It’s not in the least unusual for a child to draw a house. Kids who don’t grow up in houses also draw them. In the young mind its familiar shape evokes thoughts of comfort and safety, the cocoon of the nuclear family.
'House' circa 1963
I found this drawing of mine recently in some papers I’d stuffed away in the chaos of the days following my Father’s death in 2005. He had kept it with other remnants of my childhood drawings as all parents do.
I was struck by the irony in the image: not many children find themselves nearly fifty years later still puzzling out the meaning in these simple shapes.
In the eighties I started painting houses based on the disappearing smaller houses of the North Toronto neighbourhood in which I grew up and in those days still lived. In retrospect, I was yearning for the past and subconsciously fighting off the inevitability of change.
Wishing things were the way they used to be is a good way to distract oneself from wondering if those times were as good as one remembers. What I thought of as ‘the story of my past’ but which was a construct of necessity, the kind of story we tell ourselves to make things feel better, began to fall apart in earnest just as my art career found its legs.
Not surprisingly, and again with considerable retrospective irony, I began to revisit the house as subject in 2006 with ‘Running Man’. This was at the height of my own domestic turmoil which dissolved a marriage and with the death of my Father, ended a sixteen year experiment in intergenerational living.
After dealing with the disposal of the detritus of several lives and the sale of a large home I found myself finishing the painting in my new abode, a 270 square foot studio apartment which was enough to hold what what was left of my life.
The little childhood drawing has made me think about what’s behind the new interest in an old subject.
I feel there is a certain detachment in the newer images. That I’m seeing these structures as the facades they are, no longer representing for me any kind of security or repository of good memories.
I’m still poking at the ashes of the past in my art. To the extent that anyone can relate to these images, I’m content to have this be my contribution to the world.
I’m also beginning to accept and perhaps even enjoy that the paths we’re on never seem to take us to the expected places.
'House with Motorcycle' 2008, 8 X 5.5" Acrylic on paper.