Material Sensations, recent paintings and drawings, 2018-2022
I began this work after spending time on rural meditation retreats, away from the hustle and bustle of city life, where I learned to observe simple things in the moment, like the touch of the breath at the nostrils, or the feeling of my feet on the floorboards. Engaging in this type of practice opened me up to a world of subtle sensations inside the body which I hadn’t noticed before, and when I returned to my Montreal studio, I explored ways to represent these experiences through painting.
Working on white primed linens, and inspired by Mondrian's concept of creating a pure representation of the mind, I arrived at drawing abstract compositions of vertical and horizontal lines. Within these free-form grid-like structures I painted solid areas of oil colour, representing the inner sensations I was perceiving in the moment. For example, I might express a feeling of warmth and heaviness by painting an Italian red ochre, or a feeling of coolness and lightness by painting a cobalt blue or a cadmium yellow light.
I developed each composition over the course of several weeks or months, adding thin layers of semi-transparent paint over individual sections, to modify the hues, enhance the colour interactions, and create a sense of movement within the work. I played with visual phenomena such as after-images and simultaneous contrast to create optical colour mixtures, where immaterial colours, not physically found on the surface of the canvas, also appeared in the eye. As the work developed, I introduced diagonal and curved lines to open the grid-like compositions into more organic structures, and later started using acrylic paints and mediums to create more tactile surface textures.
The creative process evolved in an intuitive way from pure hard-edge geometric abstraction towards something more atmospheric and suggestive of a three-dimensional space. In Formations (2020), I saw the blocks of the composition as representing abstracted parts of a human form, and the round morphing colour shapes within these blocks as representing the flow of sensations within the body. For me, the life of the colour came to represent the life of the mind—animated by thoughts, feelings and perceptions—which in turn facilitated a heightened interrelation between being and painting.
I later experimented with a mixed-media approach using acrylic, collage, egg-tempera and colour pencils. In A Method of Investigating the Soul (2022) for example, I collaged discarded drawings and brush-wiped linen scraps (used for cleaning) onto the surface of the canvas. Here waste products became an integral part of the creative process, blurring the boundary between refuse and art materials; it also led to new forms of subject matter, including diamonds, crosses, cushions and carpets, perhaps signs of mind, body, and the cultural environment, signifying the beginning of a future series of work.
This work was generously supported by a grant from the Concordia University Part-time Faculty Association.