Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Phil Hale: Beyond the Representational

Philip Oliver Hale was born in 1963. He first worked as an illustrator then became a well-known American Figurative artist. He apprenticed with Richard Berry, another American painter. One of Hale's most memorable paintings to date is a portrait of Tony Blair, the past UK Prime Minister. Tony Blair sits in a chair, his right leg resting across the other. He seems to be distracted or focusing on a thought, not attentive to the artist or the viewer of the painting. His hands are relaxed. When interviewed by Billy Hill, a reporter for the BBC Parliament, Hale shared his intention was to document and be transparent in regards to his subject. He thought it was important to transcribe the information that was there onto the canvas and not be influenced by opinion or offer any sort of inflection in the process. In the painting of Tony Blair, Hale faithfully kept to the realism of his subject.

However, Hale goes beyond the representational in his other works. Sparrow, a series of art books, depicts various artists including the work of Hale. His oil paintings are of distorted figures in dynamic, gravity-defying poses. His understanding of anatomy allows him the skill to create faces and bodies seen from various angles with a fascinating surrealism. Figures are cut off by the borders of the canvas, or thrown onto their heads, creating a silent violence or emotional disturbance. His work contains a high degree of tension, heightened energy and sometimes terror. The backgrounds are kept simple to keep the focus on the figures.

In Sparrow, his drawings are linear, with little shading or texture. The poses carry the same tension as his paintings. I believe his work contains a cognitive and psychological extension of the trauma, violence and fear of living in the world today. To me, agony, torture, and suffering are summated in his paintings of individual, isolated figures that are in distress. As a person who has lived with a chronic mental illness, I identify with the cut off heads as metaphors of madness, mental disturbance and anguish. The acute and out of kilter angles create an instability that is in the moment.

I regard Phil Hale as an amazing artist and look forward to seeing more work from him. Phil Hale interview

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Weathering the storm

March has been an odd month for weather. Sunshine, rain, sleet and snow in one afternoon. We had a snow storm just the other day. How have I weathered the first week of March? In February, I wrote about many projects I was working on. I had a positive response to a talk I gave to a class of occupational therapist students at the university. After receiving 5 or 6 applauses, I was on cloud nine. I answered many questions and received big thank yous from the instructors. They said, they try to teach theory, but for someone to come in and share their story so beautifully and vividly was very much appreciated.

My submission to Front Magazine was rejected. I have been published in their magazine quite a few times in the past. Perhaps I've outgrown them or vice versa. Also I did not win the February writing contest at Secret Attic, however, they did send me an invite to submit for March. Which I've already done! I followed up on two queries to local small presses. They both replied to me in a polite, efficient manner. I felt respected.

I've come to the conclusion, I'm not as intimidated by someone's status, economic, educational or otherwise as I once was. I am a valued person on this planet as much as others. If someone with great credentials talks to me, I'm happy but if a cashier smiles at me and says thank you, that's good too. Humans from any walk of life are still biological beings with similar DNA.

I could have attempted to go on in education, but I chose not to. I think others who want to achieve that for themselves is an admirable goal but has no bearing on me and my decisions. No one's life is perfect. Mine included. I think compromise and patience are important to get along with others. Life isn't about being right all the time. It's about navigating, learning, interacting with others and believing in yourself.

I'm not able to control my environment or situation to a great extent. However, I can attempt to change how I react to people and conflicts. I can get angry and complain but usually it blows over and things settle down. Unfortunately, I don't fully recognize the impact my behaviour has on others. Instead I may be too caught up in my internal dilemmas which causes my judgment to be skewed. I wish to be empowered and at the helm of my own ship. Sometimes it's harder to stand up for myself, than give in and be passive. However, taken to the extreme, self-determination may have negative results if I stop listening to others. Forgiveness and compassion are important skills to have. Life can change people. I will probably never stop learning. Healing can still happen.