BENEATH THE LONG GRASS: THE CONSTRUCTED CANVAS: presents an acute awareness of something that lies beneath. My work is supported by strong underlying structures and constructed canvases; I am interested in a clearly evident means of construction. The works contemplate energy and environment using layers, transparencies, and a depth of materials. Encaustic waxes combine with transparent oil paints over an underlying support of specifically woven tapestry or interwoven canvas, burlap, or linen. Layers move on and off the surface, in search of a connection between the way that I sense, and the way that I come to understand the natural energies at play in our environments.
Three themes run through this series of works.
Firstly exploring the idea of “landscape” means tracing the boundary where land meets human. Sometimes only a single warm line of containment, like some contemporary reenactment of 17th century enclosures, jealously guards a place of human presence in the immense natural commons of the prairie. Here, between the flatlands and the mountains there is a unique Albertan identity, possibly even pride. Its basis? Simply our existence in this place.
Secondly, accumulated life experience is related to the material meaning of the land. All materials are physically altered by usage and re-usage; their identity can be reinvented, but no matter how strong and redirected is today’s purpose, it cannot completely obliterate the previous lives of the object. This accumulation of identities lives like a surface patina where layers of meanings can be read.
And finally there is that slightly contradictory place where clearly remembered experience meets vaguely remembered fact. Remember that day, the one down at the river? The sky was everywhere sunshine, the landscape was immensely wide open, and the river was huge. Priority of memory trumps the geometry of Euclid. The afternoon went on forever, and yet took no time at all; at once solitary and completely engrossing. This doubleness of vision is more the embodiment of a realist’s mindset, than an impossible contradiction.
In my work, I hide things in plain sight. I look to art to be both intelligent and insightful, but also to be accessible. Somewhere within a work that might seem “all spelled out”, I attempt to place a softly spoken something-else, a murmured voice from the back of the room, to raise the suspicion that there may be an intent here that is not immediately identifiable. An unexpected depth; an unexpected connection; that is something I can say that I am excited about.
These are the ways that Beneath the Long Grass: The Constructed Canvas examines what lies beneath my conscious awareness of the land and moreover, what lies beneath a whole romantic conception of nature. Here is the mindset of a realist, existing in a world filled with energies, both physical and contemplative. Human and natural forces meet with both challenge and synergy and are planted firmly together in the enduring prairie landscape.
Exhibition - Description
Beneath the Long Grass embodies the mass and the meaning of the land in a series of material laden artifacts. Although there is a clear consistency in style and form, the pieces explore a wide range of both size and scope. From the focused 12x12inch found-lumber panels up to the range-of-vision encompassing canvases of 5x6 feet, the pieces challenge the imagination with their variety of purely physical size. The underlying depth of materials in the constructed canvases combine with the imagery to also challenge the intellect: the clearly evident constructions provide an acute awareness of what lies beneath.
A minimalist layout is juxtaposed with the deeply textured, material laden works, in the bright open space of the tower gallery giving impetus for deeper contemplation of the wide open spaces of the Leighton Art Centre environs. The 27-piece installation fills the 654 running feet of the Tower Gallery. Here, one example of the few statement words to be included on the “gallery card” for mounting beside each work:
Bitumen on Waxed Constructed Canvas
An energy, massive but contained
Energy unlocked, like a tricky puzzle,
Wrangled, not fully tamed
but not completely unleashed.
This series projects the mindset of a realist in a world filled with energies, both physical and contemplative. Where human and natural forces meet there shall be both challenge and synergy planted firmly together in the enduring prairie landscape.
“There was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made.” WillaCather, MyAntonia, 1918.