This series of paintings marks the gradual stages of adjusting to the global covid19 pandemic in January 2020. It began as a flurry of rules about hand washing and 6 feet of distancing, followed by lockdown and quarantining. After months of isolation and deaths of near half a million people, we continue interacting carefully and waiting for herd immunity or a vaccine.
These paintings are about relationship and romancing our shadow to arrive at self love. They were made in the context of the energy and culture of Berlin when I was artist in residence at gallery102. I think about the discomfort of facing our shadow, in Jungian psychology, that we unknowingly hide from ourselves until it appears suddenly like a stranger, exposing the opposite of who we think we are—a bully, an addict, a victim, a blamer, a liar, and so on. I imagine pulling these unwanted parts of ourselves out of denial into conscious awareness, to be disarming and empowering. I wanted this dissolving or untangling to be like mining for gold in softness that moves in and out of light, enveloping humanity, deepening intimacy, making us more balanced and loving.
I am interested in our emotional vulnerability and how our appearance can conceal our humanity. These people are painted from found photos that spark in me a curiosity about how public exposure can paradoxically alienate us from being seen and known. As a person emerges on the paper I study them and imagine what they are trying to say. The title exposes a sound bite of their psyche.
This is the first of a 14.5' diptych. I imagined where we might arrive if we each had a ladder to climb beyond earth, in the context of Everything is Energy. I wanted a place of innocence and joy, where together we thrive! Where we feel safe, fearless, disarmed. How would we exist in the absence of fear? How can I paint a place of bright white light without shadow, in Jungian terms? This reminds me of life with my children. Of course cradles would magically appear whenever we need to rest. I let the paint kind of play, where each mark informs the next and edit, edit, edit until surprises emerge.
In May I attended an artist residency in Picton Ontario where I made six 30" x 40" paintings with acrylic paint. The first two of contortionist figures, were painted quickly, intuitively. The next four paintings reflect direct observations of surrounding places. An explosion of bodies fastened to cold concrete towers is about Toronto's population growth and corresponding high-rise invasion. The ubiquity of spring inspired a pair of giant yellow rubber gloves draped across the St. Lawrence River to Wolfe Island, and red rubber boots nestled in fields of dandelions in Kingston and Prince Edward County.
These paintings are about human resilience born of life’s challenges, where pyramid-shaped piles, as layers of life already lived, produce an organic ladder that we might climb in the context of hope and growth. I wanted to visually marry the journey with cradles to randomly appear/ disappear as needed for resting along the way. I experimented with cutting the ladder shape into the surface and letting it drop in front of the painting. Metaphorically, the ladder becomes inviting, like an easily accessible lifesaver.
In Play to Audience: a social media addiction I take a critical view of social media culture and its implications to our humanity. Twelve small paintings on paper, 9” x 12”, of people taking selfies are painted quickly and intuitively, where observer becomes the observed and self consciousness is suppressed by the viewer as voyeur. Seven oil paintings, 28” x 34”, of theatre interiors are painted slowly and in many layers, as a process of fusing organic with inorganic elements. Loose outlines of human heads suggest at once a conscious, attentive audience, and an unconscious audience, oblivious to being ensnared by social media. I am interested in the gap between participation and addiction. At the heart of these paintings is our vulnerability of needing to fit in. There is an amoeba-like quality to how we move in and out of consciousness, where we vacillate between free and parasitic.
April 5, 2014
Grief can't help but delude us, poisoning even the sweetest recollections. It fiercely rubs each fled good time till it shines with an unearthly vividness. All these marooned moments of past happiness stand stiffly at attention in the otherwise deserted streets of the heart: immobile, free of dross, more achingly beautiful than anything could ever be, while merely living. And out of this frozen flawlessness grief makes thorns that press firmly and deep into the mind's marrow.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.