Facing West – Looking East
Landscape and Memory
The Copper Plates
The Solstice Series
The Prime Elements
Some of this work has been of a large scale; some of it on canvas, board or copper, utilizing a diversity of mediums and processes ranging from photography and painting to etching and drawing. Over the years this work has been exhibited in numerous exhibitions locally, nationally and internationally.
Looking East – Facing West
This title for an extended series of work has its origins in a three-month period during1988 when I was working as an artist-in-residence at the Leighton Colony in Banff. At that time a series of collage works on paper titled “Letters From Banff” was produced. These small scale pieces contained autobiographical references as well as references to the mountain landscape surrounding Banff. They were subsequently exhibited in one-person exhibitions at The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff, The Virginia Christopher Galleries in Calgary, and the Thomas Gallery in Winnipeg, as well as numerous contributory exhibitions across Canada. Individual pieces travelled as far afield as Japan.
The oriental venues seem, in retrospect, to be particularly appropriate because the motivation for much of the work was based upon levels of cultural and aesthetic interchange between western and eastern values. I came to Canada in 1975 from England to teach at The University of Calgary and, inevitably, carried with me an artistic experience steeped in a European sensibility. Some time was subsequently spent studying Chinese and Japanese painting, including free-form brush calligraphy with the late Chinese artist Chin Shek Lam.
This background seemed to be relevant to the location of Calgary and particularly Banff, situated close to the Continental Divide—the watershed which both literally and metaphorically connects and divides eastern and western influences. The works produced since that period in 1988 both consolidate and expand upon these concerns. They are all based upon the physical act of facing west from the Continental Divide at various locations in southern Alberta. The associated levels of perception are influenced by the memories, dreams and experiences of my own life, in particular those experiences that involve looking east.
The Copper Plates
The newest work, first instigated in 1990 and continuing to date, involves the location of sheets of watercolor paper and polished copper plates, along with other artifacts, directly in the landscape. Several of these were located on or very close to the 49th line of latitude representing the border between Alberta and the USA. Some of these artifacts were buried in mineral deposits, others are located with exposure to the weather. Some will inevitably be affected by the growth of flora and the movement of insects and small animals. Many of the surfaces contain images applied to them prior to location that relate to the sites themselves. The sites are documented with photographs and maps which in themselves form part of the finished works. It is my intention to resurrect temporarily or retrieve these artifacts periodically over a time period of one to twenty years.
In relation to the site locations on the border of Alberta and British Columbia there is the certainty of a latitudinal correlation with locations in England and Wales that relate to my early life and experiences. (This correlation is certain because the whole of the British Isles falls well within the latitudinal extremes of Alberta.)
Works resulting from the documentation produced in 1990 when the artifacts were first located have been exhibited in contributory exhibitions across Canada and in Japan. One- and two-person exhibitions have been held in Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto. Individual works have also been acquired for the permanent collections of the Alberta Art Foundation and The Canada Council Art Bank.
In an unpredictable way, my early interests in planar geometry and other topological constructs as a means of correlating the two-dimensional reality of painting with a three-dimensional understanding of the world will have come full circle. The topographical focus of the new work is indicative of a process of psychological and geographic analysis—a mapping of the boundaries of the mind and of the boundaries of experience.