LES FEUILLES (MORTEL) / DEADLY LEAVES (SHEETS)
2015 – 2019
Initially imported from Asia in the mid 1800’s to feed livestock and be decorative ground cover, kudzu transformed from being a solution, to being the problem as this climbing vine took on a shamelessly indiscriminate and manipulative persona all its own. Kudzu can breed with itself and since its induction, has quickly spread covering any and all vegetation, landscape or object and left to its own devices, strangles and consumes everything in its path.
In 2015, after seven years in the US, I returned to Winnipeg, but the impressions of kudzu, and the discomfort it triggers stayed with me. After facilitating many media projects up to this point in my career, I felt an overwhelming need to create a long-term relationship with the daily commitment to drawing using kudzu and its contradictions as a metaphor for my situation and state of mind. Routed in predictability and routine, I designed a system to manage the myself and the visual and conceptual irony of kudzu. The results are two 10 ft. x 12 ft. graphite drawings inscribed with actual time, based on two photographs I took during my time in NC, one of kudzu during dusk, and one in moonlight. Reminiscent of both the light playfulness of the Rococo period by such artists as Watteau and Fragonard and the dark dramatic painters of the Baroque such as Artemisia Gentileschi and Caravaggio the dichotomy of being richly florid while quietly choking out unsuspecting subjects and stationary objects.
As with many artists, circumstances often guide creative decisions, so due to my new limited work space in Winnipeg, I gridded these two images out into eighty 11” x 17” drawings to make up 10 rows. Each final piece is an image comprised of 80 separate graphite drawings. These circumstantial restrictions have allowed for a conceptual clarity to emerge, vastly different from the spread out and exposed geography outside my Winnipeg kitchen window. The title of the project is a double entendre in that the french to english translation of ‘sheet of paper’ is les feuilles, also the french word for leaves.
Drawing each section out of its original and whole context is not only an exercise in the application of traditional drawing fundamentals, but also of translating an abstraction of values, negative/positive shapes and forms disguised as DNA, molecules and chromosomes. However within this painstaking discipline of literally drawing inch by inch over months, the process shifted to one of mapping a vast imaginary topography of sprawling prairies, lakes, winding rivers and agricultural plots, where I constantly loose my place and find it again, over and over. When considering my interdisciplinary practice entertaining media, print, film, video, painting, performance and installation, this more alien discipline of “daily” drawing is in keeping with my seemingly never-ending search for home and belonging.