To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
The reverie alone will do,
If bees are few.
To make a prairie (1755) by Emily Dickinson
4 musicians, 14 composers, one country, one project
My Mosaique Project started August 12, 2018, when Lori, ever watchful for Kaz material, suggested I listen to a CBC interview with the piano quartet, Ensemble Made In Canada, who uses art as part of their performance. I was immediately taken with their music, their energy, their ideas and especially with their Mosaique Project. Each of these performances included an audience participation drawing component. I couldn’t help myself. I emailed the group the next day telling them how compelling their music and project are and to let them know about my ‘Drawing Music’ work. I also said that I would be at their February concert. Their reply was swift and enthusiastic.
Fast forward to February 2019. The concert was inspiring and gloriously multi-faceted. Five weeks later, I finished the 14 polyptychs from the 41 pieces (each 5.5” x 8.5”, ink on parchment paper) that I had drawn during the concert. Although my initial focus was on drawing the music, I was also transported into the realm of the project; bringing imagination collectively into existence. Each composition provides a panoramic view of locations and a glimpse into the worlds in which these musicians create and perform. Through the drawing, I listened to the music, frame by piece, and explored the colours and images of the environments and sensations presented. What began as an encounter, unfolded as a journey.
Journey notes: I completed each piece in the order of the concert’s program. The list of ‘10 things’ helped me think about the narrative. Associating the 14 pieces to the 10 ‘things’ was by chance, the order of the concert pieces to the list of 10 ‘things’ but somehow fit (see below thing #4 Chaos). The ‘K’ (Kaz) comments briefly describe what I envisioned from each composition.
All 41 pieces are linked to the Portfolio – Recent Works / The Mosaique Project.
10 Things I’ve Learned (so far)
I used to have trouble starting a new piece of art. My nudge mantra was: Just Do It! Now there is no such hesitation. I seem to have developed a continuous stream of ideas fueled by natural and nurtured curiosity indulged by luxurious stretches of available time.
Starting this project was effortless and the path already mapped out. From the Ensemble’s website, I was able to revisit the music through the site’s musical excerpts and interviews.
1. Richard Mascall “Petroglyphs” (Ontario)
K: Participating in the intrigue of 3,000-year-old Canadian rock engravings.
2. David Braid “Great Bear River Blues” (Northwest Territories)
K: Feeling the visceral lushness and freshness of rain, river and forest
Connection brings our disparate selves familiarly together. Connection illuminates those things that we can individually tap into and experience collectively. It exposes something of our essence and lets us recognize our similarities.
Each composer connects us musically to a specific Canadian location through their own, unique interpretations. I felt the connection to the music and to the project by tapping into a similar and familiar process.
3. Ana Sokolović “Splendor Sine Occasu” (British Columbia)
K: Envisioning the magnificence of the then-and-now world of the west coast.
4. William Rowson “Short Variations on Waves” (Nova Scotia)
K: Feeling the flow and energy and connecting this piece with my own past quest to draw water
3. The Ride and the Road
Somewhere along the way, I realized, as the artist, I have the luxury of enjoying the process of making art while you, the viewer, at least initially, only get to see the results. By process, I mean; the problems to solve, the mental gymnastics to negotiate, the fear-factor failures and sleep-inducing ‘successes’ to hurdle, the energy to keep fueled, and that magnificent rush of joy and timeless calm felt every now and again.
I hope that my story will help bring you more into my world and/or explore other parts of yours just as I have experienced more of the composers’ and Ensemble’s worlds through this project.
5. Sarah Slean “Johnny Pippy of Pouch Cove, on a Bicycle at Dawn” (Newfoundland)
K: The whimsy and peace felt while bicycling through a village like Pouch Cove.
A long-time friend describes it this way: "chaos theory is really about finding the underlying order in apparently random data”. Our brains have a natural and remarkable tendency to try an make sense of very disparate things. Think about how we can see pictures and images in clouds. Creatively, a technical term for this is ‘forced connections’. For me, curiosity + chance + time = connections.
Wabi-sabi (accepting the world as imperfect, unfinished, and transient, and then going deeper) is another way that I work with missteps and chaos.
6. Vivian Fung “Shifting Landscapes” (Alberta)
K: This was a tough image to crack. It was hard finding a way into this fast roller coaster rises and falls of musical phrasing. But loving puzzles as I do, I found this musical piece, like abstract art, energizing and fun to interpret.
I often think about the poem by Ronna Bloom entitled “The More” - excerpt: If you carry a frame, everything’s a picture. / And outside the frame, more picture. / And outside the more, more.
This focused, five-week project helped me to slow everything way down and really look. At this pace, unexpected and illuminating elements of the piece simmer and bubble up to the surface. When I saw more, there was more to see.
7. Julie Doiron “Blessed” (New Brunswick)
K: This soft, melodic, flowing, slow sound suggested curves and pastoral colours to me.
During this project, I discovered the art term ‘slow painting’. These paintings reveal themselves quietly over time. When line and colour continuously swell into images and images condense into ever-changing meaning. I know as an artist, this phenomenon is a mesmerizing and energizing part of the process. And inside this, the sense of timelessness is palpable.
In the ‘Nbiidaasamishkaamin’ work, there are the added elements of cultural heritage, location, and musical interpretation expanding the reaches of the artistic playground.
8. Barbara Croall “Nbiidaasamishkaamin/We Come Paddling Here” (Gichigami-ziibi miinawaa Nayanno-nibiimaang Gichigamiin / St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes)
K: A glimpse into indigenous people (for this work the Odawa people) and culture adds to the riches and creation in the present times.
When an idea or approach begins feeling stuck or stale, my best tool is to step away from the work. Stuckness tells me that I’ve fallen into a habitual pattern. This never good for energy levels and creativity. Whether invoked by design or by chance, I believe that change provides abundant opportunities for evolution.
At this point in the project, I am just over halfway and am starting to feel that I need a renewed direction. In this case, I chose to simplify my work. I stripped away background distractions and focused on the drawing. I felt pretty uneasy about going this raw but realize that it did the trick for me.
9. Nicolas Gilbert “Ilôts” (Quebec)
K: In his interview, Nicolas describes his pieces as investigating the paradox of landscape and city. I love exploring the myriad paths of paradox as well.
8. The Rhythm
Refreshed and ready, I settle back into a revitalized rhythm. I’m back in the zone. Here there are brief moments of pure watcher-mode when the elements of the piece are building and I’m just the observer. Levels of meaning materialize and evaporate. It all so fluid and then the fluidity crashes down like waves on a shore and I’m back to the solidity of my art room and back to my sense of me as the artist. I’ve come to learn that this back and forth changing is an integral part of this rhythm and this process and it continues to challenge and amaze me.
10. Andrew Downing “Red River Fantasy” (Manitoba)
K: The bright, strong colours of the woven Metis, Red River sash spoke to me of the history and resolve of this community and this music ready to inspire here, today.
There is always a beginning, middle and end. The end of a ‘thing’ presents its own unique qualities; from the sadness of seeing the project end, to anticipation of seeing what it all looks like finished. One thing I’ve come to learn, is that if I don’t fully finish a work, then I will never finish it. The energy and momentum of unfinished work are gone. When I try to go back it’s a struggle and usually an unsatisfactory result. So I push myself to finish what I start at that time - good, bad or indifferent.
11. Kevin Lau “Race to the Midnight Sun” (Yukon Territory)
K: Kevin talks about the churning, restless, kaleidoscopic textures of the Yukon River. Hmmm, kaleidoscopes, maybe another project.
12. Samy Moussa “Orpheus in Nunavut” (Nunavut)
K: Portraying the reverence and majesty of the Nunavut vista as I feel Samy’s piece did musically.
10. Into the Words
Once the visual part of a project has ended, I step back and reflect. Throughout the project, I have been able to happily wallow in the internal. Giving the work words, even if it’s just a title, invites me to see the work from the outside and to revel in this other art form, the written word. It also furthers my desire to be clear and authentic.
13 Nicole Lizée “Bessborough Hotel” (Saskatchewan)
K: Feeling the chill and spectacle of this haunted hotel.
14. Darren Sigesmund “Kensington Ceilidh” (Prince Edward Island)
K: A jig in PEI and Canadian tartan colours against a background land and sea mixed with Miro-like visual interpretation of jazz.