A place called ‘Home’ is at the core of much of my work. The search for home and its meaning are the continuing theme of my new series of work, Nesting Instinct
Through the emotional use of colour and abstract shapes I am trying to dig deeper into my own sense of home and what it means to me.
Home is where our physical, emotional and spiritual needs find satisfaction and rest. These needs change as we go through life and the meaning of home evolves. Home may be a specific place and always our point of rest but it changes in appearance and effect.
Home is identity. Both are mutable, forever changing.
No one painting can be a complete description of home. To find and express home in paint is to embark on a search ranging over many works, each of which depicts a stage in the evolution of our physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
Weather is everything, both comfort and punishment.
It is an immediate presence, dictating to us, bullying us, helping us along. It is omnipotent and everywhere and we serve all its moods.
At its extremes it is punitive, rendering vast spaces like Antartica and the Sahara desolate.
The weather is also generous. Come spring it draws crops out of fields and invites animals to multiply, renewing all life, urging it through yet another cycle.
The weather can harry us with its storms and charm us with its mildness. Our relations with it are intimate. It communicates directly with our flesh and senses and through them regulates our emotional condition.
We have tried in our history to command the weather through invocation, ritual, prayer and science. But it has never been tamed. At most, our efforts have gained some knowledge of its processes but not how to manipulate them.
We are its supplicants.
This is my first investigation into Canada's Aboriginal Peoples. My research for this show brought me face to face with the richness and depth of native culture and spiritualism. It is a rich vein to tap. Embracing the natural world and respecting all living things is not only a strong belief, but a reality for the First Nations.
Separating the people from the land physically and spiritually has been a cruel reality for our Aboriginal Peoples -- this too is part of the story and an ongoing exploration for me.
It seems to be an ongoing state of mind that we measure ourselves and our worth in relation to physical objects, moral codes, ancestors, time and memory.
Mankind has developed all sorts of tools and instruments to measure every conceivable thing: calipers, rulers, sextants, sundials, calendars, levels, tests for intelligence, plumb lines, rules and laws, speedometers, the speed of sound, the speed of light, calculations in light years.
You take the measure of a man. You have true friends. People are described as being on the level. The language of measurement is ever-present in our vocabularies. You can get even and break even. You can view your life as a glass that is half empty or half full.
With each passing birthday you mark your time on earth.
"Go to, sir; you weigh equally, a feather will turn the scale."
~ William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
Your bed is your history. You were born in one, will spend a third of your life in one and will most likely die in one.
When a child you were sent to bed as a punishment.
When you are sick you lay your misery in bed.
When you're exhausted or dejected it is the comfort to which you crawl.
There is no escape from your bed. You can leave it but you must return. There are few occasions or objects in your waking life which have such power over you.
Your bed is your secret life. It is the sanctuary of all your dreams. It contains your sex life.
Your bed is your other self, the one which few people get to observe. When you are in it you surrender yourself to its authority. It will decide which personality you deserve. It has the power to carry you to your most exalted fantasy and to ride you with nightmares.
Your bed is a passport.
Where are you going?
Etched into your flesh. Soaked into your nature.
The crease descending from the wing of your nose to the corner of your mouth. How many occasions of joy, when you laughed or smiled, passed that way and wore a groove in your flesh? Your indecision when life tests your knowledge, forces you to make a choice or judgement. How many occasions when you set your hopes on the wrong choice or had to revise a judgement that left a stain and deprived you of clean certainties you could trust?
All indelible marks, some apparent, some hidden. They accumulate to compose the geography of your life: its peaks and valleys, its subterranean passages. A process carried forward by the progress of your life but not always dictated by your hopes and expectations. You are much more than what you desire. As time passes some features of your geography become fixed, while others remain warm and malleable, taking the impress of new experiences.
In this show I have chosen to be my own cartographer, to draw a map of my life up to the present, as it is known to me. All the paintings here mark indelible experiences and ideas.
These pieces explore some abstract concepts which guide our lives and decisions: emotional judgments with strong effects.
What do we mean by "home"? What is "home" to us and what sacrifices are we willing to make to preserve its safety? Why do we sometimes wish to protect it from change? We want "home" to be permanent and immutable, to serve us like a memory which, though located in time, is not prey to its seasons.
Nothing added, nothing subtracted.
Home can become the rule by which we measure other aspects of our lives. We give our fealty to it. Loyalty, fidelity, constancy are other abstract concepts which are housed under the roof of "home": it stands for all of them. They are also signals which we look for in our relations with other people.
Home safe, home free.
There are some special events in life which count as high water marks. They might not appear special at the time but, upon recollection, loom over other events, becoming the measure by which we judge the more ordinary experiences of life.
You can never anticipate where an idea can be found.
In the summer of 1998 I was fishing at one of my favourite spots on Lake Manitowaba, which lies just outside Parry Sound. In front of the boar I was in reared a slab of sheer rock, known to the people around the lake as the Rock Face. On it were the whitish traces left by the lake's fluctuating level, identifying when it had been high and when low.
As I looked at the markings I was struck by how steeply the level of the lake had dropped. I started to think of the mark and imprint of significant events in a person's life: their high water marks. And I also started to think about how the two – the Rock Face and human events – could be united in a single painting, a single experience.
A nest signifies protection and security. In this sense its application can be extended to other devices which serve the same purpose. A turtle’s shell, the husk which encloses the seed of a plant, the exoskeleton of an insect, your home.
A nest protects what is essential and vulnerable. A defenseless chick lives out its early life in a high nest, guarded by its parents, till it can fly. For turtles and tortoises their shells are both home and armour, a traveling fortress. Plants can safely allow the wind to disperse their seeds because they are closed in a husk which protects them from harm.
In some cases a nest is the temporary refuge for early life. When chicks learn to fly they leave the nest. When a plant’s seed finds nurturing soil it discards its husk to begin its destined life.
In other cases a nest is the permanent condition of life. A turtle cannot leave its shell, which determines its whole existence. And, though we may change homes in our progress through life, we always make sure we have one. To be regarded as homeless is to be seen as vulnerable and imperilled.
My Nest paintings attempt to encompass all of these aspects of protection and security or the consequences of their loss.