

Fifty-five paintings from Timothy Hoey’s O-Canada Portage series will be on display July 1 in Trafalgar Square.

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Hoey has worked on the series since 2006, using hockey sticks to frame more than 1,000 homages to national symbols.

Tim Hortons and Stompin’ Tom Connors are represented, as well as what Hoey calls the holy trinity of Canadian animals: the goose, moose and beaver.

A common thread through almost every painting is the red, yellow, green and blue motif from Hudson’s Bay blankets — representative of the “fabric” of the nation.

“They’ve asked me to specifically send a queen along,” Hoey said, referring to Elizabeth II, who has often appeared in his paintings wearing a hockey jersey.

“But there’s also the old milk jug with the plastic bag of milk, because only Canadians know what that is,” said Hoey.

“I chose a pretty good cross section of what will: A) make people like the paintings, and B) trigger something that says, ‘That reminds us of home.’ ”

Canada Day International has attracted more than 350,000 visitors to festivities in the British capital over the past seven years.

The eighth annual event is hosted by CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos and Heather Hiscox, with musical performances by the Tragically Hip, the Sheepdogs, Jann Arden and the Arkells.

According to Hoey, about 80,000 visitors are expected to attend this year.

Canada Day International is also hosting a Canada Day Festival in New York City’s Central Park for the first time on June 29. Four more cities are planned as hosts for similar events, leading up to Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.

Hoey’s Trafalgar Square exhibition will be a one-day event, with the work returning home to be shown locally on a date to be announced.

Hoey said he was first contacted about the event two years ago.

“I lucked out because my work has started to sneak out worldwide. I almost end up being more liked outside my home country. … And I think there’s a lot of ex-pats missing home,” he said.

While organizers of the event are accustomed to co-ordinating musicians, Hoey believes he posed some new challenges.

“I sort of fall into a funny in-between category, to say the least. You’re not really a rock star, but you’re bringing a huge amount of gear,” he said.

Plans to build a trapper’s shack fell through when building permits and regulations became too cumbersome.

So Hoey’s work will be shown on a nine-metre wall in a tent at the middle of the square.

And with so many people in attendance, he is expecting a whirlwind experience.

“Do I know what to expect? Not really. Am I worried? Not in the least. It’s a totally fun adventure and it will be great to set up there. I mean, god, I’m like a non-schooled artist who suddenly gets asked to show in the British capital,” he said.

“It’s pretty surreal and it’s also a really great honour.”

asmart@timescolonist.com

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