I recently had the privilege of spending four weeks at the wonderful Spark Box Studio, a residency in Prince Edward County. There, I was surrounded by farmland and the sizzling sounds of cicadas, the shuffling expanses of cornfields and the cries of wheeling, screaming jays. Rural landscapes in Canada are very different to the countryside in Australia, in almost every conceivable way. The animals you disturb while walking are different. The farmland is different (crops, rather than livestock – I haven’t been to many crop-growing areas in Australia, and my city is slap-bang in the middle of what was historically sheep country.) The buildings are different, built for different conditions – huge barns like aircraft hangars, crumbling facades of historic houses where doorways end in midair.
I managed to complete a small series of works while there, working on and off while gathering visual information wherever I trampled on the island. As I’ll be having an exhibition in January, I won’t be showcasing all of my works yet (for all my non-local readers, I’ll put the works up online, in time.) However, here are a few that might give viewers an idea what I’ve been working on.
The buildings especially really stayed with me. Here, finally, were the absurd Victorian dwellings that depicted in my previous work – and they were everywhere around me! Simply walking around the country revealed dozens of strange buildings, some needing a new context, others hauntingly weird on their own.
I rounded one corner and saw a caravan, isolated in the middle of the woods, windows boarded up and a pile of firewood next door. Needless to say, I got out of there as fast as I could.
Some buildings looked as if they’d outlived their usefulness and littered the landscape like shipwrecks.
As well as my paintings, I did a series of objects. These are made of thermal plastic (what you might know as “shrinky dinks” ) kindly provided by one of my hosts at the residency. Each piece is less than 6 cm/2.5 inches wide
(This is the distinctive milkweed plant that proliferates across the country)
This last piece is a magnolia warbler I had the opportunity to see up close at the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory. This piece is particularly tiny – half the size of the others.
Of course, my trip ranged rather further than just Prince Edward County, and I was able to take photographs of a lot of very strange and unusual things. As a consequence, more work will probably come soon, featuring other aspects of the North American continent.