Splendid Isolation: at Elora Centre for the Arts
I will be having a solo exhibition of my new painting series, "Splendid Isolation", at the Elora Centre of the Arts in Ontario this spring/summer, from May 26th until July 24th in 2022. The opening reception will take place on Saturday, May 28th from 2 to 4 p.m. and there will be live music--a traditional irish music session with fiddlers, tin whistlers, mandolin players, guitarists and tenor banjo players!
"Splendid Isolation" is a series of paintings created in my studios in Elmira, ON and Bear River, N.S., from 2020 to 2021, exploring themes of isolation and transience during the surreal time of a global pandemic, unveiling the beauty that arises from creating in solitude.
In his novel, “Kafka on the Shore”, Haruki Murakami wrote:
“Once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in.”
The paintings in this exhibition are my response to the pandemic of 2020/21, during which there has been an ongoing struggle to make sense of our shifting world.
These paintings embrace uncertainty and a feeling of fragmentation, while also unveiling a beauty arising from creating in solitude, resulting in transitional realizations and insights, during a time of conflicting political tensions, and personal and social constraints. This is reflected in the paintings through strangely lit environments of strongly contrasting light and colour, inhabited by solitary figures.
We are living through a life-transforming time with an unseen enemy that is grim and frightening, yet strangely abstract. I am attempting to cope with this reality through the act of painting; this is the way I understand and process the world.
I have responded by simplifying my life-- paring it down--to just me, my paints, panels and the solitude of my studio. The isolation I have experienced daily in my studio has been a splendid isolation--a time of rich contemplation and feelings of gratitude. Isolation became a vehicle for introspection and creativity.
Over the course of these past two years of the pandemic, I have noticed that the things that are most important to me have become amplified: things like human connection, the time and space to create, to meditate, to slow down and be in the moment. Making art helps me to process my memories, experiences, to find connections and to understand the world. All my paintings contain the echoes and scars of my life.
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.
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 pandemic continues, my studio feels, even more than usual, like a place of urgency and regeneration.
I have been using a combination of printmaking and painting techniques when executing my paintings. When I create my monotypes I use a reductive approach, pulling away dark ink with my fingers to create light and reveal form. I’ve been using a similar process in my paintings, creating imagery that emerges mysteriously in a haptic way.
This is conducive to creating a powerful feeling of light, created by strong tonal and colour contrasts: acrid greens and yellows, purples and saturated reds. introspection and creativity.
The intensity of the colours and strong lights and darks in the paintings are deliberately oppositional, juxtaposing warm and cool colours. I have employed intensity of colour to mirror the intensity of feeling that comes with recreating a memory of a time and place, while the outside world is in turmoil.
Paradoxically, this calamitous and challenging year has offered me many more small and unexpected gifts than has any year I can recall. Life feels so fragile these days, on both a global and personal level, yet so much sweetness has emerged from all the struggle, anxiety and adversity
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.
I'm very pleased to be exhibiting it in Ontario this year, particularly since this series was funded by the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund. Many thanks to the RWAF for funding this project!
FACE TO FACE
Sept.1st, 2021 - Oct. 15th 2021
An installation of 48 paintings and 5 hand-pulled prints
Sissiboo Coffee Roaster & Gallery, Bear River, N.S.
FACE to FACE
Artist - Eva McCauley
Face to Face is an installation of 48 mixed media paintings of Canadian youth spanning a period of over 150 years.
Sixteen of the images are contemporary oil portraits of University of Waterloo students, and rest are images inspired by historical photographs from the past which have been reimagined using layers of oil paint, gouache, encaustic (melted beeswax) and photo transfers.
The original installation was created in 2017, 150 years after confederation, to reflect Canada’s continuing human diversity to provoke questions and to invite positive dialogue about Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations. In 2021, I added 5 new paintings to the installation. For me, it continues to have immediate relevance.
Reactions to the Canada 150 celebrations were mixed in Canada. Some felt it was a celebration of Indigenous cultural genocide and this reaction prompted debate and dialogue about the treatment of Indigenous peoples during Canada’s colonial past and present. My hope is that this installation evokes an honest and complex narrative of European colonization that rejects 1867 as a useful historical starting point, that acknowledges the trauma and injustice experienced by Indigenous peoples and that argues against stereotypes in our depictions of the past.
The 48 paintings in the installation form a loosely constructed non-linear narrative that combines the historical mixed media images with 16 contemporary portraits. Historical photographs were found in the collections of Library & Archives Canada and the City of Waterloo Archives. Several are from the work of Jacob Gaukel Stroh, a Waterloo historian and archeologist of German descent, and were taken in the Kitchener-Waterloo region of Ontario from the late 1800s to the 1930s.
The images inspired by the historical photographs have been juxtaposed and arranged to create an ambiguous narrative that can be interpreted in different ways, with the intention of inviting reflection and dialogue. This construction questions the idea of photography as an accurate record of history and reality, and the influence it can have on memory, which is a mutable thing at the best of times. Oil paint and beeswax on the surface of the images further blur distinction and distance the viewer from the images, encouraging shifting interpretations of the elements depicted in each. The reviewer is invited to reflect on the effect of photography on our collective memory and on our interpretation and understanding of historical events.
My inclusion of the images of Indigenous youth in this series of paintings (many of them taking place within residential schools) is a gesture of respect and recognition with the intention of honouring them as Canada’s original inhabitants, acknowledging the genocide and trauma that they have been subjected to through the process of "colonization", and supporting the process of rebuilding and reclaiming what was lost. This unfortunate and tragic historical legacy has had, and continues to have, a profound effect on the quality of life of Indigenous people.
The 16 contemporary portraits are oil paintings of my students in the Fine Art Department at the University of Waterloo, whose ethnic and cultural roots are varied. Over the years, I have been struck by the increasing ethnic diversity amongst my students, as well as by their generosity of spirit and openness. I am grateful for their inspiration and collaboration in this project.
I am grateful to the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund for supporting “The Face to Face Project”.
Oct. 16 - November 31st, 2021
Sissiboo Coffee Roaster & Gallery, Annapolis Royal, N.S.
An exhibition of oil paintings at
Annapolis Royal, N.S.
April 24 – July 31st
Opening: Saturday April 24th
Catalogue is available to accompany the exhibition.
I will be giving an artist talk in the main gallery on Sat. July 31st at 2 p.m.
and you are welcome to attend!
(Numbers of attendees restricted due to COVID guidelines--please pre-register to reserve your place).
Hope to see you!