Sunday, June 30, 2024

Events in the Tunnel, 2022, experimental video, 9:58, co-directed with Penny McCann

Life in the Tunnel

Events in the Tunnel, is an experimental representation of Canada’s relationship with its receding modernist colonial past. Based metaphorically on Gordon Lightfoot’s poetic Canadian Railroad Trilogy, Events in the Tunnel presents an absurdist retelling of Canada’s white colonial cultural history as defined, like Lightfoot’s great metaphor by a cross country train trip.

Embedded in the trope we witness familiar 19th and 20th Century paradigms of conformity and the expansion of white middle class consciousness represented by images of travel and amusement and moments that define Canadian colonial cultural history, particularly the dramatized struggles of our great 20th Century Canadian painter Tom Thomson.

Constructed from 8, Super8 and 16 mm. vintage artist films and found amateur footage, Events in the Tunnel is a post-colonial journey through colonized space and time. 

Events in the Tunnel was most recently shown at Fisura in Mexico City

Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Cut and the Arm, 1978 (2019) 83 x 122 cms mixed media construction on plywood

The Cut and the Arm, 1978 is based of an aerial view from the City of Halifax Archives and shows west end Halifax from the Armdale railway cut and the Northwest Arm to the roundhouse in Rockingham, circa 1978. Because of family breakdown I spent the first year of my life living next to the ocean in my Sang Mêlés Acadien homeland, Tus'ket Wedge in Yarmouth Co., Nova Scotia. Returning to Halifax the family lived in a dilapidated Victorian, cold-water flat off Windsor Street. In 1966 we moved to the west end into a new world of new things - streets, houses, schools, parks, shopping malls, all new and clean with smooth unbroken pavement for as far as the eye could see. Nothing can touch the perfection of this place on a quiet Sunday in high summer when all was so still the chirping of grasshoppers drifted over the hot paved parking lots and I was drawn to the historic train line behind Simpson-Sears to wait for trains. In contrast to everything around me the rail line was old, covered in oil and the margins overgrown with grass. The engineers knew this was a playground for children like me, particularly Chebucto Road Bridge so they sounded their horns from a great distance in the railway cut to warn us. Hearing the high pitched glassy sounding chime tooting and bending in the fluctuating winds we stepped away from the tracks and waited in the long grass for the train to pass, usually a modest double hitch Dayliner on the way to Yarmouth, or a long passenger train bound for Montréal. Before I could understand what sacred meant I knew this place was somehow sacred and eternal and that I was just a passing shadow over the pristine grey pavement on a quiet summer day.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The Ice and Snow in Nova Scotia, February 2015 (2015) 60 x 80 cms, collection, the City of Ottawa

The work is based on a satellite image of the Maritimes showing unprecedented ice and snow. The work is a kind of memento mori for my brother Gerard, who died in Truro in February 2015.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

On Trains and Going


On Trains and Going was the name of my first Railway Lands show in 1999 at the Owens Art Gallery in Sackville, New Brunswick. Though the title at first suggests the state of being on board a train and traveling, I meant the phrase metaphorically to suggest how the train as a temporal marker, embodies the action of going. As a boy of eleven or twelve in West End Halifax I would often pass hot afternoons and the long evenings of summer under the Mumford Road railway bridge smoking cigarettes scrounged from the Eaton’s parking lot waiting in the cool oil soaked shade for trains to go by. I use to wonder where the people in the sleek black and grey coaches were going. I tried to look in the windows for faces, but never saw any, just polished glass reflecting back the scrubby pine horizon and sky. The train was a profoundly mysterious object. All I knew about it was its destination, Montreal. That train is going to Montreal, I though to myself. I could see the zebra striped locomotives in my mind charging ahead as they cleared Bayers Road Bridge in the hazy distance and turned out of sight at Rockingham on their way around Bedford Basin. What lay beyond the Basin, I had no idea and my imagination failed me, just endless, epic miles to Montreal. Some day I knew that I would take that train and all would become clear, but I knew instinctively once I went and was going, that I would be an adult and could never go under Mumford Road Bridge again to wait for trains.