Perception is the essence of making images. We all see the same physical world, yet we will all perceive it through a personal filter. At what point to we depart from a literal recording what we see? If we are going to create an artwork of something that has been done many times, how do we do it so that it adds a new idea to the conversation? This is the edge that moves the creative endeavor into new territory and keeps it relevant to the next generation. It is not an issue of subject matter, or style or materials. It is an issue of perception, that ability to absorb the milieu of the times, to be open, to perceive and with that information, to create.
Over the past year, each artwork that I have done has surprised me. I begin in one place and end in another. When I step back, the effect is unexpected, filling me with amusement and also questions. The next artwork resolves those questions, confirms the viewpoint and poses new questions. The tension between reality, perception, concept and intuition continue to intrigue me. Fragmentation and transition continue to develop in different ways in my work. Environmental themes are predominating. One artwork connects to the next, building a series, like variations on a musical score. The work is leaping in new directions, including digital technologies and community engagement as I respond to the issues around me. September 2012
Red Alert For The Castle Headwaters is an art project that uses a facebook page to forward its statement and build support for the protection the Castle Headwaters. The community was looking for ways to keep their concerns in the public realm and were interested in working on an art project.
The commission at the Royal Alexandra Hospital offered an opportunity to explore multicultural themes and change. A still life table top was set up with North American objects and to it were added object from five different homelands. These still life table tops were then photographed through my handmade camera lens to create a fragmented kaleidoscopic image. This image combined the homeland and the adopted North American culture and created a new pattern that was unusual, intriguing and beautiful.
All of my work, paintings, photographs and video, seem to involve themes of transition. Realism is a starting point that moves into fragmenting, restructuring, and dissolving as the paintings move away from their original inspiration.
The Urban Paintings are a response to moving my studio into the centre of downtown Calgary. For 5 1/2 years, I could look out two large windows of an old building that overlooked a central intersection. This corner held the hotel that was favoured by visiting heads of state, the office towers of a huge energy company and a heritage building that was being renovated. My paintings and photographs began with an interest in documentation that became rearranged and distorted, culminating in the 30 foot painting called "Cutting Up The Town", under the Public Art section of this website.
The Camera Works images began as I started to document the city for a video scholarship. The areas that I had painted became moving images for the video "Bent" and those in turn became still images. These video stills form the series called "Bent" and "City Spins".
At the same time, I was using a still camera to photograph the streets at night. I started working with an SLR on a tripod and felt vulnerable by myself in the dark. I left the tripod, altered my settings began to walk. These became the "Street Drawings", which are photographs produced with light as the drawing tool. They record my motion as I move along a street. They make a reference to the old traditions of gesture drawing in a contemporary urban framework. These images were blurred and distorted and again I realized that realism was a departure point for themes of transition.
The Realidoscope Photographs refer to a favoured childhood toy, the kaleidoscope. With the assistance of a grant, I developed a lens which subverts the common point of view by breaking the image apart. It places the viewer in the position of piecing an image back together. This lead to a 48 foot work installed in a public hospital.
After 6 years of working from a studio in the city centre, I felt a need to shift to the land. I became fascinated with the Canadian traditions of landscape painting found myself curious about the northern Ontario images of the Group of Seven. I was born in northern Ontario, and the urban/country teeter totter has always been part of my thinking. This connection surfaced when I was in a residency in the Crowsnest Pass, in Alberta. Eight months later I had moved my studio out of the city and to the edge of the mountains.
The Landscape Paintings began as small en plein aire studies which amused me. I toyed with the great Canadian traditions and clichés. Soon the work surfaced in triptychs and sectional panels that could be rearranged. A body of work emerged that used images related to our National Parks. Some of these paintings have many formats. They can be rearranged in different order, various panels can be turned upside down and some of the paintings have both vertical and horizontal formats. Again the metaphors of transition and change are pervasive. The subject matter changes, the themes remain constant. It comes full circle to the early stages of my work.
In the early years as an artist, I was working from a studio at home. Still Life, with its accompanying vases, was my subject matter. Simple domestic objects that caught the light in certain way or seemed imbued with meaning ended and up as drawing or painting studies. I noticed that a certain beer stein that I liked was exactly the same design to a beer stein that was in one of Chardin's paintings. In a similar way, I connected to the work of Cezanne, Degas and Rembrandt, letting the object catch my attention and lead me into the artist and in turn into the history of painting. Recently this has turned up again in my work as I used the Realidoscope to create still life photographs, which developed into a 48 foot commission for a hospital. Another video scholarship helped me to develop the connections between art history and my fragmented photographs.