Art Troll and geoDNA

  • September 19, 2018

Art troll?  Here’s how I ended up working (lurking), in inclement weather, under a low bridge… with a racoon.

Some of my current explorations involve creating visual DNA en plein air at disparate locations  (ultimately to be done coast to coast to coast across Canada, then other countries) and combining them together. Hundreds of paintings will initially be made, and then destroyed, as they are sliced up into pictorial genes which will  be CRISPR’d together into  single complex artworks, paintings made of paintings. The final pieces will be a hybrid of painting, collage and sculpture. (Some small, but at least one to be ambitiously large).

At each site, the process is to gather ‘terroir data’ — site specific materials — to use as texture and pattern but also as a way to tag the component paintings to a very specific origin. An organic gps, a biological time-stamp that specifically locates the component works in space and time  (geography, climate, season, etc).  Later, all the different places and times are compressed together, in stacked slices, creating a mosaic of places, a palimpsest of times.

So the photo shows one location in the cross-country process. This was at the McMichael Art Gallery (famed for works from the Group of Seven, who also did a lot of work en plein air), late summer. The site was walked, materials gathered (flora, organic detritus), sheets and sheets of watercolor paper laid out, and for 30 hours over a few days about 40 source paintings were made. These source works are are like full-spectrum digitalesque cyanotypes — the found organics are laid out in patterns as stencils; aerosol paint is used to capture ghostly imprints in halos of color (but organized in linear sections) to create component paintings of architected nature, or glitched landscapes.

The elements are part of the work. Found wind and chance rain created patterns in the paint. (In the past, snowfall and snowdrifts have added to the work.) But too much rain was too much.  A downpour  forced me under a pedestrian bridge, like a troll. I worked under there for hours, until twilight, sharing the studion with a racoon.

Part of the process is physical endurance — heat, cold, mosquitoes, physical energy, the need to work quickly and for a long time, on my knees and in uncontrollable circumstances (lighting, surface, available tools, and so on). Art making as extreme sport.

So the work made at McMichael in the forest will be spliced together with work made at the Banff Centre (at a residency) in the mountains which will be added to works made by the Pacific (and so on, including the far north) over months (years?) as invitations and opportunities arise, nomadic art, single works made across wide geographies. (I’m also working on the opposite: a decentralized  painting, very large, which has a very specific time/place origin point, but which is ultimately to exist over a great distance, as its 30 component parts get dispersed around the world to collectors, institutions, corporations, families and friends. Each part is a standalone painting, but which is connected to something much bigger. More on that project HERE , p: eleven).

A few examples of some earlier paintings to illustrate the above; 3 stacked and the type of work on paper that comprises them ( bottom):