I painted this 5x7ft oil on canvas back in 2001 for an independent studio project in my third year painting class in university. I loved red that year. A lot. So much so that I dedicated much of my painting pursuits towards representing the color through large-scale works.This was the first attempt – a simple painting, despite its massive size. I was proud of my carpentry work at the woodshop constructing and nailing the frame, as well as stretching and stapling the canvas until my knuckles were sore. I could have told you back then all of the ins and outs of my creative process, but with a currently fogged up brain, I can only remember very little, albeit the most important part: I wanted to make a transferable wall space, and that’s pretty much it.
What does that mean? Well, for starters, I loved the idea of symbolizing the concept of a “home” through a depiction of an interior space – a space that I could take with me wherever I went, and could put on the wall and then magically, it would turn into “home.” I thought about this idea so much that I became obsessed with it. It made me think about people moving to different homes, cities, and countries and the process of transformation that takes place that turns something so foreign into something so familiar. With this painting, I was exploring that, because we all know it isn’t as simple as putting something on the wall when you’re in a new place (or is it?). It takes work, concentrated effort, to bring to life your surroundings in a way that feels genuine for you, in a way that gives you a sense of place and belonging.
It’s no wonder this is on my mind right now, as I attempt to do the same here in Malaysia. I found out that our huge shipment of belongings from Canada is now at the Malaysian border, and the excitement over having my stuff survive the long voyage over was pretty exaggerated, like it was an old friend who was at the border on their way to see me. It’s funny, this very painting is on it’s way and I can’t wait to put it up in our new house – it’s like a piece of a home I’ve had with me since 2001 (ignore the 8 years it was rolled up gathering mold and neglect in my parents’ basement before being saved by my hero husband). Regardless of the various contexts of its surroundings, when I look at it, I feel grounded. It reminds me that even when everything in life goes topsy turvy, some things remain unchanged at any given time. It makes me aware of the ebb and flow of life and our many homes and our many selves that inhabit these homes – that we can move, grow, change, adapt, move to Asia, etc, but that there is still a stability there – that stability is our core selves. My core self loves to paint, and I can’t wait to get started again.
Oh and that’s a reproduction of Van Gogh’s “Night Cafe”, just ’cause I love him (who doesn’t?!)