I’ve been painting since I was 14, and discovered oil paints for the first time. I love glazes and bright, rich colours. I find painting a good way to represent the intangible things we all sense but don’t know how to describe or identify…the nebulous things we “know” about ourselves and our environments, but don’t know how we know.
exploring how we interact with and remember personal spaces
Entering someone’s home can elicit a variety of reactions and impressions. Some rare people are so tightly contained that their home conveys little but their sense of style. However, the vast majority of us reveal ourselves to a surprising extent in our personal spaces, whether intentionally or not. Much of my work, contained in the ongoing series Come into my Parlour, is an exploration of memories and experiences of personal spaces and the relational and personal insights received from them.
A personal space is a place in which a person feels at home, and in which there is a sense of ownership, such as a bedroom, kitchen, or entire house. In such a space, people establish a sense of home, the safe place in which they find refuge, by means of objects such as art, photographs, furniture, and/or smaller useful or meaningful items. Artistic explorations of personal spaces and home stretch back through history, with notable examples including Vermeer, Bonnard, and Cassat. My work differs from traditional domestic interiors in that my main focus is not on domesticity, family life, private contemplation, or personal belongings, but on the unspoken and usually unintended messages that can be conveyed by a personal space to those who visit it.
Almost everyone experiences the emotional qualities of a personal space, but few people think about it or are consciously aware of it. Impressions of a personal space can be nebulous and difficult to describe, and the source of a reaction is also hard to identify. For example, entering a friend’s bedroom might grant a warm feeling of intimacy, or a slightly uncomfortable perception of intruding. Although much of this type of perception depends on physical things such as décor, design elements, lighting, and level of cleanliness, other important factors are present. The relationship with the friend obviously influences the reaction to that friend’s bedroom. In addition, the friend may well be revealing parts of his or her personality or character in this room that are hidden elsewhere.
Many people consciously or unconsciously mask what they consider to be personality flaws—thoughts, behaviours, or feelings that they wish they didn’t have and choose not to show the people around them. In one’s personal space, however, it is next to impossible to maintain the façade. An observant or sensitive visitor may pick up on echoes of repressed anger, control, or regression that are rigorously hidden in more public facets of life. Of course, not all revelations are negative. A space belonging to a secure, healthy individual is more likely to convey a sense of peace and security to friendly visitors. Just as visiting someone else’s personal space can yield valuable insights into the person to whom it belongs, examining one’s own personal space impartially can also present us with surprising and even uncomfortable truths about ourselves.
The second part of my work, contained in the ongoing series Places We Remember Wrong, is a closer examination of what we remember about places, and why. On closer examination, a memory of a place we have visited is a patchy compilation of vague colours and shapes with the occasional sharply-recalled object, angle of light, or arrangement of furniture. With time, most of these memories soften into a blur of colour and impression. However, certain memories of places remain bright and sharp in our minds for years. Why do we remember some places vividly and not others? The answer is much more complex than simply remembering what we want to remember, or places in which we were particularly happy or sad. Perhaps our minds strongly hold onto memories of places in which we sensed information that we did not understand, or experienced emotions we lacked the maturity to process—unsolved mysteries, waiting in our memories to be solved?