Carl Jung wrote that there are things which can be conveyed with symbols that cannot be conveyed with modern language. These ideas are so ancient they
precede the modern human form of Homo Sapiens Sapiens.
This idea has fascinated me.
Though I used to work exclusively in an impressionist style, I have recently experimented with more primitive forms, symbolism and flat shapes.
This new collection of work came from my own fascination with ancient logographic writing forms and geometric shapes of early human civilizations. I began to draw simple shapes as a meditation, much like they would have been drawn when written language was first developing in Sumerian and the Indus Valley.
The shapes flowed out of me easily, as if my mind was somehow full of these ancient shapes and symbols and I had drawn them before.
Ancient symbols still carry meaning. At some level of consciousness they speak to us and remind us of a time when we did not read words and sentences. We used a far more powerful form of visual communication. Though not as versatile as the modern alphabet, symbols were able to convey an entire idea.
In my paintings I have not copied these forms from anywhere in particular but they are influenced by my observation and reading on the subject of ancient logographic and hieroglyphic writing systems. Some of the forms are simply a basic rendering of the human body, or of a bird. They are the most basic way of communicating the concept of “human”.
The outcome is a collection of intuitive modern relics that remind us of the way humans used to convey information silently from person to person using drawings on boulders , trees and in caves.
Maybe we can still communicate whole concepts without using words.
A Collage of container ships by Jenny O'dell
Jenny Odell is a collector, but not of physical objects. She collects photos of landmarks, geographical features, large ships, and man made pools. They are merely digital images but they give you a certain perspective of the Earth we live on. These are not things you can actually collect (Unless you’re a multi-millionaire) but they help you see the imprint of technology and advanced civilization on the Earth.
They also suggest the vast reach of modern commerce and global economy.
Collecting is one of the traits that we share as humans. We want to arrange, compare and categorize. This helps us understand our world. This way we can feel we have a little control with the knowledge we accrue. I was not allowed to drink pop as a kid, but I used to collect bottle caps, shells, stickers (scratch and sniff), rocks and coins.
I did not have the internet either, so I could not do what Jenny is doing now. Her collections are a way to look at and sort the overwhelming amount of images that we see. Her collages are an expression of a filter device we have. We are constantly asking where things belong: dangerous, crude, ridiculous, hot, dark, alive, dead, immoral. Everything can be put into multiple categories simultaneously depending on the kind of filter you are using and your parameters. If you do not do this, I strongly suggest you try. This is one of the ways we add meaning to the world as human beings.
Protest Art in Central America
Diego Rivera was a Mexican Artist. He was not afraid to use his art to communicate how he felt about the systems of power in the Americas. This mural (Glorious Victory, 1954 4 meters wide) was gifted to the Soviet Union during one of his visits.
His colours are lush, and his subject matter is the people and society he lived in. Here we see wounded and dying indigenous people in the foreground, and the conquerors shaking the hand of the man who will take power. Because of the prominence of the banana in the painting, I suspect this is one of the Banana Republics set up by the U.S. and wealthy banana producers in Central America. The indigenous people were, in many cases, divested of their land and the corrupt governments served the foreign plantation owners rather than the people. There is also a priest who appears to be sanctioning the atrocities he sees before him.
The central focus is the handshake between the leader installed by the U.S. and the crowd of politicians, lawmakers, and businessmen that comprise the power structure dominating the indigenous people.
In the extreme right of the picture the indigenous population is in jail, and in the extreme left, bananas are shipped to the US.
A man in a dark suit passes money around to the local politicians and soldiers to buy their loyalty and silence protest.
Why would Diego Riveira choose to paint such a scene? To him, the function of art was not just about creating beauty, but exposing something about foreign and domestic politicians.
Events like these did take place in Central America, and exploitation of resources still happens in poor nations around the world. I admire any artist that tries to expose these corruptions.
I recently went up to Efin Lakes with a friend. Its a beautiful Alpine hike that takes you into Garibaldi Park.
I went to take pictures of all the wild things up there and
So lately I have been taking pictures of Trout Lake Early in the morning. This lake is beautiful at that time of day. Just before the sun comes up the sky is awash with peachy pinks and violets. I have posted a new painting of Trout Lake in the West Coast section of my Website.
This is a quick painting I did, more of a sketch than anything. I wanted to explore using large brushes on a small canvas. The composition is simple and I thought it quite pleasing. Anybody would want to be the guy in this picture.
Painting on a mountain is always a thrilling experience. The day I went up to paint this the wind was gusting and I had to tape everything down. It was also quite cold and my hands and face began to freeze as I was painting. Braving the elements like this made painting a different experience than being in my cozy warm studio. It also made my painting more alive, the light more tangible. There was a sense of urgency when I was painting the likes of which I never get when in my studio.
This plein-air sketch was done on a steep trail at Whitecliff park. In the distance you can see Vancouver Island.
Last summer I went on a little trip along the Sea-To-Sky Highway to find a place to do some painting. At some point not too far from Squamish I found a service road that led up to a clearing. Here I had a beautiful Southward view of the steep mountainsides leading to the waters edge. As well as a patch of highway you can see the railroad close to the water. I worked against time to paint the shadows in the trees as they were slowly changing towards the end of the sketch, which took about two hours.
Some acomplished artists say that one of the essential elements of success for an artist is painting Plein Air.
When you are out in nature painting, it is all before you in real time with real light, and your eye can pick up a lot of colors that cannot be captured by a camera. The natural energy of the place will seep into your paintings to give an effect you cannot quite capture in the studio.
This particular sketch was done at UBC overlooking Wreck Beach.