New Works
Mixed Media and Installation
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February 5, 2013

Green Night exhibition 2013

After several years of touching on the theme of the transformation of the world through night vision technology, I decided to pull together the works created so far into one exhibition. The works created so far are all paintings of varying scales from the intimate to large scale images.  It seems to be opening up a whole range of images so theme suggests many more to come.


Filed under: General
November 9, 2007

Building a Culture of Creativity

During the recent provincial election I became so frustrated with the lack of discussion on any issues that related to the arts or culture in Manitoba that I finally wrote a letter to each of the main parties challenging them on their arts policies or lack thereof as well as their general knowledge or support for the arts.

Only the NDP bothered to reply and their answer was basically the same material that had already been released at various press conferences. That there should be such widespread indifference on these issues should be no surprise, I suppose, given the general lack of understanding on the part of government about the role of the arts in our communities.

Recent articles by Margaret Atwood and Yann Martel attempting to shame the federal government into some kind of response for its indifference or what appears to be downright hostility to issues that affect people working in the arts seemed to have had no affect. And there seems to be no groundswell of support for their concerns.

On the provincial level it is generally understood that no matter who is in power the cultural portfolio is a problem, both in terms of who should get it, and whether there is really much political capital to be gained by holding such a ministerial position.

Most of us working in the arts are acutely aware that politicians love to trot out the arts when it to convenient to brag about quality of life issues but otherwise are generally silent on arts policy. Part of the problem is the general lack of interest or knowledge on the part of politicians concerning cultural issues and part of the problem is that most artists would never consider running for public office. Unlike the business or legal community who are well represented at various governmental levels, artists lack a strong voice around the cabinet table. This means that they have to rely on advocates who are prepared to defend arts issues when they are not practitioners themselves and are left trying to bring forward concepts that have often been developed by the deputy or assistant deputy minister.

There is no doubt that even with the most enlightened government artists are thought of as some exotic creature (if they are thought of at all) that lives by a different set of rules and has values most ministers just don’t understand. Part of this is the old 19th view of the Bohemian artist living in Paris, eking out a living by selling an occasional work and pouring every last cent into the next project. Issues like family values are obviously very difficult to square around such notions, as outdated as they may be.

There was a time however when artists were considered important to many royal families and politicians as well as to the power of the Church. Artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo not only created important paintings and sculptures they also worked as military advisers, designed fortifications as well as urban spaces and important architectural edifices.

While most contemporary artists will tolerate their diminished role and just try to get on with their work, I believe there are deeper problems within our society that suggest we ignore our creative people at our peril. It came as no surprise to me that a recent study by the Conference Board ranked Canada very low in the area of innovation. We do not have what I would call a culture of creativity in this country in general and our province, while perhaps more enlightened than some, is probably not much more advanced in this area. There is no doubt that it is far easier to cut down some more trees or dig more minerals out of the ground that innovate with new products or concepts.

When I returned to this country in the 1970’s there was much discussion about Canada’s poor record on Research and Development and recent statistics seem to indicate that among the industrialized countries we still spend one of the lowest amounts on R&D.

To use Japan as an example, we have a country whose relatively short period of industrialization was cut short in the aftermath of WWII. With its industry largely destroyed by Allied bombing and its society disrupted by the American occupation, they had to rebuild themselves socially as well as industrially. Clearly the miracle is that in spite of their meager natural resources they found areas that were untapped technologically, and of course the rest is history.

When Glenn Murray was mayor of Winnipeg he was wise enough to bring Richard Florida to Winnipeg to discuss the concepts behind his book the Rise of the Creative Class. Obviously from a purely social point of view the re-creation of Winnipeg as a destination for creative people could bring new life to many aspects of the local economy. However, there is little indication that his ideas have taken root here.

Attracting creative people is no easy task at the best of times but Elizabeth Nickson writing recently in the Globe and Mail pointed out that Ireland’s recent economic success had its roots in a law that repealed all taxes for artists beginning in 1969. In our current cultural climate such a proposal would probably be received with outrage from everyone else that would feel they also deserve one, and yet the film industry has clearly benefited from generous tax incentives with barely a ripple of complaint.

As is apparent in so many aspects of Canadian society it is hard for the country to hold onto its most talented people. Even in our relatively small arts scene the list of former Manitobans enjoying success elsewhere grows ever longer. It would be a major breakthrough for our province if some daring politician could develop a series of policies that were clearly aimed at retaining our most creative people, helping to find ways of using their creative abilities and creating a culture that would attract innovators of all kinds.

Filed under: General