I graduated with honors in drawing and painting from the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD U) in 1952. In retrospect, the mainly traditional curriculum that was so meaningful to me at the time, was soon to be challenged by a radical upheaval in the cultural, societal, scientific, and technological findings of the modern era. Everything that I had experienced as a given in the first 17 years of my life, prior to art college, would, over the subsequent years leading to the present day, be subject to review and reformulation. This process does not appear to be slowing down.
A Learning Process
As time went on, I learned that these changes had taken place in the twilight of the modern era with a profound shift in Western fine art away from the conventions of the artists’ aesthetic canon that had developed in one form or another over some six hundred years, since Giotto’s 14th century innovations had brought about a closer approximation in image making with the objective world of natural appearances.
The old order, born out of a modern worldview, was replaced by a deconstruction of everything that had defined it. Down and down to its very foundations and into that unconscious zone of the psyche where images have their origin. Evidence for this descent can be found in references to the primal, the mythic, and the archetypal in the work of such artists as Picasso, Kandinsky, Miro, Klee, Arp, Brancusi, and Moore: to name but a few.
This radical departure from canonical norms engendered a veritable flood of “isms” that began with Impressionism in late 19th century France and continued into the 20th with Cubism, Expressionism, Surrealism, and in mid century America, Abstract Expressionism, followed later by Conceptualism – to refer to but six examples of the multiplicity of spin-offs and transmutations. In the 1960s, this process came to be labelled postmodernism.
Finding My Way
I gradually found my place within the demands on my understanding that this period of transition presented. It would be easy to lose one’s way amid the deconstruction and relativism of the postmodern world if one was looking for some degree of philosophical certainty. With the potential of promise on the one hand, and the possibility of hazard on the other, I embarked on a quest for meaning in a time of profound change. I adopted a mythic, narrative mode of expression in the early 1960s that allowed my drawn and painted images and sculptural forms to function as metaphors reflecting this quest.
The Art Work
The diminutive figure in many of my drawing and paintings is meant to represent myself, and by extension humanity, on an interior journey of enquiry. The figure follows a path through primordial landscapes that provide a setting for the fundamental nature of the quest for meaning, unity, and integration in depth at this juncture between collective world views.
The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Bollingen Series XVII, page 388, Joseph Campbell, mythologist.
Cosmos and Psyche, Viking, page 26, Richard Tarnas, cultural historian, Professor of philosophy and depth psychology.