When you are learning to paint, you often “copy” from photographs or famous paintings. Later, you paint from life. Add your imagination and years of painting, and sometimes you notice the original influences coming through.
I always drew and painted animals instead of people. The more unusual the animal, the more interesting to me. Patterns and markings also absorbed me for some years. The Okapi is a relative of the giraffe but lives in jungles, such that white people had not known of the animals until relatively modern times.
The fetishization of exotic species means they are desirable: alive for zoos and dead for natural history museums. My “Olympia” is on display but directly gazes back at the spectator with dead eyes.
My rhinoceros painting bears the title “Le déjeuner d’herbe” as a play on words on Manet’s “Le déjeuner sur l’herbe”, although the content has no reference to that painting.
The composition of this painting, “Cat Wants Out”, and the blocked out colours reminded me of “Whistler’s Mother” – the real title of Whistler’s work is “Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1”.
The series of paintings from 2001 is best represented by this large piece “Gravesite NYC with machines of construction”. At the time I was very concerned with the sacred and the profane. I studied landscapes of cemeteries and graveyards and ruins. I knew I wanted the light and colour to reflect the English landscape painters who traveled to Italy. The vertical can represent the man-made (masts of ships, etc.) and the horizontal is the God-made (the land, the horizon). The colour scheme of all 22 paintings in this series was based on the colours used in the first painting “Loss” – all ochres, yellows, blues, purples, greys. No red (fire, blood).
When I was young the Saturday paper also included a weekend magazine. One week the Colville painting “Hound in Field” was reproduced on the cover. I remember studying and staring at that for so long. Whenever I am in Ottawa, I visit the Hound in the National Gallery.
So, given my professed love of Cézanne and Kandinsky?
Not yet… soon. Takes decades for some things to gel in my head.