Splendid Isolation

January 2021 

Splendid Isolation is a series of new oil paintings exploring themes of isolation, uncertainty and transience during the strange and surreal time of a global pandemic. This project was funded by a grant, awarded in 2019, by the Waterloo Regional Arts Fund. 

There are 12 paintings in this series, ranging in size from 20" X 20" to 48" X 60".  

The paintings are mostly night scenes, both urban and rural, and inhabited by solitary figures that are dissolving, shifting and not very tangible.  Even the ground is shifting beneath their feet. They inhabit places that I have been in the past. There is a loose narrative being created in the paintings, unresolved and open ended. The narrative is deliberately unresolved, to convey the feeling of uncertainty and unpredictability, with everything in flux. The paintings are night paintings-- a liminal and solitary time. 

Like most artists, I am accustomed to working in isolation, however, this time of the pandemic has created an increased intensity of experience that is having a profound influence on my painting process. As the daily tragedy of this pandemic continues, my studio feels, even more than usual, like a place of urgency and regeneration….a bit of a sanctuary.  I've been very fortunate to have access to my studio and continue my work. I have been using this time like a residency. 

 There is fear in the air, and uncertainty clings to every interaction. What was familiar and predictable is no longer so. The COVID-19 pandemic has already deeply disrupted our social and cultural structures and wrought unimaginable damage on the global economy. Everything is in flux. Commerce has come to a grinding halt as restaurants, bars, universities, day cares, public schools, cinemas, hair salons and art museums are shuttered. The great financial insecurity and strain around the world is palpable as people lose their jobs, and as self-employed artists lose their gigs.  The paintings that I am working on reflect this uncertainty and intensity, and the act of exhibiting a series of paintings online as they evolve, through varying stages, adds to communicating the feeling of unpredictable transition and fluctuation. 

I have been using a combination of printmaking and painting techniques when executing my paintings--i.e. when I create my monotypes I use a reductive approach, by pulling away dark ink with my fingers to create light and reveal form. I’ve been using a similar process in my paintings which creates imagery that mysteriously emerges in a haptic and liminal way. 

This way of working is conducive to creating a powerful feeling of light, created by strong tonal and colour contrasts: acrid greens and yellows, purples and saturated reds. 

This is a pivotal time for my painting, as a result of the time and space that has been given to me as a result of the lock down, and the resulting focus I am able to bring to my work, to explore new ways of working with a renewed sense of purpose and urgency. 

The overriding sense of insecurity and apprehension is tangible, and I feel compelled to express that in my work. Yet there is also a sense that the pandemic presents an unprecedented opportunity for deepening creativity and human connections.  Beauty is being spun from bleakness during this time of transition.

2 comments

  • Sam Robinson
    Sam Robinson Hamilton, Ontario
    A clear and beautifully written statement of an artist's feelings, intentions, and processes of bringing complex motivations to visual clarity. It is remarkable that you have succeeded in communicating, both visually and verbally, an almost universally disorienting experience during a time when each of us is isolated within our own ghostly, unbalanced personal space. Your "Artist's Statement" is probably the most well-written piece I've ever read [and I've read hundreds of them] in a genre that usually expresses more confusion than clarity.

    A clear and beautifully written statement of an artist's feelings, intentions, and processes of bringing complex motivations to visual clarity. It is remarkable that you have succeeded in communicating, both visually and verbally, an almost universally disorienting experience during a time when each of us is isolated within our own ghostly, unbalanced personal space. Your "Artist's Statement" is probably the most well-written piece I've ever read [and I've read hundreds of them] in a genre that usually expresses more confusion than clarity.

  • Laura
    Laura Hamilton, Ontario
    Yes, I agree with Sam Robinson. The artist's description of how she works is phenomenal & can be easily understood - actually in a way taught - to non-artists & artists alike! Her depiction of what society has been living for the past years is so intensely realistic & human, Ms. McCauley describes so poetically. I'm almost feeling like printing part of it & putting it up framed on my living-room wall! Bravo Eva McCauley for your words, work & music! What a talent!

    Yes, I agree with Sam Robinson. The artist's description of how she works is phenomenal & can be easily understood - actually in a way taught - to non-artists & artists alike! Her depiction of what society has been living for the past years is so intensely realistic & human, Ms. McCauley describes so poetically. I'm almost feeling like printing part of it & putting it up framed on my living-room wall! Bravo Eva McCauley for your words, work & music! What a talent!

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