Light Sound Vibration

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The Auras at The Old Laurel, 300 College St, Toronto ON

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We Are All The Same

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“We all have a part to play as human beings. We are all the same.”- Kim Wheatley

See more photos from the Algonquin Land Claim information session here.

Line, Space, Texture

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I set out to make some new “hair landscape” images when I started this, similar to the image below:

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Lately I’ve been much more open to using photographs of myself as references for drawings. The convenience of photographing myself on whatever angle I’d like to draw is massively helpful. I’m also growing to be more okay with exploring “self” in my art, which was something I had reservations about in the past (general feelings of grossness regarding narcissism/self obsession prevented me from really delving into it). I’m finding it to be a very therapeutic practice.

This piece however (at the top of this post) is more of a technical exploration than a “self” exploration. I was drawing from a photograph of myself to get a particular profile angle that I wanted to capture. After completing the drawing phase, I went looking through my library of landscape photos I’ve complied for the purpose of splicing/editing with my drawings. When I didn’t find any photos that jumped out at me, I layered the original reference photograph that I was drawing from with the drawing itself, and filled in the drawn hair area with the actual hair texture from the photograph. And I was… pleased. Actually, I was very excited. I haven’t felt this actively interested or exhilarated by drawing in a while. I can use this mixed media approach to explore further breaking down the drawn and photographed area/minimalism/how much information can I remove while still creating an engaging portrait? There will definitely be more work in this vein popping up soon.

Disconnect

I’m dancing in dust and space and rhyme.

Give me a moment to collect myself.

Wait no.

Trees are gold and the streets rain silver and sun.

I’m seeing you and you’re seeing me and we see everyone.

Hold your hair and heart and bump noses because it’s not too close.

Wake up, examine self, shower.

Where are my socks.

Sitting.

what

Maybe.

Maybe

Maybe.

But…

Yeah, I think he was fair.

He acted reasonably.

I definitely support you.

I understand you.

But maybe…

Did you explain?

Can you hear me?

(look at me)

Fuck No (Look At Me)

(be honest, and it’ll never happen again).

Why Back Paintings

A few years ago, I was showing work in a lounge downtown, rented out for the purposes of hosting a multimedia art exhibition. My portfolio contained a fair number of photographs I’d shot of myself with various paintings done on my back (I’m hesitant to call them “self portraits.” Explanation to follow). A man stopped to chat and take a look through my work. Upon finding the “back painting” photos, he remarked, “a touch of narcissism, eh?” I was somewhat taken aback. I smiled, laughed a bit and said “I’m my most available model– and free!”

This comment stuck with me for a while though. I had a moment where I questioned if my work is narcissistic. I thought about it, and realized that the man who commented on my work was seeing something different than I was. I believe he interpreted those paintings as ornamentation on my body–that the images were about “my figure” or my physical appearance. And why wouldn’t he? For many, viewing art is purely an aesthetic experience. He was not in my mind when I made these images, he doesn’t know my thoughts or inspirations. So now I’d like to reveal why I am fascinated with painting on my back (and not other people’s backs).

I have a rocky relationship with painting. Some of my favourite memories creating were made while painting, but it is also a source of self-doubt and frustration. I’m fairly skilled in drawing and photography in terms of “getting an image out of my head and onto film/paper.” But there is a block with painting, and I can rarely create what I’ve set out to. I think this has much to do with internalizing the value of representational art over abstracted art. If I couldn’t create beautiful, representational paintings in the style of the classics I admired, I felt as though I had failed as a painter. Despite knowing rationally that highly representational art isn’t more valuable than any other, it’s been difficult to actually unlearn.

In my third year of University I decided to explore this idea through photography. I had a fellow artist paint landscapes on my back. I photographed the results. The next step was for me to try and recreate the landscapes on my own back without looking (aside from the occasional peek to see how things were progressing), knowing fully well that it was an impossible task.

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Painting felt fun again. Painting felt exciting. I felt in the moment, instead of worrying about what I would produce. It was light hearted, lacked heaviness. And this was a result of having very little control of the process.

autumno2I am adamant that these images aren’t about my body. I want to take that a step further and say that they aren’t even about me (hence my reservations to call them self portraits). “Back painting” is a way to enjoy painting again, and to create images that look and feel child-like in a way that I simply cannot do when I am in control. Stepping back and being realistic though, they are in some respect about me. I cannot escape the fact that I am present in the final result of these photos, and that behind them is a personal story. I could choose to crop the photographs closely, only capturing the painting itself. But I don’t, and as a result do keep “my identity” present, to a degree. Narcissistic, however, they are not.

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