Portfolio > Painting (selected) 1979 - 1984

In 1975 I went to art school thinking I would become a portrait painter, in the style of Robert Harris, a 19thC Islander who had made good. Mount Allison came with the reputation of Alex Colville having taught there, and it was close to home, Prince Edward Island. I had done a couple en plein air-painting workshops in Sackville in the summers preceding, which planted a notion of painterliness and the sublime.

When I got there in the fall, the instructor who’d taught the workshops was on sabbatical, temporarily replaced by a Greenbergian. In fact the whole department had been invaded by a crew of younger Americans, which introduced a tension between the traditionalists and what was considered modern art. I’d been exposed to abstraction in childhood art classes; my parents had taken us all to expo 67. Abstraction seemed progressive, and suited my temperament, which wasn’t keen on specifics.

This early work focused on colour relationships in a systematic manner. I moved from brushes to squeegees, from hard edge to more painterly gestures, exploring what we all called figure-ground relationships. Eventually the figure won.

In 1984 I had a painting crisis, precipitated by a short studio visit by Clement Greenberg himself. The postpartum was anti-climatic. I felt like I had to either quit painting or completely change what I was doing.

I was also maturing as an adult. I had experienced gender inequities in the workplace, and had read Germain Greer’s “The Obstacle Race”, and John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing”. The political landscape I was becoming aware of was dominated by Reaganism, Thatcherism, and Mulrooneyism; privatization that right from the beginning seemed to be about extraction. My work was hardly addressing any of that.

I spent the next two years making rough attempts at figurative painting that tried to tell a story; depicting personal experiences that I somehow hoped would be relevant to everyone. Retrospectively those old works still make me cringe a bit, but they got me into grad school; my past abstract work wouldn’t have accomplished that then.

The re-education at University of British Columbia was radical, and didn’t fully sink in until a year after graduation with an MFA.

Orlando
acrylic on canvas
26?x81"
1983
Reversible Birds
acrylic on canvas
24"x83"
1983
Second Amazona
acrylic on canvas
84"x26
1984
Third Odalisque
acrylic on canvas
88"x24"
1983
Second Odalisque
acrylic on canvas
84"x26"
1983
Madonna
acrylic on canvas
84"x26"
1983
Odalisque
acrylic on canvas
82"x23"
1983
Fleda's Care
acrylic on canvas
67"x25"
1983
Ambassador
acrylic on canvas
26"x72"
1983
Praecipitium
acrylic on canvas
65"x28"
1983
Envoy
acrylic on canvas
89"x26"
1983
Reliance
acrylic on canvas
57"x15"
1983
Quartet
acrylic on canvas
78"x25"
1983
Fast Lane
acrylic on canvas
66"x27"
1983
Pearl Diver
acrylic on canvas
88"x33"
1982
Guardian
acrylic on canvas
89"x28"
1982
Emperor's Clothes
acrylic on canvas
87"x30"
1982
Shrift
acrylic on canvas
90"x26"
1982
Easy Go
acrylic on canvas
88"x 12"
1982
Final Platitude
acrylic on canvas
88"x11"
1982
Other Ending
acrylic on canvas
88"x17"
1982
Money Changer
88"x17"
1981
Last Flight
acrylic on canvas
27"x 88"
1981
Elizabeth's Shoes
acrylic on canvas
88"x17"
1981
Cry Wolf
acrylic on canvas
92" x 66"
1981
Clean Dress
acrylic on canvas
72" x 53"
1981
Short End
acrylic on canvas
92" x 66"
1981
Hoper's Limitations
acrylic on canvas
92" x 66"
1981
Caught Twice
acrylic on canvas
72" x 53"
1981
Keeping Still
acrylic on canvas
92" x 66"
1981
Easter
acrylic on canvas
72"x53"
1981
Quick Exit
acrylic on canvas
72" x 53"
1981
Lake Upon Lake
acrylic on canvas
92" x 66"
1981
Proposal
acrylic on canvas
92" x 66"
1981
Persuasion
acrylic on canvas
92" x 66"
1981
Heavy A Second
acrylic on canvas
92" x 66"
1981
Blue Piano
acrylic on canvas
53"x72
1980
Mel's Piano
acrylic on canvas
72"x53"
1980
No. 24
acrylic on canvas
53"x120"
1980
No.23
acrylic on canvas
53"x120"
1980
No.8
acrylic on canvas
53"x72"
1979
No.6a
acrylic on canvas
53"x72"
1979