Calgary's Contemporary Art Gallery

Todd West


The processes I go through in the construction of a painting can be
as a search, both conceptually and in practice. Painting to me is a search which uses personal mythos and metaphors as the catalyst for the work and also as the point of departure.


My paintings begin with an idea, never concrete or fully resolved. Through the process of painting and an almost archeological act of discovery, the idea evolves along with the painting. I fluctuate between the construction and destruction of imagery. The choice of the marks and the chance of the marks created by the manipulation of the paint both serve to develop the imagery. How much conscious control I take and how much unconscious chaos I allow through the act of painting all coalesce into the finished result.


There is a constant struggle between me and the paint; my critical faculties versus the accident of the medium. A symbiotic relationship results with me influencing the paint, while the paint in turn influences me. Ultimately I paint myself into the painting, then paint myself back out of the piece, allowing the viewer to step in and experience my painting both intellectually and viscerally.


My work reflects one’s search for purpose and place, both psychologically and physically. It’s a perpetual search for the Holy Grail or the Promised Land; but the pursuit is always encumbered by seemingly overwhelming obstacles. I stage this search in a metaphysical environment that expresses that we as individuals do not occupy the space, but rather that this internal space not only occupies us, but dominates us. My paintings serve to demonstrate the psychological turmoil inherent in the search for that “something” 


Through my physical painting process I add numerous thick and thin layers of paint onto the support. I then scrape and gouge, incise and peel my way back into the body of the painting; making necessary revisions and corrections. I repeat this cycle again and again; adding and subtracting the medium, mending the paint skin or removing a cancerous expansion. At times the surface is an inch thick with paint, while in other areas it has been scraped back and reduced to reveal the weave of the canvas. The end result is a paint surface riddled with history; one showing my own hand in the work and also the indomitable will of the paint.