Play to Audience: a social media addiction, 2018

My work continues to be about our evolving consciousness in the face of daily distractions. Our addiction to social media raises questions about who we are becoming. These paintings show theatre stages as platforms for playing to an invisible audience, our thousands of virtual friends. The fantasized gaze of how we might be viewed by the other is self-objectifying, and no amount of careful contriving of who we project satisfies that we are seen the way we want to be seen. This tension between wanting to be loved and fearing rejection is the addiction hook programmed by social media engineers, and we are increasingly held hostage. Our sense of belonging triggers a steady release of happy hormones in our brains that ensnare us into scrolling endlessly to stay connected. The audience both project and consume the object fantasy, like a selfie filtered by a phone screen. What are the risks to our well-being when our self worth depends heavily on digital validation? When we relinquish our autonomy to social media, what are the implications to our consciousness? How do we know life in the absence of virtual connection? Social media facilitates communication but restricts human interaction. These paintings reflect a humanity that is emotionally barren and strangely vacuous. 

George Toles Updates, 2016

November 16, 2014

Harvey let his grandmother shovel the sidewalk for him one too many times. He told her how stressed and overwhelmed he was, and she, as so often before, proved willing to take his place, in spite of the bitter cold and the late hour. He decided to make his lie less abstract, explaining he was studying for a big French exam, when in fact he was set to watch a Family Guy re-run, after pilfering some of her vodka. “Nothing is more important than your education,” she repeated firmly, as he knew she would, before donning her grotesque boots, hoisting the shovel and salt bag, and disappearing into the still blowing wind. Snow clearance could never wait. Grandma Jessie lived in mortal terror of some passerby slipping on her property, breaking a hip, and suing her. But that night it was she who lay on the half-cleared driveway. (She had become extra ambitious with her shovelling). Her heart had given out, in all likelihood while Roy was laughing tipsily at some choice bit of meanness by the diabolical infant, Stewie. Harvey had never known guilt before, but he swiftly grew adept in its lacerations. Facing two fried eggs on his breakfast plate the day of the funeral, he felt the yokes gazing at him, stricken and accusing. He could hear Jessie singing “Sunshine, you are my sunshine” as she placed this same blue plate in front of him a week ago. Harvey was not in Family Guy “Kansas” anymore.

Dream Home, 2014

Dream Home continues with the themes of The Brain Uncoiled in which I explore our evolving consciousness and how humanity merges with nature. During my daily walks in St. Vital Park, Winnipeg, I notice that the light appears to envelop the foliage - like our human effort to consciously assimilate the distractions of daily activities - and finds its way past them to light up my path on the pavement. I imagine these flickering patterns of light to represent consciousness of the human mind. Each painting explores how the mind, in a state of still surrender or as dense avalanches of brain activity, can be likened to light in nature.

The Brain Uncoiled, 2012

The Brain Uncoiled is a series of eighteen square paintings that examine alexithymia, a condition marked by failing to identify and name an emotional experience. This work experiments with mixed media representation of emotions. Each 40" square painting exposes an emotion secreted by the cerebral cortex and morphed with mixed media on canvas, as though magnified in a Petri dish, to become concrete, observable and public.

Slow Movement: a cultural reversal, 2010

A hundred years ago the Futurists celebrated speed and our technological triumph over nature. Today there is much concern about how people are adversely affected by this conquest. On one hand, scientists predict a transhuman existence where we can order a set of lungs from the organ store or download intelligence on a computer. On the other, many object to a future of science fiction. The International Slow Movement is the quiet motor that breaths life into the prophecies of McLuhan and others, who saw that human beings, not designed to live at the speed of light, are destined for an inevitable cultural reversal. My paintings are about this reversal. Youth engaged against the speedy Muybridge figures celebrates the survival of nature in the face of technological acceleration.

Labyrinth of Paradox, 1999

I am curious and intrigued by the fickle nature of paradox and the absence of clear boundaries between its polar components. I play at aimlessly exposing the chaos of paradoxes, amused with the ultimate paradox: ourselves. We are creatures of folly and wisdom, full of foibles and greatness. Ultimately, these drawings transcend me; my language cannot reach them. Each drawing is 13” x 20”, graphite and chalk pastel on paper.

Early Work, 1987 - 1993

These panels are about our fickle emotional and physical existence marked by happenstance, circumstance and choice. They are emotionally charged records of various overlapping events of my life. The Handicap is a tribute to the 9-5 labourer. It is a satirical look at a job situation I was dependent on for a long time. The suction pit, lined with a safety net, in the bottom right, represents the conflict of choosing the promise of security versus the more liberating but financially risky pursuit of making art.


Holly Studio 

852 Holly Avenue

Winnipeg R3T 1W4