Expressing Canada through Abstraction & Texture

Looking at the empty space. Any painting could be a map…or an ocean voyage with no course….

Dragging tools over a rough surface and anticipating the chaos with wet and slick colours, waiting for the next moment the broken ruler or piece of ripped up cardboard finds an obstacle. Like miniature mountains and ravines and lush forests on canvas. At that moment the direction changes, a bump in the road. But it isn’t just by accident, and painting like this feels like dancing! I rehearse the physical movement of pushing and pulling the paint, then impulsively re-address the fine movements as forms smear and re-organize themselves. It’s a part of the energy I hope people find in my work.

Up until a few years ago my art practice was incredibly private, insular and I couldn’t have been more incorrect about the eventual process I was meant to find. I began volunteering, originally at the food bank. I had the time and found volunteer spots that involved art. A slow start to be sure, and after a year my creativity and thoughts on making art started to change. Drastically.

The opportunities that came from some of those early volunteering sessions surprised me. I found myself working with people new to Canada, people with disabilities, a troupe from the Girl Guides of Canada and many other community groups. My outlook at this point had changed, my work was no longer inside me and just for me. It became about co-understanding, it became about conversations. I was creatively rewarded by this process of exposing myself and by collaborating in workshop settings. I had a multitude of peoples’ creative minds along with mine. My creative process was sharpened, the key to discovering myself and the personal work I wanted to do had acquired the allies it needed. Reciprocally this made me a better facilitator and instructor. Painting with others made me a finer painter and artist.

I’m honoured to be instructing my first class at Artworld at the end of the month. Speaking to the theme of “Expressing Canada” will mean different things to different people, and how do we look at these feelings in the abstract? A myriad of paths, overlapping. Like maps over maps. Memories long remembered while even older ones are being rediscovered. Our childhood summers upon a windy beach or a tired midnight walk home in an ice storm? Personally I’m remembering my Grandma reminding me to keep my hat over my ears. Damn good advice. I imagine I could depict that literally, but how could I express that with colour, love and form? With texture and movement? Let’s figure that out together.

Mark Cope, June 2018