I was born in St. Jean sur Richelieu in the province of Quebec in Canada. My mother , Mignonne was a French Canadian and my father, Norman was English. My father worked all of his life from the age of 16 as a potter for Canadian Potteries Ltd. My mother was a stay at home mom who raised four children of which I was the eldest, me, David, Johnny and Julie. From a very early age I was obsessed with drawing and art and spent many hours drawing, at first creating imaginary beings in comic book form. Around the age of eight I asked my parents to subscribe for me to a monthly art magazine that featured one artist per issue. I began to copy all of the pictures in these magazines with crayons, pastels, and paints. I copied Van Gogh, Matisse, Cezanne, Goya, Gauguin, Picasso, Braque, Seurat, Lautrec, and many others.
I was so obsessed with drawing that I drew and drew pictures in margins of copybooks, in the family encyclopedia and wherever there was a bit of blank space. One of my drawings, colored with prismacolor pencils inspired my friend’s mother, who was attending art school at Ecole des beaux arts in Montreal. She took it with her to show her teacher who also was impressed with it asking how old I was. I was eight. The painting I titled “Bluntabarbisrill”. The art teacher asked if he could hang it in the school for the remaining semester to show students an example of something original that came from apparently out of nowhere but this child’s unconscious. Saul Steinberg, noted American painter once said that “Doodling is the brooding of the mind”, and many years later when I read what he said I immediately realized that that is what I had been doing in the margins of books. Over the past 50 years I have had numerous exhibitions of these “Brooding of the Mind” works.
It has always fascinated me that unconscious components in drawing and painting usually are more beautiful than imagery produced with “conscious intent”. Later when I attended art school in Montreal and studied various techniques of the masters I continued to search within these works for areas of non-deliberation. I attended university specializing in chemistry and biology, eventually providing me a career as molecular biologist. While in university I attended as many art classes as I could and spent a great deal of my spare time studying art history, art criticism and accumulated a reasonably large collection of books on art, art history and philosophy. Many artists’ works has influenced me over the years, notably, Tamayo, Picasso, Dubuffet, Miro, Calder, Motherwell, Soulages, Reinhardt, Stella and so many others. I believe that my most significant influence was from Robert Motherwell, Pierre Soulages and the oriental school of Zen painting. In the 1980’s I moved to Japan as assistant professor at Nagoya City University where I did research in Molecular Biology. Over a decade, I had the opportunity of meeting and sharing studio space with many painters and ceramic artists. I had several gallery exhibitions in Nagoya, Kyoto and Tokyo in addition to Canada where more and more as time passed, my work reflected influences from Western and Eastern philosophy and art.
Once again I focused on searching for the beautiful in unconscious processes in my drawings and paintings as in the work of oriental black ink paintings. I began to study traditional Oriental brush painting of Kanji characters. Having not had the training since childhood that Oriental people have with sumi ink brushstrokes I could not generate anything as near perfect as brush drawings of the masters. So, one day I took one of my large attempts at calligraphy and cut it into small squares. Then I enlarged these on a photocopier to 400-800% enlargement. These enlarged images harbored very beautiful areas that could not have been consciously created. Then I arranged these into a large pattern creating a 2 meter by 3 meter picture that was exhibited at the Nagoya City Art Museum.
Since then I have been creating images by cutting areas from large abstract paintings and re-arranging them into compositions on canvas.
I also create a ceramic tile prints. These are done by painting directly onto tiles, and taking mono print images from them.
Between 1988 and 2000 I had several gallery exhibitions of these works in Japanese galleries.
I have interest in the distinction between feeling and emotion in art. More and more, I find I am able to classify what I see into these two categories. Both elements are generally present to different degrees in art of all kinds and a painting by deKooning or Pollock can be easily seen as primarily emotional whereas in one by Klee or Matisse feeling predominates. By feeling I mean something like the way the sun feels on your skin or the smell of freshly cut grass. Matisse was a master at this and his paintings are highly decorative in the sense that they generate atmosphere. A painting by Picasso or Goya produces more of an emotional response. These days I seem to have moved away from the planned painting, and tend more towards the emotional. I paint large areas and re-work the area. Then I sit back and try to identify areas on the painting that I feel some resonance with. I then generally cut up the painting into pieces that I find interesting and use them in building a collage on canvas by laminating the painted pieces. The process is similar to cropping with a camera. I'm also beginning to look at some of my doodles, which by definition are un-planned and looking for symbols and things there. I was inspired to do this by something Saul Steinberg said, " Doodling is the brooding of the mind". In that sense doodling is both honest, original and emotional and originates somewhere in your being without any apriori influences.
Subject matter does not pre-exist and for me, a predetermined picture feels too academic. I think that one should forget a set or rules for composition and learn to establish a living collaboration with the artistic materials, a complex interaction like between human beings. The materials will “talk back”. They will say things like “this idea is too small for me, give me more blue” or “this line doesn’t suit me, please widen it a little for me”. You can’t know this beforehand. It is full of mystery and you never know what will happen.
What does the “abstract” in abstract art mean?
One must get over the feeling that a picture has to be a picture of something and rather must think that a picture is a deliberate choice of a certain degree of abstraction. When it comes to personal choice, what is more beautiful? Yellow, blue or red? Your personal choice is what is expressive. When you listen to Bach or Mozart, you know that they are saying something to you but you don’t feel the urge to ask questions like what does a clarinet quintet mean? In that sense one must simply let the painting like the music, enter into you. If it resonates with you then it does and if not then it doesn’t. One should not search for some hidden meaning in the work but rather simply be with it.