SA: What can you say about this body of work on display?
CC: The Birthday Party Paintings is a body of 17 12"x12" oil paintings on board. They took 3 years to complete. Many if not all of the paintings are the result of multiple repainting. Sometimes repainted with new imagery, sometimes painted over with colour blocking, the final images and/or portions of the final images are layered and textured. I think this is a result of time. I gave myself enormous amounts of time to complete each piece. I've been reading a lot of contemporary American writers recently (Wallace, Franzen) and they often write or speak about the importance of devoting long periods of time to specific "problems". The importance of thinking about and around a single concept for a long time. I was very conscious of this idea and chose to make this commitment to the work. I gave myself unlimited time to wrestle with problems related to the image, the use of paint as an art and the source material. I think this approach makes for a strong, honest and thorough body of work.
SA: How did you feel about the opening?
CC: I was very happy about the opening. People came and the paintings were well received.
SA: Why these particular images?
CC: The source material was a series of birthday party photographs taken by my mother. Although we have a younger sister, the kids are primarily my brother and myself as well as our various friends and cousins. I chose these images for several reasons. One is that I don't at age 44 have any children of my own. And so I've missed out on the transition from child to mother somehow. I've had to come to a place of compassion and forgiveness for my parents not through the apparently difficult experience of having children, but by other more abstract means. Also, when I started these paintings I was in early recovery from alcoholism and I found the sweetness of the images and the obvious sweetness of the woman who took those photos a fascinating contrast to what I remembered about my childhood which was marked by my father's alcoholism. These paintings are not solely a reflection of my childhood, but more a consideration of everything I sacrificed because of my alcoholism. I won't go into specifics about those sacrifices, but anyone who has struggled in the same way will know what I mean. Primarily I'm referring to the loss of self that happens with excessive use of alcohol. Alcohol becomes a mask or a disguise that at first is very comforting and very freeing, but it eventually becomes a trap and is very difficult to remove. Alcoholism becomes who you are and it effects your entire life.
SA: Did you choose to display which pieces and arranged them in that order yourself? I noticed image repetitions which I thought was very clever. Are there more works in the 'same collection' that did not make it in the gallery space?
CC: Yes, I chose the arrangement and I'm glad you noticed the repetitions. There was one other painting that I did not hang. I felt it was too negative and since a member of my family was attending the opening I didn't want to upset her.
SA: When do you know when a piece is finished?
CC: I don't know. A piece is finished...at least in this group of work...after a lot of struggle. I think it might be finished when I look at the painting and it feels right in a way that is electric.
SA: Are the pieces for sale?
CC: The pieces are for sale.
SA: Where is your favourite place? - to create?
CC: Somewhere private but also where I can have friends stop by for coffee and talk.
SA: So what about birthdays?
CC: Birthdays are a celebration of life!
SA: What happens now?
CC: What happens now is that I am getting ready to spend the winter in France with my partner Steve. We're very excited but also nervous because of course our French is atrocious. I plan to write, probably documenting my experiences in a blog. I'm thinking I will also concentrate on making drawings, but we shall see.
Exhibition runs through Sunday, October 19th, 2014
Xchanges Gallery | 2333 Government Street, Suite 6E, Victoria | Tel 250 382 0442
Gallery Hours: Saturdays & Sundays 10 to 4pm or by appointment