Whenever I want the ability to focus entirely on studio activity, I move to Mexico and engage in a customized Studio Residency. Within this Residency, I work on creative problems and challenges that arise in my regular studio life. Being far away in a new culture helps me escape the work life and administrative routines that occupy me in my home city of Victoria, BC, Canada. In a distant culture, I’m able to situate my studio and practice so as to more fully engage in solitary, focused creative production, away from the distractions of regular life.
For the Spring of 2017, I chose to live and work in Guanajuato City, Mexico as my creative research Residency. This is a very unique historical city with ancient narrow streets, and buildings situated on hills accessible only by very steep narrow stairways.
My wife and I have leased a casa situated on the hill overlooking the city. I’ve set up my digital studio in the largest room and work here about 6-8 hours a day on creative visual issues, projects, and images based on the research themes I’ve set for myself.
In order to best take advantage of the time I spend here, I’ve set up a basic schedule for myself. Each month, I try to create 12 paintings and also participate in 2 international juried exhibitions. My goal for the entire Residency is to create at least 36 new artworks and participate in at least a dozen international juried exhibitions. So far, I’ve been able to maintain this schedule. Although this basic work takes up a large part of my studio activity, the bigger research journey down here is to solve major aesthetic issues dealing with my personal visual style and learn better how to create images that have significant philosophical impact. Daily studio activity on focused themes in my artwork helps me to work through the philosophical issues that my practice involves.
My journey to Guanajuato has a research purpose. The city itself contains a number of historical cathedrals which I intend on using as sources for my current studio theme. This theme focuses on the psychology of religion, the use of voluntary ideology through religious practice as expressed through historical Christianity and especially through its medieval and Baroque expressions. I am not a religious person and practice no structured religion. But I am intrigued with the visual aspects of historical Christianity. The city of Guanajuato is a perfect center for this thematic interest. The city itself has four large historical cathedrals which offer me the possibility of ethnographic research inside these great engines of religious spirituality.
I try to do ethnographic study inside these cathedrals for a few hours each day. I enter them, investigate their great interiors and try to find what I call, “artifacts of eternity.” I take photographs and do drawings of particular visual structures that interest me. I take these back to my studio and reflect on these as sources for my images. As I work to develop new techniques, methodologies, and visual practises, I’ll try to document and articulate in more detail how this visual study affects the studio issues dealing with the creation of images that have significant philosophical impact.
Based on this cathedral ethnography, I have started a series which I call, “Eternity.” The visual themes that have started to emerge from this ethnographic study are strangely complex, but have given birth to some oddly enigmatic artwork.
These artworks have arisen out of my ethnographic study inside the cathedrals and deal with the psychology and practice of religion in complex and philosophical ways. It will take me some time to understand this entire phenomenon and to document it in an article which helps explain it in an articulate way.
Guanajuato has proven to be a most interesting place for an art research Residency and has resulted in the production of work from my studio which I think has some degree of significance. I will continue to use the resources of Guanajuato as well as its position of exile from my home country as a place for further studio exploration.