Developing an Artist Statement
Why – Urban buildings and Landscapes?
Buildings and the land that surrounds them reflects our collective values and priorities.
When I first started painting, I was very focused on portraits and figures, trying to capture the essences of the subject. I found it amazing that 500 years later, you could gaze into someone’s eyes and get a sense of their personality and character. However, portraiture is conflicted by biases and deceptions created by the sitter, the artist, and the audience. Each player trying to control the message that the portrait is trying to convey. There is also the additional challenge of why would collector want to hang some stranger on their wall.
Unable to resolve these problems of the individual, I shifted my focus to tree portraits. Viewing trees as a sort of collective representative of the community that surrounds them.
In urban settings, the placement and continued survival of trees is not accidental. There is too much competition over land use to let this happen.
The presence a tree or a group of trees is a visual statement by the community.
In effect, tree portraits became a proxy for a human portrait. It is hard to hide your values behind a huge tree living in a middle of a park such as the large tree that used to grow in the middle of Churchill Park in the west end of Hamilton, Ontario.
For nearly two years, this large and imposing tree became the focus of my artistic, from life, efforts.
In the 1920s, the land was set aside for further development of residential homes. However, the Great Depression brought these plans to a halt. Over time, the land came into control of the city and was made into an urban park.
The name of the park reflected the post-war character of the surrounding neighborhood, British and fading colonial empire might.
Within the last 10 years, the great tree was lost to a winter snow. The lawn bowling club that used to be busy with bowlers dressed in summer whites is now closed.
The community is now much more diverse and the edge of the forest that surrounds one side of the park is now protected by a wild grass transition zone.
From managed stateliness to managed wildness.
Trees introduced me to the concept that to understand people, it is sometimes better to look at their handiwork rather than their faces.
Now, I have shifted my focus to buildings and the lands that surround these structures for clues about what we really value in life.