“…there is a work to be done in the matter of knowing where we are…”
Quote by Gary Snyder.
I am quickly becoming acquainted with your work. I am amused and fascinated with what I’ve seen. Years back, I recall seeing a piece at the Helen Pitt Gallery. It was a life size wood stove made by the material that it was meant to destroy. How long did that take to make? Would you consider yourself an expert widdler?
In terms of working with a specific material towards a specific form – the wood stove has probably been the most labor intensive thing I’ve made. I worked with plywood before, but certainly needed assistance from the shop tech at Emily Carr. After its completion, I was very pleased with the outcome, but at the same time recognized that making such time consuming and finicky objects was somewhat of an underwhelming experience. I like widdling sticks away to nothing, it’s like washing all the dishes.
I relate to the underwhelming experience. I understand when one puts so much time and prowess into a personal project, only to come out of it being less thrilled by the outcome. It’s a tough road for the lonely artist. Recently I’ve seen your posters, bold black ink on large white paper, relinquishing news about “hitchhiking to Hope” and “utilizing the available light in Vancouver on March 14th”. I hope the explanation of your work that I just mentioned does not sound debased. After all your creations are so personal and moving. Can you describe the motivation behind your art? I once read that your work examines the frailty of objects and systems.
Yes, for myself, I find the majority of the ‘thrill’ is wrapped up in that initial stage of conception – when the idea first ‘hits’. I find then that I try to draw out that experience as far as possible. So even though I do begin my projects with clear intentions, I like embarking on works in which I know I will continually be on unfamiliar ground. I find that this leaves room for the work to breathe, an attempt to maintain as much activeness as possible.
I’m very comfortable with how you remember the poster texts. My hope is that the viewer of ‘hearer’ of these works will simply remember that which resonates with them personally. The text is either quite abstract or concrete in their message, as a way to leave enough space on either end of the spectrum to be interpreted freely. However, I believe that it is very important that the main action or gesture that the text piece purports to disseminate, actually occurs, or is attempted, to the best of my ability.
Perhaps I am a bit of a pessimist, but I am continually aware of the fragility of myself, and myself in relation to the world (of stuff, persons, institutions etc.). I suppose then that the majority of my ‘examining’ has to do with systems which are person-made, as that is what I feel I can understand to a certain degree, if questioned enough. Nature then, seems to serve as a kind of mute but absolute measuring stick as I think about what and how to question.
There are so many artists rushing to communicate a message which sometimes comes across misinterpreted. In hindsight however, at least their work exists. Is it safe to say that you use your work as as a form of therapy for yourself by relating to your own personal experiences in the world, and expressing it to others through your art?
When I think about therapy, I think about an activity which is either self-induced or imposed by someone else which, aims to bring about a kind of positive development. I often think very little about how a particular work will affect myself personally. The excitement for myself is in how the work will be received by others. I guess you could say then that what I do is a lot less like therapy, and more a type of investigation. An investigation, which doesn’t have a defined outcome, but one in which some kind of greater ‘understanding’ is realized. ‘Understanding’ is very subjective, and so that is why I tend to allow my works to be quite open, or, its meaning can be interpreted in a many number of ways. I suppose that is part of my overall project – questioning the possibility or hope of meaning, derived from our external world in relationship to our lived experience.
But yes, first and foremost, the work is a means of communication with someone other than myself. This is art’s greatest quality. And of course this is the main departure from the idea of therapy – in that the work is produced with the desire to relay a kind of message to someone else where all other forms of communication fall short. In other words, it is a social activity.
The message will always be imperfect – and this is also the ‘beauty’ of the artistic process. The work itself acknowledges the infinite amount of possibilities as something that is sent out towards someone else, and received by a body that is unpredictable, thinking, reflective, and reactionary.
What artists have influenced your development?
Although I know less about the work of Bas Jan Ader as compared to other artists I’ve met or read up on, I have found him to be of great importance to my development and interest in art making. Others: Annie Dillard, Paul Gaugin, Francis Alys, Liz Magor, Peace Pilgrim, Robert Gardner. On my bookshelf, are works written by the likes of Gary Snyder, Annie Dillard, and Chuang Tzu. What I observe, and what keeps drawing me back to their writing, is a kind of optimism, one that is rooted in a very physical world. I think this is why in art school, I was so enamored with studying sculpture because it was all about part-to-part relationships – real, physical relationships. I interpret spirituality in a very similar way. It’s less about belief in structures, which may have an influence on my lived experience, but more about the act of assailing myself into a gesture for which I am intuitively compelled. All is a result of my experience in a very sensual, and culturally influenced world.
I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to speak with you. Your responses to my questions have been very poetic and inspiring.What’s on the horizon?
I tend to have a few projects on the go all at once right now. There is one project which involves the Queen’s eyes, another with a Weeping Willow tree in my Father’s backyard, and another with an old gun.