This is the companion piece to Priest. The most obvious similarity is in the perspective from above, but there is also a connection in the subject matter. Mark Wiliamson is my other great friend those university days, but his life has been geared towards the physical sciences rather than the religious. What strikes me about his pursuit is his romantic, even heroic, view of what it means to be a scientist. Here, he is looking into the world, as if it is all there is and all that matters.
Phelan Scanlon is a great friend from our university days. It dawned on me as I watched him pursue a career in the Anglican priesthood, that there occurs in our society a certain type of martyrdom, moral more than physical. In a society of tolerance, we are all free to do more or less what we wish, but the price is that what we do is most certainly ignored or made irrelevant. Each one of us can hold beliefs and undertake tasks that we feel are of critical importance, and yet who we are and all we stand for can be so easily dismissed.
The setting is the Great Hall in Champlain Colege, Trent University. Looking down on the scene gives it a unique perspective, a ceratin kind of theology whereby the observer takes on the perspective usually reserved for God. Phelan's personality is an extraordinary mixture of dedication, humour, and frustration, and I think he gives us just the right look.
Best in Show, 2005 Society of Canadian Artists Annual Juried Show
The Words of the Lord to John on Patmos (excerpt)
And you shall write without looking down:
for that too is why you're here: for writing:
Place your left hand on the stone's left
and your right one on it's right: so I can use them both.
And now I'll utterly unfold.
For millions of years I must restrain myself
since worlds take such time evolving,
must pierce their coldness with my ardor
bit by bit, instead of growing fire
in all of them, one giant flame.
And so I'm never wholly in creation:
when humans have just started to conjecture me,
I've long been forgotten by the stone.
This painting is to be read from bottom to top, as if it is emerging from water. That life began in the depths and slowly moved its way up to the surface and out into the air. That the evolutionary trajectory of the world has now produced us, the being that can look back over this process, decipher it, and wonder. That the creation of art, petroglyphs, poetry, painting etc. is an enterprise that can only be undertaken by those aware of time.
The German mystic poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote these words in the early part of the 20th century. Chiblow Lake, with its petroglyphs, is situated a few miles in from the North Shore of Lake Huron.
Although this is the highway cut-off south of Sudbury, ON, it could be anywhere. Life demands choice, and with every decision the road not taken looms in the imagination. Part of maturing is to be settled with this; to know that the roads of possibility one never takes are an inevitability.
One can contemplate these things, alone on the road, in early morning.
My grandparents' great legacy was the cottage. The definition of quaint, it was essentially a rectangle divided into four rooms, with no ceiling and walls that didn't reach to the roof. Everything revolved around this wonderful, immovable fireplace, which was placed right in the middle of the building. Sometime after they died, and the place was essentially abandoned I went back to see what was there and this was it. Hints of a bygone life; an empty woodbox, the unweathered rectangles on the wall that had been preserved by pictures of birds that had hung there for decades. Initially I meant this as a kind of eulogy to my grandparents, their absent presence. Looking over it now, I think it stands as much for a lost way of life. There was a time when the mystique of a cottage lay in the fact that it was a decidedly different way of life from the city or the suburb. Slower, more basic, closer to the earth. But nobody builds cottages anymore; what gets constructed are summer homes where the goal is to ensure that the only thing that changes from your "other" life is the scenery.
The right sound, the right smell can take me back there in an instant.