Animal Stories

If I weren’t an artist, I would be a biologist. In my recent paintings, I surround human figures with images of nature taken from science textbooks and popular media. Patterns attract me. When I look at patterns, I try to explore how the human world collides with a more natural realm—is it possible to separate the two?

Tiger, 2023

Often there’s a theme: night and day, animal locomotion, markings, electricity, flying seeds, flying birds, the origins of life. The surrounding animals act as emblems and enigmas. Each picture is a kind of puzzle: what is the relationship of foreground and background? While most viewers will come up with their own answers, many will agree: We are part of nature, indivisible from nature, dependent on nature. But what is nature and how do we connect to it? Not so easy to answer. 

Dots & Stripes, 2023 Travel Influencer, 2024

I’m an art historian and retired teacher; didacticism is part of my approach, but I try to play with it. I’ve been influenced by Hokusai’s manga, the way he fills pages with seemingly random sets of people, animals, objects and occupations. Hokusai has three over-riding concerns: human skills, common ground (or related sets of images), and engagement with nature. Hokusai treats his image collages like a game, full of surprises, humour, and great sympathy for the world in both its humble as well as epic manifestations. I’m also impressed by Rene Magritte’s surrealist paradoxes. There are a great many elements from the natural world in Magritte’s work, but treated with a cool approach, so we engage with the paradox and not the object. Hokusai, of course, worked in mass media, ukiyo-e prints, that use flat areas of colour.

Katsushika Hokusai. Manga, vol. 2, 1815 René Magritte. The Therapist, 1937

I find the flatter my painting style and the cooler my approach, the more effective the image becomes. I hope viewers agree.

Locomotion, 2024 Night & Day, 2024

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