ARTIST STATEMENT 2021
Especially pertinent to my overall program of work is the strategy of using existing cultural objects – film, art, and narratives – that already have systems of signs and signifiers, existing languages. These languages or codes can then be applied – like the artist’s palette of colours – to reconstruct, remake or alter the dynamic of the conversation. This approach allows me a chance to communicate to viewers in a common vocabulary and offers a point of entry into the ongoing dialogues that make up contemporary culture.
My current project, ‘Picturing Wildlife’, involves making a short movie and a series of paintings using trail cam footage that captures local animals at night.
I’ve been painting Canadian animals off and on over the past four decades, mostly because they are poetic, emotional, beautiful and often an ignored subject in popular culture and contemporary art. Some of my wildlife paintings can be found in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Agnes Etherington in Kingston or the Art Museum at the University of Toronto.
What is new now, is that I have started to investigate Trail Cam footage that documents animals moving through the forests of Haliburton, Maynooth, Markham, parts of Georgian Bay and Toronto at night.
I find Trail Cam documentation compelling, particularly the night videos because they offer insight into the nocturnal lives of animals. With increasing occurrences, I have spotted coyotes, foxes, deer, beaver, skunks along with a variety of birds including falcons, hawks, cardinals, owls, and jays in the city over the past year. I am fascinated by how the camera lens’s ability to see at night is emphasized in the animals’ eyes, producing a white-out effect.
As a painter, my first impulse is to analyze the wildlife imagery through painting.
Up until recently, wildlife images were produced by hunter cameras were by photographers adapted hunting techniques to assist in the production of animal photographs, stocking through the woods or hiding behind camouflaged blinds.
Trail Cams allow a new way to see animals in their habitat. The images captured using this apparatus seem less static and more intimate. The view depicted is usually close-up and from the eye-level offering a different angle and perspective than what we would normally see in 2-D depictions.
In my earlier videos I worked with footed from films created by Alfred Hitchcock and Jean Luc Godard that were circulating in the public domain and were/are important to me because of their narrative drives and aesthetics. To make ‘112 Second, The Birds’ (2014) and ‘Seeing Seberg’ (2017) I grabbed image stills from the two aforementioned directors' motion pictures and used their source imagery to make my paintings, then using Final Cut Pro Editing Suite software I re-inserted the grabbed-oil-painted-picture back into the original footage thereby heightening the phenomenological aspect of translating one visual media into another so as to potentially heighten the viewing experience for the viewer. (see painting and video links on this website for more detail).
Likewise, ‘Picturing Wildlife’ will combine my slow-motion painting practice with culled and spliced fast-time-based Trail Cam footage to portray nocturnal animals in our immediate world over the coming rotation of seasons.