I appreciate that wild animals are required to adapt and evolve as a result of human activity. I fully believe that animals and the natural world have a sentient foundation and that for the most part this goes unacknowledged by contemporary society. Representing animals in my artwork is my way to communicate about their status, honour their instinctive nature to survive and adapt, and to identify that we are not all that different from them.
In my artwork I have always incorporated hints of bright colours to acknowledge the unseen sense of the sublime; even in pieces that I created in earlier years, where the animals and environment were based on a more photorealistic style, I couldn’t help acknowledging ‘life’ through hints of bright colours, particularly when depicting animals.
As I have developed my personal visual language further, I have embraced the use of colour as essential to illustrating the sentient nature of animals; to me the colour relates to evolution, or degrees of enlightenment that an animal goes through as it continually encounters changes to its environment and safe spaces, and has to adapt in order to survive. The more colourful the animal, the more adaptation it has gone through. Most of the animals that I depict are canids, bears, and other ‘beasts’ that are frequently reported having encounters with humans, including large mammals that reside in the Pacific Ocean along the west coast of Canada.
The environments of my subjects vary greatly. In some works I keep plain backgrounds, and this comes from a desire to focus on the subject, a desire to give that subject a safe space that is peaceful and calm. In other works the subject is within a colourful abstract environment in order to give the animal a space that is in harmony with itself. Giving the animal a harmonious environment that is un-impacted by humans is a symbolic gesture, an apology in a way, embedded into the work.
My influences include works by Baffin Island artists, in particular the visual elements of line, colour, negative space and the raw nature of these coloured pencil drawings and traditional prints. I have also found inspiration in Inuit masks – the fact that they are not symmetrical and perfect, that there is a story and medicinal/shamanic story told through these pieces, their somewhat surreal, humorous, spiritual and purposeful nature appeals greatly to me.
Other influences include Keith Haring for his philosophy that art should be accessible to everyone, Anish Kapoors’ large installations combining colour, scale, and form to evoke spiritual investigation, Carolee Schneemann’s Interior Scroll, Rebecca Belmore’s Speaking to Their Mother, Marcus Coates’ Dawn Chorus, and Patrick Shearn’s Liquid Shard to name a few. These artists appeal to my sense of making art that has a direct connection to the real world; art with purpose and social commentary, art as a means to engage, educate, enlighten and to put collective/accepted understandings into a state of unease and re-evaluation; to evoke a shift of mindset in the viewer/participant.
In my practice I seek to create work that appeals to fellow animal lovers, story tellers, and all those who have a desire to communicate in a soft and impactful way their recognition of our innate connection to the natural world – after all we too are animals.