Act Naturally

Herringer Kiss Gallery, 2018

This new series of abstract paintings freely mix washes of colour with lose botanical drawing. Titled 'Act Naturally', this work approaches painting as a dance; an invented nature is performed through delicate, deliberate steps.

Letter to Katherine Ylitalo who spoke about the exhibition at Herringer Kiss Gallery, Calgary for the ADAC Gallery Hop 2018. 

Dear K.

I am afraid of bears. Not because I'm afraid of dying, (they do indeed kill), I am afraid of dying from my fear.

I'll consume any story where the protagonist must survive the wild, or is transformed by nature, emerging from the rough as someone new (always better).

Or else is swallowed.

Nature is a deep pool.

In my childhood, nature was away from home. I was a visitor, faced with poison ivy, the loud buzz of insects, a distant train going back to the city, back to downtown, where life had to be created purposefully each spring, in pots. Did we defiantly plant poison ivy on sunny window sills?

I trace the outlines of memory for the flowers illustrated by Agnes Fitzgibbon in Canadian Wildflowers (1868)*. This was the same Ontario landscape of my youth. Or was it? Among the 10 lithographs, poison ivy is not included. Could Agnes smell the flowers as she sat down with her daughters to hand paint the 500 editions? Or did the room smell of paint?

My garden smells like paint. I try to Act Naturally.

These paintings are not a reflection. They cull human muscle memory of nature. Nature is in the atoms of art, in music, in everything, a part of our collective unconscious.

Humans are creative by nature.

Nature Ceaselessly and Randomly Experiments. And we are not at the centre. Lucretius used poetry to soften the impact of his shattering Epicureanism*. Indeed we find ourselves now especially far from the centre. We search for an artful way back. Not back to the centre, back to the garden. We are on the fringe. Not seeing the forest for the trees.

It is the time you have wasted on your rose that makes your rose so important.*** (The Little Prince. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

I have a little prince now. What will I show him of nature?

People have forgotten this truth, but you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed." said the fox.

These paintings are a tribute to the wild. The first steps in recovering my natural humanity. Perhaps I'll tame my fear, turn it into awe. Nature and I, for now, simply Two Stylish Painters Painting for Each Other.


*Canadian WIldflowers. Catherine Parr Traill. Illustrations by Agnes Dunbar Moodie Fitzgibbon. 1868 

**Stephen Greenblatt. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. 2011

***The Little Prince. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. 1943