Beginning the Process- Fiona Smyth

I begin my process for this project with a vague understanding of the famous manuscripts of Shan Hai Jing and therefore try to enter the narrative with my own interpretations of the meanings of landscape, body, and mythology.

 I’m also referencing paintings I’ve created in the past titled The Mouth, and my “sleeping woman” imagery. The Mouth paintings revealed a topsy turvy world of no sky, a cavernous landscape. The sleeping woman is a recurring motif of changing meaning but mainly an image contrasting resilience and permeability. 
I’ve recently moved closer to Toronto’s High Park and I’m seeking inspiration there as well.

 I am not creating preparatory sketches or under drawings but working with liquid acrylic directly on cold press watercolour paper. The intent of working so directly is to create an immediacy and urgency in these works. I will allow the images to grow intuitively.


Why this theme Shan Hai Jing?

Although our media is different, I find a lot of similarities in the elements used in our art. Myths, transformations, hybrids, fantasies and absurdities. They all collide to become one entity. What are the roots, inspiration and the "hidden motivation" behind these works?

From my viewpoint, it might come from two sources: within and from around. Within is in-born, from heritage and genetic information passes from generation to generation. From memories the first day we set foot in this world, stories from our ancestors, stories told in books and by our parents. In the physical world we grow, it is changing everyday. Things, people, events come and go. Yet they will re-emerge again in another form. It's a cycle. We live our lives between real and imaginary. We try to understand, compare and make sense of our being. We come to a point of compromising, we put our thoughts in the work.

I believe the work is produced because of the necessity to balance. Our physical world is full of limitations, difficulties, and imperfections. We release the negative energies through our imaginary world, which is always malleable, a place to escape to, a place to recharge and find the courage to face another day. The imaginary world is full of delight, full of surprises and self-willed as we create it.

Shan Hai Jing was written in China over two thousand years ago. A compilation of early geography and myth, it is a crisp narration between factual and fictional. I have different understanding of Shan Hai Jing at different stages but as I grow older, Shan Hai Jing gradually becomes a term of mine standing for a grotesque, fantastical, an ancient and future world. Behind the myriads of mythical masks Shan Hai Jing is never far away from human's cultural and political foot prints.

I live like a time traveller dwelling in these thoughts. Shan Hai Jing can be associated with anywhere and anything. I feel Shan Hai Jing in the parks I am photographing. I feel Shan Hai Jing in both Erik and Fiona's work. Focusing on this theme, I am very eager to see the thoughts, thinking process and the resulting artwork from the three of us.