Recent Paintings by David Elliott
On display from 5 October – 21 December
Opening Reception Saturday 5 October at 2pm
The ideal act of love is to contain all.
– John Berger
Artists take the stuff of the world and rearrange it to create a parallel universe. In a way, the creative process is as simple as that & as complicated. What is important is the dimension of that newly created universe. I don’t mean the actual height or width of a painting (although it is a factor) but rather the quality of cosmic space that has been created. Where do we travel to, emotionally or spiritually, when we are transported by a work of art? I would say everywhere at once and nowhere at all. A place that remains essentially mysterious, while at the same time seeming to hold all our imagined truths.
For over thirty years I have used collage as a way of sifting through the world and rearranging it. Recently I have been assembling these collages in small foam-core boxes, arranging printed paper and cardboard elements in a stage-like fashion. These maquettes are then photographed under various lighting conditions, and the resulting image transferred to canvas in paint. There is a heightened degree of illusionism in these new paintings with the shallow perspective of the box & the cast shadows rendered as meticulously as possible. There is also a playfulness involving scale & the verisimilitude of the trompe l’oeil technique & the obvious artificiality of the project. For instance, I enjoy rendering the rough edges of the cut paper so that the sophisticated realism of a painted element is immediately seen in the context of a small scrap of paper casually pasted onto a piece of cardboard. The paintings are therefore both convincingly real & obviously a sham.
I come from a world of plenty. Mom grew up on a farm in Niagara-on-the-Lake & even though Dad couldn’t tell a daisy from a petunia, somehow some of that farm culture always seemed present in our lives. We knew the seasons for various fruit & vegetables. We used to help Mom make preserves. I remember the look & the smell of pears studded with cloves in Mason jars. There was only one painting in our house, a picture of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church that my Mom did as a girl. There were also stenciled fruit & flora on some of our antique furniture, as well as small embroideries with maxims about friendship, kindness & gardens. At Grandpa Cooper’s farm there was an old weathered picture of fruit, framed & under glass that hung in the kitchen. I guess I’ve always liked the tradition of still life painting as a microcosm of the world, from Dutch vanitas to James Rosenquist’s Pop mash-ups. In the way they are conceived & assembled, all my paintings are in some ways still life arrangements. I try to maintain the individual, sacred ‘isness’ or ‘itness’ of things much like an elementary school primer or an encyclopedia. This is in some ways easy since each element is indeed cut from a separate piece of paper. The cat is a cat, the apple is an apple, a clock is a clock, almost comically so. Then like a cabinet of curiosities or a horn of plenty, they are put in concert with each other, sometimes on tabletops like a conventional still life, sometimes like interlocking jigsaw puzzle pieces, sometimes with the elements simply lined up like toy soldiers or books on a mantelpiece. Hopefully the interplay between elements creates a level of revelation & magic.
It’s been 40 years since I last showed in Niagara. My first exhibition was right here in St. Catharines at Rodman Hall’s Annual Ontario Jury show in 1972. I presented a picture called Dad’s Sweater of my father eating an ice cream cone. His favorite flavor was Maple Walnut. This show is dedicated to him with love.
– From the Artist’s Statement