Friday, August 7, 2015

Chicago and the Lake, 2015, 122 x 97 cms, mixed media construction on plywood

My current overhead view imagery evolved out of an interest in depicting panoramic city views of Montreal during my residency there at 9 Rue Villeneuve O. from 1989 to 1991.

The first overhead view, Terre des hommes was a large allegorical construction depicting Centre-Ville and the Expo Islands between 1967 and 1970. It was followed by Sur Montreal une nuite d’hivere, I expanded the theme later when I moved to Ottawa with Grey Halifax, 1992 and in 1994, to parallel my Ottawa Government Building series, The Way The Canal Worked in 1990.

For much of the mid-nineties I worked on an extended series of ship pictures linked to the popular history and culture of the Maritimes called Disaster Ships, which culminated with a show in 1998 at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. By the late-nineties my subject streams evolved again after an artist in residence period at Struts Artist-Run, in Sackville, New Brunswick which led to the construction of four 20 meter panoramic train pictures that form the back bone of my Railway Lands series.

As Railway Lands expanded through the early 00’s, to include such subject streams as The Crow Gulch Train Disaster, Quebec City from the Ocean Limited at Levis, I always saw it in the Winter and Container Ships at Halifax 2000, I returned to the overhead views creating a new series based on both satellite and paper maps showing city street grids, water features, rail lines and airports from above. 

I describe my overhead views as a response to new modes of seeing things. To see the world from above is a relatively recent phenomenon. Tourist maps, first widely circulated in the age of cheap lithography functioned as visual locators, before that artistically imagined engraved aerial views presented dazzling spectacles of perspective and illimitable views of growth and progress even in the most squalid of cities. 

Today, Landsat surveillance gives two impressions, first, that everything can be seen and secondly that everything can be mapped. Whereas in the 19th Century the only sure boarder was a river, lake or seashore, in the 21st Century boarders extend upward into space.

While the overhead view pictures are ostensibly aesthetic objects, I believe they also work as temporal markers or pseudo-documents, in that they are located in time and reflect change that cannot really be described. Like actual maps they are both representational and abstract by necessity.

The Overhead Views to date:

Chicago and the Lake, 2015
Two Rivers at Matanzas, 2013
64 Points of the Railway Between Halifax and Montreal, 2013, Beaverbrook Art Gallery
Blue Tokyo, 2010, private collection (second version, first version destroyed)
New York River to Bank, 2008, private collection
The Colour of London is Red, 2007, private collection
The Winnipeg Airport in 2006 (2007), Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Dans le Coeur de Montreal, 2006, Art Bank
The Halifax Airport in 2004 (2005)
Halifax Peninsula and Railway Lands, 2004, Ottawa Art Gallery
Halifax Elevators and South End Rail Yards, 2003
The Ottawa Airport from a Satellite in Space, 1999, private collection,
The Way the Canal Worked in 1990 (1994), private collection
Gray Halifax, 1992, City of Ottawa
Sur Montreal une nuite d’hivere, 1990, private collection
Terre des hommes, 1989, private collection

Monday, July 20, 2015

Container Ships at Halifax 2000

In 2003 I set out to produce a series of constructions depicting all the container ships that visited Halifax in 2000. Working from incomplete shipping reports I came up with a list of 100 ships. I found images of most of the vessels on boat nerd sites. I conventionalized the image to present the vessels at Fairview Cove Container Pier and systematized the construction laying significance on hull colours, company logos and container stack colour arrangements. I produced about 30 works between circa 2003 and 2007. The largest group in exhibition was shown at the Ottawa Art Gallery in 2004 where I presented five stacks of four vessels. Similar stacks were shown later at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery and the Confederation Art Center Gallery in Charlottetown. Material requirements made production of the whole series impossible. Two are in collection, I destroyed 10 of the works and16 remain including the images in this stack.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Three Large Versions of Quebec City from the Ocean Limited at Lévis- I always saw it in the Winter, 2005

Three large versions of Quebec City from the Ocean Limited at Lévis- I always saw it in the Winter, all three 2005, two versions are in the collection of Department of Foreign Affairs and international Trade, the third is privately owned. I produced the night version first, followed by the morning version and completed with the icebreaker version. The image is a remembrance of viewing Quebec City at night from my bedroom compartment on the Ocean Limited train from Montreal to Halifax, with the coolly majestic Chateau Frontenac puffing smoke in the distance, ice chunks flowing through the mid-ground on the Saint Lawrence and discarded tires laying in the foreground on shore ice.  Since making these pictures VIA Rail rerouted the train through Charny, Qc.. The view is now lost. 

Six Large Versions of The Shattered House

The Shattered House series is a subject stream from my Disaster Ship works. The image is based on a photograph of a shattered house on Duffus Street, taken in the aftermath of the December 6, 1917, Halifax explosion. I first saw the picture as a post card in the gift shop of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax while I was there in 1998 to open my Disaster Ship show at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

I was drawn to the perfect composure of the wrecked house, like a cubo/futurist painting, full of motion and yet completely still, strongly composed, but destroyed. A visual ready-made worthy of Duchamp.

The picture was hard to work out, but gradually I figured a method using a three level layer matrix to give the house depth and create the illusion of looking through it. The first version, The Shattered House 8-215 was produced in 2001 and purchased later that year by the City of Ottawa. Since 2001 I’ve produced six large versions; one is in the collection of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. One is the cover art for a book on economics by the Cambridge University Press.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Shattered House, American Linoleum Version and four small versions, 2015

This is the sixth large version of the Shattered House. The Shattered Houses are based on a photograph of a smashed and distorted, but still standing house on Duffus Street in the aftermath of the 1917 Halifax explosion and come out of my Disaster Ship series last shown at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in 1998. Penny found this particular linoleum on Amazon. The significance of American linoleum as the 100th anniversary of the explosion nears struck me as a workable and appropriate metaphor in the evolving series.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Pleasant Evening at Rideau Hall

A pleasant evening last night at Rideau Hall. I do jury work for the Hnatyshyn Foundation from time to time, so I was invited to the gathering. It turned out to be a “musicale”. Starting with a reception in the Tent Room, we moved on the Ball Room, heard a few remarks from the governor general and Gerda Hnatyshyn then enjoyed four solo pieces played from past Hnatyshyn Award recipients. The highlight of the evening was a performance by noted Canadian jazz pianist Oliver Jones, a pal of Gerda Hnatyshyn, who did a beautiful variations on Gershwin, beginning with the famous first phrase of the Rhapsody in Blue. I spoke with Oliver Jones later in the Rose Garden and told him how much I enjoyed his piece. He told me he was performing the Rhapsody somewhere in the United States soon and had Gershwin on his mind. Canapés and BC wine (a very good Pinot Noir) in the Rose Garden and some interesting conversation wrapped up the night.