My work reflects an interest in the ‘viewer / object relationship’ and the meaningful experiences generated through the act of looking. In particular, I am engaged by the idea of positioning the viewer at a juncture between two, contrasting aesthetics. The beauty of the art object – which satisfies the viewer’s expectation of pleasure - is set against the experience of the work as something unsettling. Here, I believe, is where the act of looking resonates most deeply. Somewhere within the liminal space between what we expect and what we receive the work becomes a mirror through which we might critically confront our understanding of self.
With the In Divinis and Memento Mori series, I address subjects taken from natural history. The animals represented are threatened, endangered or extinct species. Each animal has been mortally wounded; a victim of destroyed habitat, poaching, hunting, finning, whaling, etcetera. The compositions take their inspiration from the Baroque tenebrist paintings of the 17th century along with Romantic works of the 1800s. In style, they recall paintings which were contrived to move the viewer to reflect upon matters both spiritual and sublime. As the title of the latter series declares, they are ‘reminders of death’: not only reminders of the passing of those species we threaten, but of our own mortality and the loss we inflict upon ourselves though our troubled relationship with the natural world.
As far back as I can remember my father was interested in insects and spiders. At some early point I recall him teaching me about the methods by which spiderlings go out into the world after emerging from the egg case. Spinning a single thread of silk to act like a miniature kite, they allow themselves to be carried away by the breeze. It is something I’ve witnessed in life and it has a kind of poetry about it. E. B. White also used it as a metaphor in Charlotte’s web, to encapsulate the poignant moment when Wilbur comes to terms with the need to ‘let go’ of his friend Charlotte.
Clouds is an ongoing series of small-scale oil paintings executed on cheap paper tags. The paintings are produced quickly and then ultimately given away to strangers as well as family, friends and acquaintances. Like clouds, or even the ballooning spiderlings, these small works are ephemeral in nature. They are made at random and, once finished and dry, set adrift into the world.
The series stems from my continuing interest in the fleeting nature of life and the struggle to let go of the things we love or need which is made especially evident in our efforts to preserve even that which cannot stand the test of time. There is a preciousness associated with the paintings which assumes particular meaning when they are given away. Some are harder to part with than others; like memories or the objects we tend to associate with people and past experiences.
The Clouds series was inspired by the passing of my father in 2017. On some level, the process of painting these little pictures and releasing them is part of a process of finding closure.
The term 'potboiler' was originally used to identify a type of work made for the sole purpose of generating income. As such, potboilers came to be associated with a form of popular art lacking in merit by comparison with loftier or more ambitious works. Yet history has demonstrated that opinion relating to potboilers can shift with the context in which they are presented. Pulp fiction novels have, in some instances, become celebrated works while comparable potboiler paintings - such as those produced by Cornelius Krieghoff as souvenirs in the 19th century - have, at times, even ascended to national importance. Inspired by the landscape of Cape Breton and the beauty of the miniature format in art, this series is a celebration of the tradition of the potboiler and a statement in defense of the value of such work.