We went to Matt Wood‘s artist’s talk today, at his installation inside St. Paul’s Church on Bloor. In fact, we got a bonus, because Ruthia Pak Regis gave a separate talk about her paintings. Both are members of the Anglican congregation, and though their styles and methods are different from one another, both said that spiritual expression was important in their work.
We began at Matt Wood’s royal purple cube, set in front of all the pews, at the end of the east aisle. Wood was already addressing 15 to 20 listeners.
His display held two paintings that have already been up for a while and will remain for Lent. Both are 4 feet wide by 5 feet tall, characteristically textured, intuitively-inspired compositions that are largely abstract, but contain unlaboured, freely rendered images, too. Wood’s colours always surprise. They are sometimes naturalistic, sometimes fiercely bold, and in unexpected combinations.
The appearance of accidental, unplanned effects expresses Wood’s theme, a Christian one, of frailty, weakness and imperfection as an aspect of divine strength. He says that “meanings” are often imposed on art after it has been made … as was the case in the titling of his two works on display, The Twelve and Soft Cell. Wood says something that I hear a lot of artists say … “I try not to think too much when I am working”.
Fun fact: the royal purple is an Easter colour, but the exact shade was selected by chance appreciation of a Doritos bag.
Looking at the religious art in the surrounding church, I was struck by the difference between it and Wood’s work. The traditional symbolizes and illustrates a religious story. Wood’s work, his talk suggests, is more of a religious act … a spiritual practice.
Ruthia Pak Regis made similar-sounding comments about her own approach to painting. She uses photographs as reference, but starts every painting without a plan. She tries to follow an inner guide and let the work develop as it will.
Pak Regis mentioned another idea that I hear frequently from intuitive artists; that the practice requires time. We must slow down to see some things. Her work is inspired by natural subjects. In them she sees the divine.
This setting may be old school and conventional, but when you really think about it, the artistic practices of both artists are quite radical.