Andreas Weiland

The Sculptures of the Canadian 
West Coast-based Artist Marion Lea Jamieson 

What touches me immediately is the beauty of The Singer – the awareness of the (female, I feel) body that it incorporates and expresses. Expressing it because it is the body that expresses what we have come to call conventionally “the soul.” “Body awareness” – is it possible to coin that term which would translate, in fact, the German word Koerperbewusstsein – a dialectical term, because it implies a dual perspective: “We” (via our consciousness) are aware of our body, “I” (thus my 

Marion Lea Jamieson, The Singer  (side view), Febr. 2011, 50cm h x 30 cm  wide x 30 cm deep (Plaster model for a larger work in concrete or bronze. Final work to be 2.25 m high x 1.35 m wider x 1.35m deep)

consciousness) is aware, of my body, of my bodily, corporeal existence. The other side of the coin, the opposite perpective so to speak, is that “the body is aware” or “expresses” my psychic situation, my history, my way of thinking and feeling and –  in one word –  “being.”  My “soul,” so to speak. And this also most authentically (and this means perhaps, in the least falsified way, a way that is not pretentious) when I'm not aware of it, consciously. “The Singer” seems to come close to such intimacy – a moment where the soul is revealed, and where the body gives itself to us, the Others, as that innocence which is authentic.
The bracketing of consciousness, and thus the temptation to “pretend” and to “display”  and to “pose” (and thus to create an auto-image for one's self, and to suggest an image of one's self to others) – this bracketing, and therefore the refusal of and avoidance of the typical temptation of our era is accomplished in this work. To me, it seems, that the hidden face – hidden, as if under a soft, woolen cap, or an ancient Egyptian accessoire of enigmatic rites – symbolizes the sleep of consciousness, the baring of the soul in an uncontrolled, unmanipulated state. The tiny upper end of the cap, almost like a small crown, emphasizes the enigmatic character of the moment caught. The hand, of the left arm, partly covering the breast(s), protects – , it protects, I feel, the integrity of the “self.” The movement, the gesture implied, is the gesture that points inward, touching  – or covering, partly –  the heart.The German language knows the saying, “Hand aufs Herz” – (put your) “hand on (your) heart.” Which is like asking somebody, though lightly and in friendship, not in court, “Swear that this is true.” The movement, thus, seems to me to confirm the authenticity of the moment, the authenticity of the body/soul that is expressing itself and that is expressed at this moment. The fact that the breasts are partly covert by the same movement of the left arm and hand, accentuates this tender, protective and yet declaring self-expression. The same is true of the position of the legs – tenderly close to each other, affirming body consciousness, one knee raised slightly higher than the other – which makes the posture no longer defensive. This presence of the “singer” reveals the opposite of “extrovertedness”(extroversion) - but neither does it signify introversion; it rather speaks of a soft, vulnerable presence, a presence that rests securely in itself,  and in this moment of acute awareness of being. Now we may comprehend why this is “The Singer”: this body so aware and so present sings the song of its existence.
The work is also an act of resistance because it incorporates a tender, humane, “female” view of the female body – nor a voyeurist view.

Marion Lea Jamieson, The Singer (rear view)

Exposing myself to the rear view of this sculpture, I discover a new aspect: The Singer is a bird. I think of Haidaa myths and other tales of North America's First Nations. The sculptor is close to that part of the human heritage. Subconsciously or not, she reveals something –  a wish. In a myth, the girl turns into a bird, a birdwoman, as soft feathers grow on her back. "She never felt as warm and protected." For Marion Lea Jamieson, birds are singers. And she sings with her sculpture, The Singer. A soft tune; living harmony of existence that rests in itself, so securely.

The Austrian sculptor Alfred Hrdlicka once suggested that every sculpture is the testimony and outcome of an elementary, physical act of uncovering, of laying bare, both the figure that emerges from the stone, and the “existential way of being” particular to the creator of that figure. Perhaps we should not interpret this statement too narrowly – which I think he would not have wished us to do, either. Sculptures are no self-revelations, but transcend the given and owe so much to the imagination, to our vision of the world, our longing and the pre-conscious urge to express it. Just as poems and novels should not be read as “merely autobiographical documents,” sculptures – and paintings – are far from being just that, merely mirrors of the artist. And still something of the essence of the artist who creates is present in his creation. Her or his attitude and position towards the world, towards nature, fellowmen, society? Perhaps.

Hrdlicka, conscious of how abstract art was pushed in the late 1940s and in the 50s, both by the International Committee of the Museum of Modern Art, by American tycoons like the Rockefellers, by the Dept. of State in Washington, later on by USIS, saw this as a concerted campaign against realist art (and literature) which had achieved what Gramsci would have called cultural hegemony during the late 1920s and early '30s  in Europe and had become a vital force also in the US, in China, Japan, and “Latin” America. Invitations extended to artists, Congresses and symposiums sponsored, exhibitions made possible thanks to abundant funds made available by US sponsors turned the tables and gave abstract expressionist art an exposure in the media and a successful presence in museums and the art market that was denied to socially critical realist artists.

I think this view is not entirely unfounded; even though other factors come into play if the achievement of abstract artists is recognized. But the weight of the material economic and political factors that put realist art on the defensive and in the end almost marginalized it for several decades must not be underestimated. 

Hrdlicka accused abstract art of one thing mainly – of “eliminating the human being in art.” He likened this effect of abstract art to the result a neutron bomb would produce in the real world: it leaves the object world, above all, the technostructure, intact but eliminates man.

If we look at much abstract art we see that indeed, as subject matter – as immediately recognizable subject matter – man is usually missing. Human emotions may be expressed, but not man, present in a situation. 

If I turn to sculptures of Marion-Lea Jamieson, it is also because – rather than elimating man – they often confront us with man; with woman/man – with the human existence. And this in an immediate way, or in a way that is different from the immediacy that lays bare the “spiritual” in an abstract painting.

Yes, the spiritual can also be laid bare in a “realist” sculptures. Take Anima I for example.

Marion Lea Jamieson, Anima I (July 20099, 68" h x 66" w x 68"d, mild steel with urethane clear coat, shown on exhibition in Lake Oswego, Oregon. 

Both the exhibited sculpture, placed in public space, and the maquette reveal a strong expressiveness of the woman we are shown. The influence of Zadkine's expressionist Cubist realism cannot be excluded, regardless of any conscious receptive process that may have taken place or not.
This aesthetic and ethical approach shares were little, perhaps nothing with Hredlicka's existential vitalism. It refuses Hrdlicka's elementary appropriation of human flesh, which has something very raw, sexually aggressive and thus macho-like to it. It also refuses the cold despair and the weight of history that resound in the cry uttered by Zadkine's Rotterdam sculpture, or the growth-like, yes plant-like expressive forms that  characterize his “Tree of Life” (L'arbre de la vie (1957)) or the flame(s) transported by his “Prometheus” (1954).

There is something light-hearted to this moment of movement captured by the sculpture. It is the spirit of a girl or young woman who runs, full of longing to discover a world.
It is as if she is going to fly, the next second. Jubilant like a bird. Anima – not necessarily referring us to C.G. Jung here – is the soul, and it is female. The forms of the body – abstracted. Because it is not the flesh, now –  it is that spirit which makes her run: eager and jubilant because of the freedom to be herself, and to discover.

Marion Lea Jamieson said, in one of her texts that I found on her website that as a Modernist, engaging in abstract painting, she refuses to denounce politically, socially committed realist art – or the idea that art should turn a blind eye to the “real world” (of which art is, of course, a part, like we ourselves are a part of it).

My experience was the other way round. What I loved was committed realist cinema. Rossellini, Vertov, Straub, Godard, Chris Marker, Mizoguchi.
And yet I befriended filmmakers that created poetic, seemingly a-political works. 

O I agree with Hrdlicka. With Bert Brecht. I feel close to and I think and hope that I am solidary with all those who say that it matters to be committed today, because we live in an era in which the Latin saying Homo hominis lupus, man is a wolf for his fellowman, gains such a modern, topical meaning. And therefore we should take sides and work for a better, freer, more democratic, more just society. And today, more so than ever, also for the protection of the material basis of our existence, the protection of nature, of this vulnerable planet.

And yet, and yet...  When Hrdlicka says that modern abstract art eliminated man, and glorified that aura of a new “technofascism”, an overpowering presence of the technologically produced world around us (that is mirrored by the big bureaucracies of the new Leviathan), I know that although this is confirmed by works like  Stéphane Couturier's Usine Alstrom, Belfort, photo 3, halle transport” (2009) or Thomas Florschutz's untitled (palace) 33 (2006/08) and perhaps even by American painters of the 1930s and '40s given to almost constructivist depictions of 'industrial cityscapes', I still love works like Charles Demuth's My Egypt, or certain works by Sheeler that turned to the world of industry, depicting the beauty of modernist building like the Rouge River Ford Plant - but eliminating man.

When in Taiwan, on my way from Tamshui to Taipei in the late afternoon, for conversations with an artist friend or with  other artists, I often saw the girls leaving the electronics factories (the Philco plant, for instance) after a ten or twelve hour shift – and could see the fatigue, and I thought of Demuth's painting, My Egypt. It captured such moments, even though the human figure was absent.

Whereas many art critics in the U.S. interpret the focus of painters like Sheeler and Demuth on industrial architecture as an exuberant expression of American optimism, I see a sadness inscribed in Demuth's painting just referred to. These art critics relate the title to the synchronous discovery of ancient Egyptian art, thus to the pride taken in the megalomania of Egypt's pharaos. I relate the title My Egypt to the experience of the people Moses leads out of Egypt. “My Egypt” is a synonym for "my prison, my desperation, my oppression" – and for its dialectical opposite: "my longing to be freed." In Taiwan, in 1976 or 1977, I wrote a poem about those girls leaving the plant, referring to Demuth, and speaking of them as leaving their Egypt, every afternoon.  – In other words, the painting, for me is about humans, the human beings hid behind the walls of the building. The people working at the machines. About the need to change life, and the world. Changer la vie, changer le monde. The surrealists reminded us of it. As a student, I wrote it on posters I glued on the walls of the Dept. of German and the Dept. of Sociology. Because it was still so valid... 

The next work I will focus on here, titled Continuum by Marion Lea Jamison, is also "abstract" -  in a way like Demuth's My Egypt  painting, in its preferrence for abstract, geometric forms.

Marion Lea Jamieson, Continuum

The tendency to abstract could already be felt in many avant-garde works close to the Constructivism I always liked, and in works of artists belonging to the Futurist movement, like Marinetti who became so closely associated with Italian Fascism (which I dislike).

I rediscover my ambivalence. 
I say, yes, basically Hrdlicka makes a valid point. And yet I liked the poetry of Rodchenko's spiraling Radio Tower, I loved quite a few works of Moholy-Nagy that are plainly abstract constructivist and that banish man as subject matter. Is is so strange that I like Marion Lea's  abstract sculptures, too?

The form here is organic. Perhaps it is far more plausible to call it concrete than abstract - for it shows us an organic form close to forms found in nature. 
Like a wave, almost, the top part of this work, the central part that attracts our attention, appears to me. Yes, the part that rests on a support integrated, in terms of material, dimension, color into the art work. The support provides the contrast: the static element that carries - and gives a space to - the appearing movement. A concretization, a frozen moment of a wave that, rising high, comes full circle. O no, I am wrong – it has none of the force, the violence, of the ocean. This formed object does not allude to the surf, the wave that can smash things. This is peaceful. It is movement, and yet, it rests “in itself.” Hrdlicka would have like the organic form. So do I. It is not a polished, industrially made surface. It is hand-made.  Arp comes to mind. But Arp's world was smoother, it was whiter, it was male. The red traces left by the artist's, Marion's hands, are echoed by the colors of the blossoms around the spot where the sculpture has been placed. Who can deny that it becomes a part of nature? 

“Conundrum 2” reminded me of a woman. Her essential body, in movement. An abstraction thereof, it is true. She seems to stand and turn, slightly, at the same time. Her essence is dual,  protecting and open. Protecting  someting inside (her child? her integrity?), thus shielding it from outside aggression... And yet, at the same time, opening. Baring much of her innermost soul.

Marion Lea Jamieson, Conundrum II

The soul is the form of the body, Aristotle wrote. If this sculpted form is, in its abstracted way that has been chosen, the form of a human being, it also reveals the soul.

Yes, it is possible to be an agnostic, perhaps an atheist, and still be aware of it. The soul. Don't touch, don't hurt it – the inner voice says. Your own, or the other one's. It feels the scars, just like the flesh feels them. Strange, the whitish and faintly red color reminds me also of the color of flesh.

Marion Lea Jamieson, Still Life, March 2003, concrete& pigments, 3.5' high x 3' wide x 3' deep

Do we humans crave peace? Harmony? A balance attained? This “still-life” is still like a living being that rests, like water that is not stirred now, it is quiet, it is serene – and yet it is life. Life that has attained a moment where everything is in balance, a situation where we are secure. Is the child, thus, secure before it leaves – before we leave –  the womb? Is the egg-shaped form held here, securely, that oviform secret I spoke about, referring to it in a poem, and referring also to a poem by Ron Loewinson, in the 1960s? The form is held, it rests, it is left in peace. And yet, above it, there is that wide opening, wide as the sky, the realm of possibilities, the realm of visions, of freedom. When the moment arrives, we can choose – the security of the nest, and the risk of freedom. 

Who says that abstract works banish the human being from the world of art? Perhaps they need not even banish the struggle for emanicipation – that emancipation of mankind which Hrdlicka and Brecht, among many others, had at heart. 

I am glad that I could see Marion Lea Jamieson's work. Some of it, I know. Maybe more, soon. 



Subsequent note by AW on "The Singer"

When I wrote this small text (in the form of an email to Marion Lea Jamieson), I had not yet seen the following image that reveals feathers or a feathery gown and that allows us to read what I took for a cap as the beak of a bird.

Marion Lea Jamieson, The Singer (rear view)

This tends to turn the figure indeed into the representation of a birdwoman. Does it also turn it into an androgynous being? I sympathize with Ivan Illich's position in this regard who analyzed a "depolarization" which can "lead to an ideas of unisex and the present intellectual fashion" to embrace and give heightened attention to "androgyneity." 
(Ivan Illich, Gender, NY 1982, German edition: Genus. Reinbek 1983, p.239, note 107)
What I think is important is Marion Lea Jamieson's reference to folk myths. She hints at the Egyptian precedence of images that humanize birds or turn humans into birds (or in fact do both, simultaneously), as in the case of the horus bird.
But one does not have to evoke the Egyptian versions of images alluding to this myth (even though she encountered them in the Louvre).
For it is clear to me that, consciously or preconsciously, this West Coast based Canadian artist is close to the myths of the indigenous population of her region, when she evokes the myth of the birdwoman.
An Aleut legend of the "Princess Raven" tells us about the transformation of the human  princess into a bird: "[...] A small hemlock needle slowly fell towards the water. When it floated down to her, princess picked it up and swallowed it. She waited, but nothing happened. Then she felt a jerk in her back. The princess reached back to see what the pain was and to her surprise, she felt feathers, a wing grew out of her back  and wrapped around her. It was so warm. The princess felt a love like never before." Yes, feathers grow on her back. It protects. She feels so warm now.

A Haida legend, "How Raven Brought Light to the World" also uses the  symbol (or metaphor?) of swallowing a needle. In this case, the needle is quiet obviously a penis symbol:  About the human girl we are told that "[...]she swallowed the needle. It slipped and slithered down into her warm belly, where the Raven transformed himself again, this time into a tiny human. After sleeping and growing there for a very long time, at last the Raven emerged into the world once more, this time as a human infant."

In a Cherokee legend, "The Owl Gets Married," an owl transforms into a man.

It is interesting how intimately this Canadian artists is apparently rooted in a very deep-reaching sense in her regions socio-culture (which includes the heritage of the Haida and other First Nations).

In a text published on her blog, entitled “On Birds,” Marion Lea Jamieson writes, 

The Singer [...], Febr. 2011, 50cm h x 30 cm  wide x 30 cm deep.
Plaster model for a larger work in concrete or bronze. Final work to be 2.25 m high x 1.35 m wider x 1.35m deep.

“The sculpture I’m currently working on is a realistic depiction of a half-bird/half/human figure with its head thrown back singing.  The Singer celebrates the human instinct to make music and to create art. Biologists usually explains the singing of birds as a way of defining territory but it is difficult not to interpret bird-song as springing from the same impulse as human-song and The Singer is transported by the uplifting power of singing.
The work considers how we are different and how we are the same as birds but it suggests that the similarities are greater than the differences. It refers to the myths of every culture in which birds & humans transform into each other.  It is part of a series of sculptures using as a theme archetypal images of part human/part animal figures that I have been creating for some time. These figures are characteristic of myths in every culture in the world and create a recognizable common thread among cultural traditions.  Human/animal myths originated at a time when humans were more highly attuned to other species and all cultures include stories about animals that take on human characteristics to pierce the human/animal divide. My sculptures attempt to reconnect with and communicate the wisdom of ancestors who understood the inter-relatedness and inter-dependence of all forms of life and that sustainability involves protecting the ecosystems on which we all depend. This sculpture explores  inter-connections between humans and bird species. Previous civilizations understood that birds & humans are interdependent, and if we destroy bird habitat, we destroy ourselves.  The sculpture was inspired by a small, four-thousand year-old terracotta piece I saw  in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Ancient Human/Bird  Myths
I am interested in the human/animal fusion images in that they stem from an earlier period of human development when people regarded the natural world as benign.  The earth and its many & diverse forms of life were seen as benevolent [by human beings] as long as they stayed in tune with its forces. In earlier religions  the animal or animal-headed gods/goddesses are symbolic expressions of a deep spiritual understanding. For instance, when an animal was depicted in Ancient Egypt, it represented a particular function/attribute in its purest form. When an animal-headed figure is depicted, it conveys that particular function/attribute in the human being.
In addition to understanding the inherent connection and identification with other forms of life, earlier forms of religion recognized the importance of a balance between male & female energies.
J. J. Bachofen (1861) postulated that the historical patriarchates were a comparatively recent development, having replaced an earlier state of primeval matriarchy, and postulated a matriarchal society and chthonic mystery cults as the second of four stages of the historical development of religion. The first stage he characterized as a paleolithic hunter-and-gatherer society practicing a polyamorous and communistic lifestyle. The second stage is a matriarchal “lunar” stage of agriculture with an early form of Demeter the dominant deity. This was followed by a stage of emerging patriarchy, finally succeeded by the stage of patriarchy and the appearance of civilization in classical antiquity. In the later Abrahamic monotheistic religions, God is the Father, dominant, powerful, fatherly & masculine. This theory has its adherents and detractors, but it is a compelling and useful idea to explain the imbalances & conflicts between natural/human and male/female in current societies.
Many believe the anthropocentrism of the Abrahamic monotheistic religions is the underlying reason why humanity dominates and sees the need to “develop” most of the Earth for human habitat at the expense of all other species. The Book of Genesis states, “ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” This belief that human beings have special status in nature based on unique capacities provides the rationale for unlimited human expansion and resource use on a finite planet. That is why I am interested in looking at earlier concepts of the relationship between humans and the natural world to understand how, as artists, we can re-brand the human species in a more earth-friendly format.”

      The Singer, Clay Model, Nov. 2004

[Marion Lea Jamieson to AW:]
“[...] It is so interesting to get another's view on one's work - to see it with another pair of eyes.  However, your interpretation of the Singer is skewed by the fact that sculpture is a 3D mode & a one dimensional poor quality internet image does not give enough information.  In fact, the Singer's head is thrown back & what you thought was a cap is a bird's beak.  I have attached another view that may make it more clear. 

As you can see from the rear view, The Singer is half-human/half bird.  This speaks to your comment that, 
"We are just one species, just an element in the bigger context of this earth we inhabit. And our solidarity must extend to all species, to every child, woman and man, wherever they are. At least this is what I feel about it. Who cares whether this is still good art criticism, or perhaps no art criticism at all."

This human/animal theme is one I have been pursuing since the 1980's, and expresses what I feel is at the heart of all tragedy in the human condition - our bifurcation of existence into opposing camps, the human & the natural.  In our hubris we believe that other species matter less, and this is the root of our delusions. The Singer is also half human/half bird because I take much joy in birds - they make me happy every time I see one.

It is also interesting to me that you perceive the figure as female, while my intention was that it should be gender neutral in the way that birds are, almost indistinguishable in activity & behaviour except for colourful plumage.  And yes, the hand points to the heart centre, as we say in English it is "singing it's heart out". 

The legs were placed that way in order not to have to reveal one gender or the other.  However, I have not been happy with the prudish effect of this & have experimented with another solution - holding a book on the lap. Don't have an image of it handy.” 


Conundrum II
"This piece is very much a pregnant form & is a throwback to the fascination I had with eggs while pregnant myself. It's interesting though that it is the one abstract sculpture that has never been accepted for exhibition. Still-Life is another of these, but has somehow been more acceptable." (Marion Lea Jamieson in a letter to AW) 

More Sculptures by this artist

Though sculptures are three-dimensional, there are many ways to achieve this. One way for Marion Lea Jamieson - and Colin Race, the artist and partner she likes to work with on sculptures - is to combine flat, almost two-dimensional elements. The way they are combined and project into space, they create a peculiar, "fleshless,"  strangely "abstract" ILLUSION of human bodies, bodies of animals or "mixed" beings, part human and part animal.

Running man is seen by her as a political work. It alludes to bankers running away with your money, employees rushing off to eork in some office, husbands running away from their wife and kids.
It alludes to an hectic life-style, a world where people turn into parts of an anonymous mass, mere silhouettes, interchangeable.

Marion Lea Jamieson, Running Man (shown in public space in Kelowna, B.C.)

[Commentary by the artist:] “For many years I worked on the Running Man theme [...] as a vehicle for expressing a strongly-felt philosophical perspective using a representational image that was abstracted so as to be widely applicable.” 

Angel Fish is a strange allegory. It reveals love for a threatened species - the salmon swarms that return in smaller and smaller numbers to the rivers of British Columbia, and also the fish of coastal waters, decimated by overfishing. But it alludes also to the woman.

It is at once a sensual and an enigmatic sculpture.
It changes its character, like every sculpture, dependent on and in relation to the character of the site, the space, be it nature or a cityscape.

The fact that the artists who created Angel Fish, Lea and Colin, do not shy away from painting this sculpture adds to its ability to undergo a metamorphosis.

Angel-Fish, by Marion-Lea Jamieson and Colin Race 

Marion Lea Jamieson, Sister Fish #1, December 2003, 6’ h x 2’ w x 2’ d, hand formed concrete and acid stain. Shown at Wescott Bay Sculpture Garden, San Juan Island, WA

The sculpted variations of Sister Fish let us see again a mixed creature, half animal, half woman. And so does the sculpture titled Jumping Frogwoman.

We can marvel at the effects caused by light in the aluminum version of Sister Fish,  and it also becomes clear that the poetic quality of this sculpture negates the assumption that a construction made of such flat material can only suggest an abstract idea of space and corporeal presence. 

Marion Lea Jamieson, Sister Fish (Aluminum)

Marion Lea Jamieson, Jumping Frogwoman

The Artist Speaks

The Canadian artist Marion-Lea Jamieson is a Canadian sculptor, painter and art critic who lives in the Vancouver era. Her reflections on art & society, also on her way of working, are thoughtful and remarkable.

Marion Lea Jamieson on art and engagement

“Daily, hourly & minute by minute, we are deluged by propaganda for the consumer society and free-market capitalism. What is the alternative? Some believe that the problem is restrictions on our freedom and that without them society would be a better place.  For instance, at the Occupy Vancouver rally & march there were speakers, such as the raw milk lobby (a surprisingly vocal and well organized group)  who argued that “no one should be able to tell me what I can put into my body”. This is the voice of freedom from authority, one aspect of the anarchist persuasion, which presents itself as an alternative to the current system.
As an artist, I’ve been interested in the attraction of anarchy to some segments of society.  I became aware that there was a deep undercurrent of undirected anger in a portion of the population.”

“I’m all in favour of goals & objectives.  I don’t buy the party line given by everyone from the art establishment to my artist friends that art should not address political or moral issues.  The curse of postmodernism has been the universal acceptance of the idea that artists shouldn’t have ideas.  Having opinions or otherwise expressing values is soooo didactic!! One must eschew meta-narratives and simply be a conduit for the flotsam & jetsom of cultural tides.  The real artist is a blank canvas with no point of view, because points of view are so last century, back when people believed in the glorious potential of the human race and look where that got us – WWs I & II!
But I do have ideas and I’m an artist, so no matter how unfashionable it is, I like to express them in my work.” 

“Like everyone else, I’m fascinated by the Occupy Vancouver movement and the many similar protests happening around the globe.”

“[...] the tragedy of the commonwhere self-interest ultimately depletes a shared resource.” 

On the joy of opting in favor of abstraction when drawing or painting

“[...] I was living in a cabin beside an organic orchard just outside Kelowna BC and when not working on my commissioned piece, I [...]  played with oil pastels & coloured paper.  The result was a series of drawings that were an adventure in line & colour.
My compass was my own inner sense of direction and a sense of excitement in the work. I used an unrestricted palette and exuberant scribbles in these drawings, eschewing precision in favour of freedom. 
When exhibiting these drawings and the later paintings that grew out of them, I rationalized that I was exploring such metaphysical ideas as the relationship between the mind and body; time and space; the physical and the spiritual, because the real world demands an explanation. But really I was just having fun. [...]
[...] the motivation behind these drawings and paintings was play as opposed to consciously working toward the expression of  some profound meaning.  Having said that, the very act of drawing & painting has it’s own profundity. 
[...] the creation of visual art demands in-the-moment presence that is otherwise sought in meditation and other disciplines associated with religious practice.The act of drawing & painting can produce a sense of joy in the same way that meditation does in the devoted practitioner. That joy comes from overriding the over-busy mind and being present in the moment.  And to be in the moment, all other worries, problems, desires and ambitions are put aside to listen to the artwork speak (or not) and be tuned to what needs to be done in order to bring it to life.” 

On chosing abstract forms when doing sculptures in wood, sheet acrylic, respectively resin or selecting found objects. 

“I have always had a conflicted relationship with abstract art.  On the one hand, I love the freedom of simply creating …a visual language of form, color and line to create a composition independent of the “real world”. On the other hand, I wonder whether it isn’t just a safe way to create artworks that won’t alienate anyone by saying anything about the ''real world''.” 

“Abstract art is safe art in that no contentious political issues are raised such that anyone could notice. Not that tempests-in-teacups haven’t raged over abstract art.”

"I remember the kerfuffle that took place in Canada in the ’60?s when the National Gallery paid a million dollars or so for a giant blue canvas with a yellow stripe. But this is the kind of issue that politicians love – where the public attacks some small vulnerable minority like artists, rather than questioning the governing party’s self-serving policies.  So though it is fun to play with forms, colours, lines & ideas in abstract ways, I wrestle with the frivolity of it.  This, of course, drags forth the whole question of the meaning and purpose of art.”

"As I say in the blog on abstraction - I love to play with abstract forms & ideas, but wonder what can be communicated by it and it feels self-indulgent. On the other hand, my overtly "political" work like the Running Man series doesn't manage to be shown & is stored away.  Haven't resolved that one."

“I haven’t returned to purely abstract forms since 2005.  After that I created abstracted representational forms [...] But the pull of simply working with pure form, colour  & line is always there and I am currently working on a series of purely abstract paintings with no recognizable images to be seen. The debate in my head continues however [...]”

“I [...] experimented with the purely visual universality of abstract painting” [when creating a series of works  called 'Ephemera']   “while remaining wary of the empty pitfalls of decorative art.” 

“[These works] were studies for future sculptures [...]”

“Later works have carried the investigation into the possibility of creating these forms in three dimensions and in the more durable medium of concrete. Drawings and paintings in this series suggest the use of pigments in the resulting sculptures to investigate the potential for using colour to create a painterly surface."

“There is a tension between painting qua painting and painting as a study for something else.  Sculpture has to exist in 3 dimensions – to withstand gravity and all the slings & arrows that sculpture is heir to, so a sculpture study has to make sense as though it existed in the real world. The freedom to allow surfaces to appear & disappear without explanation is lost."

On her sculptures in public space

“My sculptures feel like a part of me, like my children, and I abandon them to their fate on the streets with trepidation. When they are attacked, I feel it personally.” 

"In the Fall of 2002, I began creating abstract sculptures in concrete based on the vocabulary of forms developed through [...] [earlier] drawings & paintings.  If pressed to explain the series, I would say it was an experiment in combining feminine and masculine energies, hard and soft lines, curves and angles, balance and imbalance, lightness and weight.  To wax even more wordy, I would say they explore paradoxical states of being, the resolution of differences and the melding of opposites.”

Marion Lea Jamieson has "worked with Colin Race, creating sculptural works for the public realm. The focus of our studio work and public art practice is experimentation and the search for a unique interpretation of media and forms."

"We are currently focusing on steel sculptures and have complete in-house fabrication capability. We also work in concrete as an economical medium for large-scale, public artworks. We use wood for creating maquettes and working with design ideas."

go back to Art in Society # 15