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statement: the perimeter series


 
 

 

THE PERIMETER SERIES

My work is an interpretation of Alberta’s changing landscape, noting lingering traces of human presence in rural and parkland areas. The paintings are an echo of the impression left after viewing the contrast in the surrounding countryside where industry and the pastoral have collided. Alberta’s wilderness areas have become indelibly marked by signs of our imposition upon the landscape due to burgeoning economic development and the increased pursuit of leisure activities. The paintings portray both the land’s scars of desecration and areas of reclamation, while also eliciting a correspondence between the land and self.

Through the painting process, multiple layers of meaning are revealed. Though my initial focus was on environmental impact, issues of loss and longing that included memory and body have also risen to the surface. Land could no longer be extricated from self. Martin Friedman wrote, “landscape is the world under the gaze of man… Landscape is not nature. It is a mirror reflecting our fears and fantasies about mankind’s place in the world.” In drawing the land and self together, states of being that are relevant to the landscape and the individual are established. Whether psychological or physical, issues such as separation, uncertainty, and decay, forge links between both. I found that as this correspondence grew in my work, the universality of its nature became more apparent, and the necessity to reveal specific locale diminished.

In contemporary Western culture, the individual’s sense of relationship to the land has become increasingly distant, both with regards to our own lives and in an understanding of our impact upon the environment. Knowledge of environmental catastrophes is generally mediated through brief encounters via diverse media. Because of the constant sensory bombardment, urban eyes and mind are now trained to experience the environment through quick roving glances. Rebecca Solnit, in noting the difference between rural and urban ways of looking, writes that the urbanite does not scan and absorb the panoramic view, but instead looks for details, “particulars, for opportunities…” We use the visual language with which we are already familiar to interpret our surroundings, therefore our reaction when exposed to rural spaces is to approach them in a similar vein. The choice to portray intimate exposures of landscapes capitalizes on this way of looking. In contrast, the painting’s surface facilitates a slower mode of analysis by creating a contemplative space that facilitates the forging of connections.

The visual impact experienced while walking through selected Alberta sites was an epiphany for me that moved well beyond analytical evaluations. The consequences of human intervention affected an intense visceral response within myself. I wanted to evoke that emotive element through the medium of paint. Gaston Bachelard talks of the need for sensual perception to overtake sensory perception if a poetic image is going to move beyond literal illustration: the illusion must reach a deeper, innate level, appealing to our connection with one of the four elements, such as water, a natural symbol of purity. I was drawn by the contrast between what is seen and what is hidden or removed through man’s interactions with the land.

These landscapes strive to form correspondences between land and self. They also imbue place with vitality and significance, even though location remains anonymous. Each image moves through a series of interpretations that serves as a process of removal from its origins: sketches, photographs, memories, studies, print, paint. I choose to rework an image to mirror the diversity of responses available, dependent upon time, place, and circumstance. The melding of materials and image heightens the paintings’ sense of ambiguity. Paint utilizes texture, colour, light, and scale to draw the viewer in to search the surface for traces of a meaning that is implied but never fully revealed. Allowing the process and the layering to remain visible further establishes connections between content and form. The hand of the artist remains present as verification of the subjective capturing of what exists beyond the visual record of a place. A space is created for the viewer to exist between the artist and the art, to engage beyond the level of surface imagery.

April 2008

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