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Saw Gallery: Exploring the Boundaries of “Imageland” with Colin Muir Dorward

By Alejandro Bustos on March 11, 2013

Everyone knows that paintings are inanimate objects.  What if this commonly-held view, however, was incorrect, and the images on a canvas were actual living entities.

This intriguing idea lies behind the latest exhibit by painter Colin Muir Dorward, which is currently taking place at the Saw Gallery at 67 Nicholas Street.

Dorward’s thought experiment is as follows: Envisage a world in which images are parasitic entities that attach themselves to a medium, with the aim of using that medium for the purpose of replicating.  If the medium is the human mind, then images can use thought as a way to grow.

“(The paintings) allow me to explore what I call Imageland,” explains Dorward, as he describes his artistic vision of images being alive in the human mind.  This clever concept can be seen in the painting Mealtime (see above), arguably the best piece in the exhibit.

“The inhabitants of the painting are one-eyed cyclopes,” says Dorward, who also agrees that they look a lot like him.  “Living in a two dimensional plane of a painting, they only need one eye to get around so (the single eye) it’s a bit of a joke.”

Humour aside, if you pay close attention to the painting, you will notice that the “meal” is comprised of paint colours, brushes and other art supplies.  The cyclopes are thus literally eating the painting process, while simultaneously being the painting.

In Grievance Calculator by Colin Muir Dorward.

Once you understand this perspective, then the other paintings make a lot more sense, such as the In Grievance Calculator, which got Dorward shortlisted last year for the RBC Canadian Painting Competition.  If you think of the painting as a living process rather than a static two-dimensional representation, then you can imagine that the image on the canvas is somehow painting itself.

Besides pursuing his own work, Dorward is also interested in helping other young artists get funding.  While speaking with his girlfriend who is an economist, the Edmonton-born painter wondered whether the economic ideas behind micro-financing could be applied to the art world.

“Even emerging artists’ funds are for artists who are already fairly established,” said Dorward, who received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Ottawa.  “Some painter in Montreal who is starving doesn’t need a $20,000 grant from the Canada Council of the Arts.  What they need is $2,000 that will allow them to pay their rent for three months.”

To help other young artists receive difficult to find funding, Dorward came up with the idea of the Destroy Art Fund.  Echoing the origins behind the Burning Man festival, the idea is to obtain a financial sponsor for the Fund, and then gather submissions from emerging artists whose art work can be destroyed by such forces as fire, cutting or crushing.  Chosen selections would be displayed at the sponsored exhibit, with the winning submission being destroyed in a public performance at the show’s conclusion.

Quoting Star Wars Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi on his web site – “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine”. – Dorward explains that by sacrificing the winning piece it can live on in the collective memory, gathering more attention than it may otherwise have done.

“It’s been on the back burner since I have been in school, but I have had some interest in Brazil about my idea,” says Dorward about the project.  He quickly adds, however, that the project is far from being implemented.

In the meantime, you can catch his solo exhibit at the Saw Gallery, which is free and runs until March 23.