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Art & Language

I've been revisiting some older work and thinking a lot about the importance language played in my earlier paintings. I have always been greatly inspired by poetry and much of my earlier work included poetry, prose or singular words that would help shift how one would understand or read an image. Artists like Ed Ruscha, David Hockney, Gillian Wearing and Tracey Emin all played a role in my growing interest in text based artworks which began in my undergrad.

I incorporated text in my paintings for years after art school and unknowingly there was a shift in its purpose. I found myself relying on words for graphic and compositional reasons. I felt as though I was hiding behind something. Rather than being deliberate and calculated in how I used text, it became a crutch. After this realization I stopped using text in my images and I was faced with the challenge of creating a narrative entirely through image. I wouldn’t say it was an easy transition, but I found strength in gestural mark making, color and eventually minimalism.

My work, which for years carried a collage aesthetic, grew into simplified semi- abstractions and later even more simplified, naive narrative works. During a conversation with an art reviewer a few years ago, she had said ‘there seems to be less of a fight with the surface compared to your earlier work.’ That was the absolute truth.

Then, this past September, during a trip to Vancouver I had the opportunity to see a series of early etchings by David Hockney at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I was immediately reminded of another series he made called ‘Illustrations for Fourteen Poems from C.P. Cavafy.’ It is a collection of work that had a significant impact on the mixed media paintings I was producing after art school. It helped me bridge the gap between visual art and poetry. The intersection where they meet was where I had hoped to find myself. Cavafy’s writing at that time also resonated with me, particularly his more intimate pieces that revealed vulnerable and sincere human experiences.

When I returned home from Vancouver I began to think about creating a series of work directly influenced by poetry . I spent several months reading and painting and eventually produced a collection of 16 paintings (seen below). The series, which takes it’s inspiration from Four Quartets by T.S. Elliott, considers the origin of the text and the adaptation through the lens of the artist. The words direct the viewer and give greater depth to the images. This return to text based visual art has been refreshing since I’m approaching it from a new point of view and with a better understand of my intentions.

I am always revisiting and reconsidering my past works and interests because, with time and experience, there is opportunity to develop something new from something old.

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