Herringer Kiss Gallery, Calgary 2016
From the raw canvas to the finished piece, the making of an abstract painting is unpredictable, but not random. The first drop of paint influences the second; setting off a journey that can spiral in any direction, seemingly out of control. Yet each reaction foreshadows the end. Over time, a sense of order begins to take shape. An abstract painting obeys its own internally-generated rules. A delicate system finds its conclusion as art.
But what is it all about? The existentialist crisis of abstract painting.
Much like the paintings themselves, the inspiration for a painting is a collage of the many impressions and events against which one stages daily life. It’s rarely possible, in my experience to state the ‘subject’ of an abstract painting. Often, the painting’s narrative is internal, found in the back and forth act of composing an abstract world on canvas, making and then breaking a paintings own internal logic. The finished abstract painting is the complete story of it’s own composition. I approach abstract painting as a playground where I pull together colour, form and line, play complementary and conflicting imagery off one another, sort though the noise and find great satisfaction in winning control.
But no work of art is created in a vacuum. In even the smallest ways, the events of daily life, the sounds and imagery that move through us must find their way in. The shape of this influence often comes out in the titles. It is what I see in the work through the lens of my current context. As I reflect on the titles of the paintings in Chaos Theory, I see evidence of the world brought into my own studio in the last six months.
While working, I listen to quite a bit of radio, podcasts and audiobooks. I found discussions about Chaos Theory, specifically the idea that a small change or event can trigger a seemingly unpredictable future outcome very relevant. While listening, I experienced in my studio how a small careless splash of paint early on in a work can turn out to be the driving force of the finished piece.
At the same time, I listened to how a pivotal event in the Syrian refugee crisis changed the direction of our Canadian national election. I continued to paint. I listened to Liszt’ Le Mal du Pays. Events in Europe rippled the French flag across the globe. Music played through my headphones. I painted Dynamic Nationalism. We were Charlie Hebdo. Then we were Not Charilie Hebdo. I began to read Houellebecq. I was reminded of Albert Camus, I painted L’Étranger (The Stranger). Alone in my studio, I painted as the whole world blew through the air. And yet the paintings exist outside of it all. A painting exists to absorb the whole, and offers me an opportunity make order of the absurd.