Artist Statement 

 

I paint leaves, apples, chestnuts, landforms, flowing water etc. Today I am interested in geology, ecosystems, wildlife, exoplanets.

I like to think that it all started from a warm summer afternoon in 2014 underneath the Prince of Wales bridge with a 4 inch square painting of  the tea coloured Ottawa river. However, from my first days at art school I was fascinated with natural phenomena in particular the behaviour of fluids. In the old days, I was fascinated the monthly chaos doled out to us females.   I knew beyond doubt that beauty or aesthetics, was just a cage woven out of the material of the female body.  I forced fluids through my face and other parts cast from plaster and lipstick. I scorned all painting except when I could make it into a hardened puddle of an object. My younger work  dripped, peed, and exploded so was difficult the  way that our body is difficult when we want it to fit into our daily lives. I have aged since then, and so my body gives me much more trouble. I trust beauty. 

I am writing this in my livingroom-studio.  The sky outside cracks and rumbles with storm clouds. I can  smell the sweet summer days of my childhood, which tempts me to wander in parks filled with the danger of other people. I am in isolation because a deadly unpredictable disease spawned from ecological plunder on the other side of the planet threatens to kill me and those I love.  If Paul Cezanne painted Mont St Victoire in this time would he have been able keep stories of tsunamis in Japan, floods in India, endangered Orangutangs, fires in the Amazon out of each brushstroke.  Do we feel the anxiety of pre-war France in each repetition of Mount St Victoire – I would say yes. I like many others, define nature as the epitome of beauty at least until my phone, my tv and my computer darken it with never-ending information about  impending extinctions:  bees, Polar Bears, Monarch Butterflies,  and so it goes. The result  is the Anthropocene - the era of the impending loss of much that we know as beautiful.

Water, tubes, shells, vessels, viruses, bones, the valleys of Mars, the storm clouds of Jupiter  form the basis of my new painting. The river is on this list too for her stains, her flow, her mirror-like surface which conceals a messy, muddy creaturely world living underneath. The river speaks to me as a byproduct of the 21st century and as a place of concern for many in this city. Her water levels, her colours, the debris from the watershed, and the journey she takes through a city of more than a million people.  

 

Other artists come to me in ways that I could not imagine when I started this journey years ago. On Instagram I can watch a short film from a gallerist in England or look at the work of a calligrapher from Egypt or a sumi-e artist in America,or a photographer in Isreal. On my phone I can enjoy the bottom of the ocean, cilia on the edges of a virus, Nebula that birth exploding suns. Each morning I check out the colours, shapes, and patterns that  move people living across this planet. 

 

In homage to my old fight with the social constructions of beauty, I make large works that share the thickness, colour  and shapes of nature but only after it has been crushed, mutilated, eaten and tore them apart. I rejected illusion then. Now in the large paintings I accept whatever choses to emerge from paint. It could be from the river, the leaves, rocks or the animal body. 

© 2013 by Cynthia Ward