September 5, 2009 · Print This Article
At the age of 16 I saw my first Alex Colville image and literally stared transfixed for many minutes, and it took me several years before I fully understood what made his work so magical. The tight geometric composition reminded me of Renaissance painting and the highly technical arrangements stood for the omnipresent Higher Power. The crisp focus placed emphasis on the notion that each and every object was a unique and handcrafted by that same Higher Power. The love of vast spaces seemed to make the comforts of local environments all that much more protective, given the implied threat of the unknown.
And his discordant assembly of subject matter spoke of disconnection and isolation, contradicting any comfort meted out by the intimate setting. There are other, more subtle strategies he employs, but these were the ones I decided to use in the pursuit of my own visual language.
It took many years to finally find a “voice” that was my own-based upon my own experiences, my own psychology and my own view of the world. Neither storytelling nor the conveyance of specific messages holds much interest for me. I think that art is much better at raising questions than it is at providing answers. All any artist can work towards is images with a broad perspective, that can engage a wide enough audience so as to seduce at least one other person- a person who wonders in the same way.
Art is to be shared with the community. It is there that our commonality as well as our uniqueness can be explored and understood, and art has a special role to play in this process. The handmade object takes us back to the dawning of our culture, our personalities and our sense of self, and by its very existence imparts meaning to our lives.
The art process allows us to separate ourselves from society’s shared obsessions while at the same time explore our participation in them. It is an ambivalent procedure but ultimately one in which we can, in the best possible way, reveal our most graceful and repulsive moments. Through imagery, we confront our fears, our regrets, our clinging to tragedy, our failures and frustrations all of which are leavened by brief encounters with joy and the never-ending quest for significance.
I make paintings and prints, and I enjoy both processes equally. There is one main objective in these operations: to rethink how I affix meanings to my experiences. By congregating objects and spaces in unexpected contexts and through denying ordinary associations with mundane events, I hope the viewer too, can revisit his/her own personal myth with the same lack of deference to singular, linear narrative. What do things mean? What importance should we assign to any given event? How can we be sure that our conclusions have any validity, much less merit? As Alex Colville posed the question, “Is this what life is like?”