The female figure has been my subject matter throughout my career just as it was Fred Ross, my teacher’s, back in New Brunswick, fifty some years ago. Indeed, I considered myself the last of this Maritime Figurative Tradition until only recently, when a resurgence in that vein seems to be taking place everywhere.
The real push began when I arrived in Toronto and asked women I met to pose. The theme decided itself in the form of “women in various stages of dress and undress” as one women declared, at an early exhibition. Indeed, that was my theme. It took on many terms over the years, one friend calling them “trashy women"; a dealer’s wife proclaimed them “slutty women” and even suggested we have a show by that name. I preferred the gentler term “dishevelled women”. Some were elegant. Others were decadent. They all fitted my erotic fantasy - and I believed that’s what the artist should paint: his passions!
The “Brown Tone Series” began in Calgary shortly after my 1978 arrival there. My quest was the "elimination of inessentials”, simplifying to the simplest terms.
Colour was an inessential.
This series ended in 1988 with the exhibition at the Edmonton Art Gallery that year (now the AGA). After that I was in straights as to how I painted and took a year away (to Les Éboulements, Québec,) to find out.
“The Lessons of Quebec” (1991) led me to "drawing as preliminary to the paintings”. Lots of drawings, sketches and water-colours preceded each new painting idea. Added to that was a search for “an incongruity”, some small aspect that gave the painting an added interest (to me), such as the small tag on the back of a coat or bra, or a tag on the sheet covering a chair. It could be a sun splash hitting the wall behind the model. Seeking the incongruity became the challenge and I would not quit the sketching process until I found it.
Enter the black drape. A black curtain, black towel on a bed, or black drape over a chair added a “formal” presence to the paintings. (see “Why I Call My work Formalist”).
I’m still engaged in this idea. Along with the push of elements toward the canvas edges of the painting, in a formal sense, has become the new challenge. Flattening the surface, as a means of further eliminating detail, has become my latest push of parameters as I continually attempt to make the work exciting (to me) and step out of my comfort zone and simplify.
Thoreau said: Simplify, simplify, simplify. Our lives are frittered away in detail.
I say: Simplify, simplify, simplify, our paintings are frittered away in detail!
24"x20", oil, 1992
36"x36", oil, 1999
30"x30". oil circa 2006
30"x36", oil, 2010
40"x40", oil, 2004
30"x36", oil circa 1986