This painting is one of the “Cities” series, a group of about 15 paintings that includes cities in a variety of stories and ideas about our species and how we relate to each other and our environment. I plan to have a few exhibitions of this series, starting this summer in Crawford Bay, B.C.
Global What? is a bit of an apocalyptic view of cities in the future. There are a number of stories in the painting but the underlying story is about our ability to ignore or rationalize the obvious. Human beings carry on being human; using, adapting, enjoying and despairing as the earth changes.
The big question is “ Are we bound by laws of nature that allow a successful species to grow until it outgrows its resources? How will nature bring things back into balance? Is it possible for our intelligence and consciousness to find ways to override our base human nature? Will we continue to be successful users or find a way to live within the balance of nature?
Pain and Compassion
This painting was part of a turning point in my life and is the only painting that I have done so far that is not for sale. It hangs in the corner where I meditate every morning.
I have been a sincere meditator for many years and through my practice I was able to avoid much of the pain inherent in a life of personal growth. When things got uncomfortable in relationships or challenging situations I could go to a still, peaceful place inside. It was a good tool and my life was good but I felt an element of harshness and that there may be richer ways to experience life.
I am a musician and after an embarrassingly horrible gig I was awake in the night going over how awful it was. I thought that I could get up and meditate and get to a more peaceful space but I had been reading about the Buddhist practice of Tonglen where you breathe in pain and breathe out compassion. I decided to go into the pain rather than avoid it. I started to understand some of the blessing of experiencing pain. As I connected with that part of myself I felt more connected with others. I experienced some understanding of the pain we all suffer and a door opened to compassion. As my caring nature started to grow I became a little less judgmental of others. I feel like I became more fully human.
Since that time my practice has changed. I invite some of the pain of life and the world into my meditation each morning and into my daily life. I find it is a human experience, rich in opportunity for learning. I do not feel I am in danger of being controlled by pain through this practice; by staying with pain and going deeper it transforms into a powerful experience of my humanity and ability to feel and love. My hope now includes the growth of compassion in myself and in all of us.
Spirit’s Evolution is a large (90”x36”) 3-panel painting or triptych that looks at the evolution of mankind’s relationship with nature. For most of man’s history humans developed as nature developed, subject to all the laws and rhythms of the natural world. The connection to the earth was deep, natural, spiritual and practical.
In recent history, humans have developed the ability to master and control many aspects of the natural world, often separating from the rhythms and balances of nature’s laws. The isolation and separation that comes with the quest to control nature and never to experience its discomforts often leaves us unfulfilled, experiencing fears and emptiness.
Many of us have the opportunity and power to listen and connect to the natural world. We can let it fulfill us and then work to live connected to its laws and rhythms. It is huge challenge that can be met step by step. In the end nature and it’s laws will be fine; it is up to us whether allow ourselves to incorporate this natural part of ourselves into our brief time here on earth.
Check in the gallery on my website for a larger version of this painting where you can see the detail. There is quite a bit of story in the details.
Limitless Paths, Limitless Soul
This painting is all about the different and personal paths that people take to find and build a relationship with their Soul. All words around this deep and central part of us are loaded with preconceptions and it is up to each of us to find a language that best describes our relationship with our deepest self. For this painting Soul describes the light, the consciousness, the love, but mostly it is a recognition that each of us has that deep and pure center and treks along a path to find and know personal peace and truth.
The main idea that I thought about during this painting was tolerance. How do we look deeply into others to see the most human and fine part of them? It seems we are all clumsy to varying degrees in our approach to our souls and we must allow each other to stumble along our paths.
People find and develop their relationship with soul in different ways. We are taught ways to live, rules and ideas that honor the soul. Some people have epiphanies, consciousness shifts or enlightenment moments that compel them to walk towards their soul. Despite moments of clarity each of us must work each day to understand and live lives that honor our truth. We all have limitations, we all make many mistakes and we use our lives to learn. We must allow each other to be clumsy trekkers along our personal paths, celebrating difference and uniqueness. sharing each bit of progress and hope as we learn to live in love.
Merging with Reflection
There is a myth that the Raven was fascinated by it’s reflection and stared at it with intense concentration. At one point the Raven and the reflection merged and changed places. The Raven lived in its reflection and the reflection lived in the world.
Reflection is an aspect of meditation. For me, there is magic and mystery to be explored through meditation. It is a process of looking at one’s self and seeing deeper and deeper into that self. My experience is that after digging through the layers of thoughts and ideas that form our concept of self, I often get to a place where the boundaries between my self and the world blur. I feel connected, expanded and the world I live in takes on new depth and possibilities.
In meditation inner and outer worlds often merge. The distinction between these worlds is less clear, they entwine, cross over and effect each other. This is an enriching process.
Man and Animal
I thought about 3 types of relationships that we have with animals. We love them and live with them. They are a cure for our loneliness and a route to our hearts. Through domestication we have working relationships with animals; they labour for us, provide with food and are our partners in survival. The third type of relationship is based in fear where we recognize animals as wild, out of control and dangerous. This is a painting of many stories and I find it interesting and fun to ask kids to tell the stories they see in it.
The visual aspect of this painting is an exploration of what is on the edge of our vision. We see things out of the corner of our eye and often sense a presence or light or something that disappears when we turn and give it our focused vision. I always feel that there is much to be sensed in the vague shadows of our vision. Sometimes it feels like extrasensory perceptions or seeing what is normally imperceptible. No matter where we turn our eyes there is a vastness beyond our vision that has an effect on us
It Takes a Nest
I have been fascinated by the idea of nest for many years. About 20 years ago I did a number of works that explored the nurturing structure that provides protection, security and warmth. Since then nests often re-emerge in my work. A part of the fascination is the deep and somewhat irrational drive to create and nurture our children. As a father of 4, I have spent over 30 years parenting. As a teacher of adolescents, I have been part of the community effort to help our children grow from total dependence to independence, strength and freedom.
Here are some of the fascinations and ideas that I spent time with and felt during the creation of this painting:
The drive to create and nurture our offspring is one of the deepest, most powerful and natural parts of us. We all know and experience it in different ways, but it is part of what makes us human; a social animal.
I always marvel at the opspreys when they come back from their migration. They seem so free; they soar around in the wind, fish a little, bask in the sun and live what seems to be a carefree life. Then they start building a nest and the next months are completely occupied with hatching, protecting, feeding and teaching their young. They send them on their way and start all over again.
The village or community is the nest expanded. For life to thrive it takes a community to create a safe and nurturing environment for our young. It is in the sharing of these deep values and duties that a community bond is formed. The more we share and support the raising of our young the richer we are as a community. Children raised in this richness develop awareness of their worth and have a better chance of a rich, fulfilling life. For me, this is a deeply held belief.
The Shadow of A City is the beginning of a series that juxtaposes cities with nature in a variety of ways. It is a non judgmental comment on our relationship with the earth. As we have become 7 billion beings, largely gathered in urban centres, it is easy to view humans as a cancer on the earth. Or maybe we are a natural step in the evolution of this planet. It is possible that the power of nature that created the beauty of this planet has the power and influence to bring things in to balance. For me this beauty and power is to be celebrated, even worshipped, yet I am a part of the species that is changing the face of nature, of the earth itself. As nature brings things in to balance it may be very painful to mankind and to the idea of our own power. I do not make the judgement that we are a good or bad part of nature. I do think a little reflection on our situation, a little awareness and a little humiiity could go along way.
Most of my paintings are more like chapter books than posters. They may be a little slower to make an impression but with a little time the many thoughts and ideas behind become more visible. It is not necessary to see or understand all of the ideas and stories that I have involved myself in while painting them, but it is my hope that people find their own stories and entertain their own ideas as they spend time with the painting. For many years I would not give any hint of my stories and ideas beyond the title because I hoped people would find their own way in to the paintings. At one show in a government gallery I was asked to give a talk about the paintings. I noticed that explaining where I was coming from in a painting gave many people a way in and a place to start their relationship. Since then I have been more open to sharing at least an idea or two about the work. In this Painting Stories section I will share a few thoughts about the work. It is still my hope that viewers expand on these ideas as they hang out with each painting.
Currently I am deep in to a series of paintings about man’s relationship to the earth; where and how we live. It was to be a series about habitat or places to live but has evolved in to an exploration of cities and their relationship to nature. I won’t be finished this series until next summer and then I hope to show them here on the east shore of Kootenay Lake and in Nelson. I am currently looking for a gallery in Calgary for a show. If anybody has any suggestions or contacts for a place to show a cohesive series of a dozen or so large paintings please ;et me know. In the spring I will start photographing these works and posting them. Until then I will continue to write out the stories behind paintings I have done over the last couple of years.
acrylics and paper on plywood, 30x36. Sold. Prints available
The Rhythm Keepers
Camping with my family in the jungles of Chiapas, in Southern Mexico, was an experience of the powerful pulse of nature. As it gets dark, the critters of the tropical jungle amp up the noise level; frogs, birds, howler monkeys, trillions of insects and lots of noises that I have no idea what was creating them, call out of the black night. I sat and listened, then felt the power of the noise pushing against my chest. The sound turned in to a pulsing vibration, like the jungle had a rhythm or a heartbeat.
In The Rhythm Keepers, I explored the idea of rhythm; the rhythms of our heart and our breath always at the centre of our lives. From that center we connect and open with rhythm in so many ways; it is hard not to move to music and drumming. We experience a rhythm to our lives in the seasons, the moon and the waves on the ocean. I think that there are many more rhythms that are senses don’t register which effect us throughout our lives.
As I worked on this painting my mind was blown by the idea that all rhythms are connected, touching effecting each other, as they overlap and blend they become larger stronger rhythms. I am struck by the idea that they connect to form one rhythm that pulses through the universe. All the rhythms that we feel can be experienced as the heartbeat of a living universe.