The Beginning of a Professional Art Practice
I have always been interested and curious about the inside of the body. I experimented with various textures to evoke the different textures that exist within the body: cheesecloth as membranes; ink as blood; the wooden frame as the skeleton; and wax, clay, plaster as ligaments and muscle. By removing the skin from the imagery, one removes the external focus of gender, race and physical beauty, to reveal the inner spirit that lies within the flesh, which is common to everyone.
The culmination of the large format painting series created while completing a B.F.A was Une identité fragmentée / A Fragmented Identity. This installation piece was an eight-foot cube, inside which were large tactile fleshy panels. The disposition was such that to view the panels one had to physically walk inside the cube. It was a gross representation of the cosmic womb, and by going inside you were symbolically going back to that place from which we come from, both physically and metaphysically.
While doing my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at l’Université du Québec en Outaouais I had access to equipment and a lot of space in which to conduct my experiments. After graduation, the scale of my work became much smaller, basically work that I could do on my kitchen table. The interplay of the inside on the outside continued with the following series: Un corps en fragments / The Body in Fragments, Parcelle de chair, parcelle d’âme / Piece of Flesh, Piece of Soul and Virer à l’envers / Inside Out. (You can view these works by clicking on “Art Galleries” on the top menu.)
The Beginning of a Yoga Practice
I spent a year traveling in India in 1999 – 2000. I did a series of Postcards during the first few months of my trip. By circumstance, I eventually made my way to the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Ashram in Neyyar Dam, Kerala and this is where I discovered Yoga and practiced it intensely. It changed my life in a very positive way.
When at the Ashram, Swami Govindananda saw my postcards, one of the images was Ganesha. He was sure that I had created it during my stay at the Ashram, and was surprised when I told him otherwise. He remarked that the gestural movements, the scratching at the surface of the image to reveal the light underneath is what the spiritual journey is all about. At that moment, I understood the thread that linked all of my artworks. Stripping the body of name, skin, color, race… of all individuality… to explore the inside… I was finally aware that my artwork was propelling me deeper into the spiritual life. To become aware of consciousness itself is the reason why I needed to go to India, and it marked the true beginning of my spiritual journey.
Upon my return to Canada, the aesthetics of my works changed dramatically, but the purpose of the gestural movements were imbued with more meaning. The type of paintings I do now are called Yantras. The first time I came across a Yantra was during one of the many Hindu rituals that the priests at the Sivananda Ashram performed. I had no intellectual understanding of what they were, but their power captivated me and their images stayed imprinted on my psyche. Only much later did I come to understand that a Yantra is a form in which energies are held. It is also a visual tool used during meditation. Energies, or Cosmic vibrations, can be represented in different ways. The infinite diversity of the universe is manifest most explicitly in the iconographic deity images, more abstractly by the combination of sacred geometric forms and most subtly by the sacred sounds of the Sanskrit alphabet and mantras.
Every person’ s journey in this world is a spiritual one, whether we are aware of it or not. The word Yoga in Sanskrit means union; union of the individual Self with the Absolute or Infinite Self. Similarly, if the Yantra is a representation of the Absolute, then the goal of the aspirant who uses it as a tool during meditation is to become one with the Yantra. The artist who creates the shapes and forms of the Yantra, reveals to himself the macrocosmos as it exists within himself, and by doing so prepares himself for the journey towards Self-Realization.
Since my trip to India I have undertaken two new series which are ongoing. The first is a series of yantras that represent the chakras, or energy centers within the body, on which are verses from the Sri Lalita Sahasranama, 1000 names of Divine Mother. The second series are variations on the Ganesha image with various Ganesha mantras transcribed on them.
A future series will be dedicated to the Nityas, variations of the Goddess Lalita, representing the fifteen lunar days of the waxing moon. The full circle of the Nityas also represents the 21,600 breaths a human being takes in a full day and night. A dream would be to display them in a large circle in a large gallery space, and to have a Hindu priest activate the energies by performing a tantric ritual as part of the installation.