I spend a lot of time thinking about the meaning behind your theme, the place we live. Place is probably the central theme in my own work. I’m always trying to figure out ways to interpret place/home/ landscape. Which is tough stuff in an urban setting. Cities are complicated. Urban spaces are made up of fields of accumulated meanings: memory upon memory, old landmarks razed for new ones, graffiti spray painted over graffiti, its people coming and going.
These non-static elements reflect the nature of urban identity itself. Transient. Changing. Shifting fields of meanings. Given its ever changing nature, it’s challenging to concretely define an urban place beyond simple geography. What is Saint John, exactly? How are we different from Fredericton or Moncton, Toronto or New York? How do we parlay the complicated memories and experiences living or going to school in the Uptown into identity? And how do these experiences inform our sense of place?
So this is what I deal with in my artwork. Or valiantly attempt, seeking somehow to capture the essence of my urban place (Saint John) on a static two-dimensional surface. I try to mirror the development of urban space in my work, re-creating a field of accumulated meanings through the physical application of materials, built over time on the canvas, each layer a temporary interpretation of the landscape. I also try to draw attention transient elements of urban culture, like graffiti, construction sites, cranes, scaffolding and tankers – things that move in and out of the urban landscape, and that are often painted over, concealed, moved, ignored or edited in a bid to preserve an aesthetic ideal.
Sure, there are parts of Saint John that are less that aesthetically ideal. I remember thinking this with particular vehemence one afternoon in Grade Nine Social Studies, when the some dank fishy smell wafted through the open Prince William Street window (the odoriferous hazard of going to high school next to a working port).
But you know what, I like the grit. I like the decaying bits of old piers in the harbour and the tugboats and the odd characters and our rough-and-tumble South End. Perfection is boring. Flaw is character.