I am happy to share the news that I will be exhibiting some new paintings in New York City — the paintings go up from May 24 to June 11, 2022. The George Billis Gallery has a space at The High Line Nine Gallery at 507 West 27th Street for the summer.
If you are familiar with my work and have been following the progress for some time, you’ll see a new direction in some of the paintings. It would be about 14 or 15 years ago that I painted in “black” — and I have to say that I find it refreshing to take my favourite subjects and breath new life into them.
My exhibition in Los Angeles is done and I have run through the full cycle of emotions after completing a large body of work and exhibiting and promoting it. I have found over the years, that the best way to battle the expectations and anti-climactic feelings is to just jump right back into making new paintings. So that’s what I am doing. I just put the finishing touch on a dozen clocks, shown here, and now I’m on to the next piece.
My great-grandmother, whom I was close with growing up, was born on a farm in Poland in 1904. When she was ten years old, she and her family became shrouded in the brutality of World War I. The farm they lived and worked on became the stage of the Eastern Front. As a child, she was an eyewitness to the horrors of The Great War. We heard snippets of what they had to do to survive, but it was difficult for her to talk about the war. It was as awful as you could imagine.
She left Poland with her own young family in 1934, just after the Nazis came to power and just before World War II. The rest of her life was lived in peace in Canada.
She died in 2000, at age 96. I always thought about the scope of her life, about the profound changes the world went through over the near-century she was here. And now I am left wondering how she would think of the current situation.
I collect these vintage and antique books that I use in my paintings. This particular piece has a Victorian-era philosophy text long side classic Penguin paperbacks.
The ideas and stories in these books are not old, useless and out of date. Instead, it would seem that everything old is new again and in the wrong way — as evidenced in yet another terrifying war in Eastern Europe.
I find myself wondering if I should start painting traditional still life subjects, like fruit, because these clocks are complicated.
Here are two recent paintings shown framed and ready for the gallery wall. I have been represented by the George Billis Gallery in Los Angeles for just over a decade now and have had enough exhibitions with them for the number of paintings and times I’ve been there to become a blur.
I can remember the dream of having a gallery show my work in Los Angeles. I worked hard enough, and it came true.
Recently, an art consultant asked his numerous artist followers on social media why they think some artists succeed and others do not. Hundreds of answers poured in, and as I scrolled through them, one thing became so apparent; artists suffer from severe status anxiety.
There is an intense amount of competition in the art world. But to succeed, according to many, means that you have been blessed in all ways except the actual art-making. Apparently, one must possess many or all of specific characteristics such as; a naturally charismatic personality, very wealthy parents, easy access to top universities where your sex appeal and persuasion garnered you top grades and attention, to have been born in Manhattan and live there rent-free, etc., etc. You get the picture.
The consultant kept responding by asking these jaded artists the same question over and over; “what about the art? doesn’t the art they make have anything to do with their success?”
I think it is only natural to have these competition struggles, but I was surprised at how superficial and odd it seemed once you can see so many brief and desperate answers all in one place, like looking at the data from a survey. It was a reality check — no need to wallow in self-pity and jealousy. That is your biggest setback.
The art one makes is the most important thing. It is its own reward.
Over the centuries, still-life and object painting have always done more than depict something as it is. The subjects in the images can tell a story, represent an idea and be used as symbols.
As I hunt around for objects to add to my collection, I always make sure that they somehow fit into the narrative I am pursuing in my overall work. For example, in the painting “Still & Moving,” I have a still camera and an 8mm film camera — one takes still images, the other moving. Anyone who has been using social media for the last decade knows that the advances in cameras have shifted us from still images to videos. Instagram, an app that initially was about sharing photos of what you were doing at the moment, used heavy filters to “age” the images and make them appear aged and somehow “authentic.” But now, here we are, with Instagram becoming all about the moving pictures. We have entered the phase of brief and trivial videos that one can sit and view for eternity.
As someone who has used social media in all its forms over the last 20 years, I have often wondered if I will eventually be left out as I feel no need to move on to the next iteration. You are reading this on my blog that I have published since 2007 — an ancient medium as far as many would be concerned.
I draw inspiration from my work from centuries ago (see the last post), so I have a bit of a “long view” of what I am doing with my work. Focusing on the minutiae of now isn’t my game.
These two paintings will be part of my upcoming exhibition at the George Billis Gallery in Los Angeles.
After several months of steady work, I have completed 22 new paintings that I have started shipping to the George Billis Gallery in Los Angeles for my upcoming solo exhibition that goes up on February 26 and runs through March 26. So you’ll be reading and seeing plenty from me now that the hard work is done.
I have been painting still life for over twenty years now. So much of what I do is honestly about making a balanced, crisp, clean composition of objects to entice the simple act of observation. I use the opportunity to paint to make something delightful and pleasing. Not only for myself but for other people to enjoy as well. I have always drawn my inspiration from the long-established still-life painting tradition, which was first introduced in the form we know today by the French painter Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin in the 18th century.
I could take a deep dive into the significance of Charin’s paintings to the world we live in, not just in art, but in all things, but I’ll spare you for now.
Instead, I want to show how I draw inspiration and remix the visuals he introduced centuries ago. His painting depicts “the attributes of the arts” — his palette and brushes on top of a box of paints, a plaster cast used to practice drawing, books with instructions and inspiration, and an award given to him for his accomplishments.
In my work, I use the propped books as Chardin did, but I have pencil crayons. Specifically, they are Laurentien pencil crayons which are an iconic part of a Canadian child’s early school experience. These were my introduction to the possibilities of art-making. My work is high-key (bright and airy) compared to the dark and shadowed Chardin visual world.
And here is the painting, varnished, framed and ready to ship to Los Angeles. Shown here along with another smaller painting (Trophy / 16 x 12 inches / oil on canvas / 2021) which is my nod to the rewarding life that painting has given me.
I have eight paintings in my studio that I have not shared yet. Here is one that I just put the finishing touch on. I am focused on working toward my upcoming February 2022 exhibition in Los Angeles. It’s just easier to spend my time painting to forget about taking photos of the progress and constantly being tied to social media.