It's the middle of the summer. Everything is green, muggy, and it looks like there is going to be a bumper crop of zucchinis, beans, apples, and grapes in my yard.
Over the last two days I installed a floor in one of the rooms in our house. It was hard and I'm not as happy with how the job turned out as I had hoped. My body is not happy with me and I'm wishing I had had the means to hire someone who knew what they are doing. Don't get me wrong, I am pretty handy. In fact, even though I did not enjoy the process, I find working with different materials very inspiring. I liked the way the off cuts fell in a random, yet totally satisfying pile. I've included a picture above of a woodpile from last summer's fence building task - this job went much better, probably because I have built a bunch of fences and know what I'm doing. Again, I am attracted to the drawing created by the random pile. This is part of my art making process - I notice lines, shapes, images - that keep on popping up and intruding into my thoughts.
I recently sent out a gallery submission that focused on my landscape construct paintings - similar to the ones I showed last autumn at Hatch Gallery. These works mean a lot to me and I think looking at how we engage and represent our environment is important. Of course, my brain is contrary, so as soon as I sent off the submission, I found myself focusing on another stream of work. The format is the same, but the imagery is drawn from media reporting on conflicts - usually between authoritarian forces and struggling people. I started this stream back in 2010 in response to the Arab Spring and G7 protests in Toronto. The image above, Peripherally, was a painting I included in the group show, Unity Road Four, at the Kingston School of Art's Window Gallery (with Mark Birksted, Ann Clarke, and Mark Laundry). The other stencils and DoFo image are part of that process.
This summer, I am shocked by how people are getting on with their lives - going to cottages, renovating houses, making art for galleries (all things I am doing) - when it seems we are in the middle of something else. We are still in a pandemic, facing startling examples of climate change, and having horrific revelations about how our country (and western economies) were built on indigenous genocide - while governments are at best trying to maintain the status quo, or more frequently, are actively making everything worse with poor, polarizing policy.
For the last ten years, all of my exhibitions have started with the private working title of "Bleak Outlook". Over the course of constructing the works for each exhibition, the focus has shifted to another element in the works - something more palatable - and the exhibition title has changed. Maybe that will change soon?
I have been trying to figure out how to marry the three streams of my work (the first two mentioned above, overlap quite easily). The third stream is my sculpture works. Completely abstract works inspired by random(ish) drawing of materials. I have an idea that has been rattling around my brain cavity and poking out in some of my studies. An image that keeps on popping up is the cover art for The Clash's album, Give 'Em Enough Rope - apparently based on a photograph by Adrian Atwater. I have also been intrigued by STEFDIES photo performance work. My thinking is a series that have objects - bodies, lumber, Tim Horton's cups - piled in different contexts. Stay tuned to see how it comes together.
Have a great summer - be kind - Ben - July 26, 2021