Monday, June 28, 2010

New Painting: A.B. Demolition

A.B. Demolition 2010, 5.5 X 8" acrylic on illustration board.

My third Montreal painting, A.B. Demolition is part of a trio of derelict buildings on Rue Mont-Royal in our old neighbourhood of the east Plateau. A building so forlorn that even its demolition has faltered.

I didn’t think of the inherent irony in the upside-down ‘Demolition’ sign until I’d finished the painting. In the nineteen-eighties my ex-wife and I used to joke that everything I painted ended up getting knocked down or unsympathetically renovated within weeks of the completion of a painting or drawing.

It seemed uncanny, whether a service station, house or bridge, I had a knack for unconsciously spotting something on the verge of a major transition: a white porceline-enamel skinned Texaco station just before a dumpster heralds its final days; a bungalow which soon finds itself overwhelmed by a cancerous looking addition.

It’s something for which I still have a feeling. I inevitably photograph and paint things which have achieved a certain amount of invisibility in their neighbourhoods. When something becomes so out of step with its surroundings, it will either find itself being revered or destroyed. Sometimes both in quick succession. Incidentally, we do this as well to people who dare to be out of step with the parameters we’ve set for ‘normal’.

No one likes to see the ravages of time these places represent. Nor can we face it in ourselves. We like to move on, renovate and rebuild, not acknowledging our own inevitable decline. Subconsciously thinking that if we do not stay on top of the decay, we’ll soon be overtaken.

The subjects for my paintings are the least likely to be revered. Most will be destroyed in one way or another. They are the architectural wallflowers of the city, representing the unforgiving nature of time. Existing in silence and in their passing unmourned.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Myth Making

Basic Inquiry Studio 2003, 5.5 X 8" acrylic on paper

It sounds unfathomably naive to me now but in my innocence, or ignorance, I’ve always felt that one day someone, somehow, would become aware of my work and be moved to add me to a volume or article on photorealism, or perhaps review or curate a show of my work.

My art education, such as it is, comes from a meagre selection of books and magazine articles. It never occurred to me that art books could be vehicles for self promotion, a dealer promoting their ‘stable’ or possibly their own holdings of art. I’ve imagined these volumes to be objectively compiled by knowledgeable altruists but they’re actually a product of the highly subjective opinions of a handful of people.

This reality inspired me almost a year ago to start this blog as a way of telling my story. I’ve come to think of it as personal myth making.

It’s taken me a long time to feel that I have a story worth telling or even that I have a story. As the youngest child in my family I believed that life was what happened to other people. An older brother or sister. My mother or father. Surely what ‘happened’ to me was of no consequence. I was the furniture in the room observing other people living lives.

I’ve lived most of my life in isolation. It wasn’t until my life fell apart in 2004 that I realised how isolated I’d been. I found myself, without friends, in a city where I’d lived for almost twenty years. When I forced myself, out of desperation, to leave my house and entertain the idea of connecting with strangers, I found that I had things to share with them. Oddly compelling things. It was easy for me to turn the painful events of my mid-life disasters into entertaining pub conversations. People enjoy knowing some are worse off than they.

I’ve become hyperaware of the stories people tell about themselves. The way we frame our experiences to suit a desired personal narrative. Anyone who is interviewed regularly has concocted a legend which is strengthened in the retelling.

It’s a cruel truth that not everyone wants us to be happy or successful. It’s easy to find oneself being labeled in a way we wouldn’t choose for ourselves by those who, for whatever reason, would like to keep us from fulfilling our goals.

It turns out I really have lived a life. Taking control of one’s own story and giving it an understandable narrative arc is one way of ensuring that no one else decides the narrative for us.