I’ve always been drawn to landscape painting, although that can take many forms. I think of my “Earth Paintings” of the late 1980s as landscapes. Landscapes offer opportunities for statements and commentary about the relationship between culture and nature. Landscape painting, even if it’s not al fresca, also encourages a more thoughtful relationship with the Earth and natural forces. I love how landscapes create “space”, even when they also have a lot of “surface”. This produces a tension between the illusion and the actuality that has always appealed to me.
In the Earth Paintings I used sand and gravel I found in the wild, and mixed them with Acrylic emulsion to build up a thick surface. I also use sand, gravel and raw pigment to build the ground of the new landscapes. I like texture, and so my paintings have over time become more and more like bas reliefs.
I grew up in Manitoba, and the Big Sky of the Great Western Plains has had a lasting influence on me. My favourite things to paint are skies. I do not want to spend a lot of time painting cars, trucks and tiny little people. I tried that in “Sky Should be Blue, No?”: much too time consuming. Essentially, painting cars is not what my paintings are about. I used collage in “Ghost Town”, and I was forever printing small images from the computer to use as cut-outs to manipulate on the surface. It was an obvious next step to incorporate more collage into my paintings, especially if it involved images of corporate brands and commodities. With Google Image, if I wanted a picture of a red 1965 Buick Wildcat in profile, I could probably find one, and then print it exactly the size I needed.
Now I am painting more and more in a non-representational way, but I still enjoy working on the landscapes. They allow me a wide range of expression both serious and comic.
-Michael de Gruchy Haslam