Monday, December 1, 2008

WHY 'naive-surreal-folk-abstracts'?

... I have been asked to elucidate this further ... so here goes ...

My art studies and work experiences have always been counter-balanced to my great love of the landscape of this part of the planet, known as the nation or country of Canada. My artwork increasingly reflects my self-professed and uniquely Canadian art style, dubbed 'naive-surreal-folk-abstract'.

This expression was first coined during an unpublished 'interview' with Gary Michael Dault, art critic for the Globe & Mail, Canada's national newspaper, way back in the early 1980's. He had asked me to describe what 'school' I subscribed to, or, graduated from. I told him I was not a follower or graduate of any art school, but rather, I had always just learned by doing ... He went over and stood in front of one of my larger paintings, 'considered the piece', and then spewed out the adjectives ... 'naive-surreal-folk-abstract' ... And that stuck.

That full mouthful phrase, 'naive-surreal-folk-abstract', does aptly describe much of the why, how and content of many of my art pieces.

Naive describes two observances - 1) we, as 'Canadians', are kind of politically 'naive' within the larger global context. Meaning, we are well-fed, contented and a fundamentally peaceful people unlike 90% of the rest of the world ... And 2) 'naive' describes my technique, in part. Meaning, as much as I do appreciate the rigor and discipline of the Beaux Art 'school', that technique is, I believe, at odds with current interpretations of TIME & SPACE (something I concluded during my many years of fine furniture designing & making). Within the Canadian context, simplicity is an effective and preferred anecdote to deliberately obfuscating sophistry. Immediacy & impact is attained with direct symbol projection. WE don't LIKE overly complicated 'things' ...

The choice of 'surreal' in the phrase reflects again our shared Canadian 'reality' within the larger global arena. First off, we are the first T.V. Generation. Think about that. Televisions entered our homes in the 50's. (When I was born.) This mass-media machine has irrevocably altered the way in which we perceive the world and ourselves within it. Tell-a-vision is, by definition, a disjointed, highly edited & stylized, 'advertising narrative'. It has increasingly become the bedrock of our imaginations and myth-making capabilities. It directs much of what we think. It even defines us as a 'nation state'. It has also made it increasingly difficult to express honest heart-felt individual sentiment beside the multi-million dollar 'tell-a-vision' extravaganzas of Hollywood, or Bollywood. There is NO ESCAPING their now dominating 'visions'. Consider the movies, 'Star Wars' or 'Titanic', they are embedded in our pysches. Unlike, say, our FIRST memories of a winter snowfall or an autumnal bonfire under gray skies ... It is this distortion of MEMORY within the framework of Real TIME & SPACE that is 'surreal' to my mind. This observance is most evident when someone says, 'It was just like being in a movie ... '

Which leads to the third word in the phrase, 'naive-surreal-folk-abstract'. My overall desire is to document & reiterate the values that now seem so often eschewed by 'academic' artists (aka 'commercial corporate' artists). My greater desire is to honour & preserve home-spun grassrooot observances of creation/destruction & natural beauty. Critics often refer to this as 'folksy'. I remember Ken Thomson, famed Canadian art collector, once sincerely remarking that my work was 'sweet'. Yes, it can be interpreted as such, at times.

And YET, my work can also be hard-edge or 'abstract'. It is abstract because it seems increasingly 'abstract' today to focus on the REAL world and to derive meaning & joy from NATURAL subject matter.

Alternatively, I suppose, one might call what I do - 'protest' or even 'outsider' art. I certainly seem unable to engage in emulating the media-simulated artificial environments that 'surround sound' us daily. I seem to resist being 'cyber-cyborg-ized'. (... and yes, irony of this posted blog is duly noted ...) I resist. RESIST. And PREFER, instead, - 'The JOYS of Nature'.

I do know that my subject matter is, in totality, this wondrous planet. And as such, my painting explorations & meditations are often suggestive of larger issues that currently challenge or threaten our species chances of survival.

If we destroy the land, the air, the water, we destroy ourselves. To my mind, this is a very straight-forward observation & equation.

We are 'Caretakers' of the Planet,
as much as the Planet is OUR Caretaker.

It's also been suggested that this kind of thinking is 'native' in essence. It could be. Maybe that's why I often refer to my Self as 'canajun' - instead of 'Canadian'.

To be sure, 'we' are ALL 'works-in-progress'.

I hope this has helped explain why I paint 'naive-surreal-folk-abstracts'. And I will likely return to this and comment further later.

Your remarks are always welcome ...

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