Friday, April 4, 2014

Gordon MacDonald's Latest Works: In his own Words

A very special show opened this week at the Nova Scotia Archives here in Halifax on Tuesday. The show is called "ACROSS THE SURFACE" with work by the PLANS founding artists(Professional Living Artists of Nova Scotia) and continues until April 30th.  Please do try to see the exhibition and let us know what you think of it all.If you are interested in any of these works, please do not hesitate to contact the gallery directly.

The show includes these two works by Gordon MacDonald. We asked Gordon to write a few words about each work. Here is what he said. 

 "Companion",  48" x 48", Oil on canvas.

 This work was intended to be only a landscape. I was interested in how a plane's contrails interact visually with stratus clouds. When the painting was done, it still seemed to need something else. When this happens, I usually stare at the painting for as long as it takes until that "something else" occurs to me. That didn't work. Then, without a second thought, I picked up a brush, took a sparse amount of paint and dragged it up the center. Then a second time.  It looked like two ghosts looking away from the viewer toward my focal point. After starting a landscape painting, a whole new narrative and direction got added after the fact. Not knowing why the two figures were there or what to call the painting, I continued to sit with it. Both in childhood and as an adult, I've often stood and stared at the sky. It finally occured to me a few days later: maybe they are both me and it's actually a self-portrait. Others have found different meaning  from this painting and I won't talk them out of it. In the end,  it's about the viewer and the painting; I'm no longer part of it.

 "The Woman from Everywhere" 16" x 20" , Oil on board
 An opportunity arose for me to do a narrative portrait, (rather than a depiction of a specific person).
 I started with a question.  If I had to describe a typical woman on the planet earth, what would she look like?

With all the unrealistic depictions we see, what would be "acceptable" as a possible representation? When we see those negative, unrealistic depictions of women we are never shown alternatives.   Nothing gets defined by negatives.   Just by painting a woman with dark/black hair, 90% of the women on the planet are included. (Ok, plenty have grey hair). So, I needed a model with black hair in her mid- 20's who I thought would represent my narrative. Someone I had met at NSCAD fit the scenario, and I knew she would understand and work with the idea. 

  For me, painting a person takes time. Not the rendering, that takes very little. It's the last 5 % that can take 90% of the time. It's staring, moving things by millimeters, editing out,changing light, simplifying things (hair is a mass, not strands). As it gets more and more subtle, it can turn into something I may not have conceived of originally. I'm fine with that as long as its better. At some point I no longer control the end result -- only whether some aspect is preventing the finish.

 Sure enough, the painting I was working on DID become something else. It occurred to me: it's not about my original narrative, but one about race, or in this case, a complete absence of race. As I worked on it, I realized her parents could be middle eastern, European,Indian, South American, Native American, African American/Japanese, Jewish, Swedish, Scottish,Ojibway, Mexican. The image that appeared, was of someone that could be from anywhere or The Woman From Everywhere.