July 28, 2015


Here's another on the theme of natural and artificial landscape mixing it up in tucked-away spots, in this case the underside of an overpass where fishermen come to fish, kids come to smoke pot, and vehicles roar past overhead.

I jog through here often and am always taken by the juxtaposition of elements. To the left is the Eramosa River, homeland to the Attawandaron or Neutral Nation (neutral because they stayed out of the fighting between the French/Huron and British/Iroquois), as well as a decommissioned "bowstring" bridge. To the right is the overpass support and a constantly shifting canvas of graffiti. All over, meanwhile, assert shrubs and weeds and bony trees.

Curious about the decommissioned bridge, I did some research and learned it was constructed by the Italian immigrant Charles Mattaini in 1916, the year the Parliament buildings in Ottawa were burnt down and the Battle of the Somme took place.

According to Mattaini's granddaughter, the writer Pat Mestern, Mattaini learned how to work with concrete and dynamite in the Italian army and, later, on tunnel projects in the Alps. In Canada when he arrived, he tried his hand at statuary for a while but then turned to the more lucrative profession of bridge-making, but with an artistic twist that did not always go over well with the overwhelmingly Presbyterian and Anglican settlers of the area in the grips of the Temperance Movement.

Though few of these Roman aqueduct- and viaduct-inspired bridges remain today, hundreds were built across Ontario from 1915 to 1930.

This is a tribute to those unsigned flashes of history, rippling and echoing, in my backyard.

15.5" x 48"
Acrylic mixed media on birch panel

July 16, 2015

"Touchstone": Better or Worse?

It's dangerous for me to get work I haven't seen in a while back from a gallery, because I tend to want to touch it up and breathe new life into it.  If you've bought work from me and I happen to get near that work again, careful I'm not carrying brushes.

The problem is a painting, like a work of music, is a fine balancing act, a bunch of relationships that come together and somehow click.  Change the colour here or add an object there and suddenly everything has shifted and transformed, and the original now looks unbalanced or cluttered or just amateurish.

Here's a piece I got back recently and simply couldn't resist adding a single new stroke to, and then another, until I was fully pulled into the spiral of seeking a new harmony and messing everything up. 

I don't know if I've hit on that new harmony but here's the latest version anyway. It's busier, yes?  There's probably more movement. And I've been told the foregrounded figure resembles everyone from Johnny Cash to a friend of mine.  But overall, what d'ya say, is the work improved? Is it more interesting? Fresher? Or now just an uncorrectible muck?

The original "Touchstone"
36" x 48"
Acrylic mixed media on birch panel

And the new "Touchstone"