artist statement

Necessities of Life

Necessities of Life explores the poetics of big box mall signage in the context of the cultural landscape. This is the fourth series in an investigation into suburban sprawl outside Toronto, which depicts an environment based on the unsustainable, and already collapsing, car culture. The language of the big box mall signage is a deeply significant description of our needs and desires. It is also an expression of our denial of the impending global ecological crisis.

The big box mall is an institution in control of its access and activity. Marshall McLuhan talks about buildings as "self-contained communication systems; the very architecture is a dynamic medium that conveys the message of a high demand for social order." He says that "architecture shapes and rearranges the patterns of human association and community." (Marshall McLuhan; Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man 1964) How does something as imposing and monolithic as a big box mall fall so beneath our notice as to become almost invisible? Institutions operate to control what we are able to see. To view a building as a medium enables us to see its social function. (ref: The imperial Palace: the palace that rules; Song Li,Harbin Institute of Technology)

The process of composing the paintings involves moving within the landscape and engaging in the local culture over a period of time. I am interested in the myriad relationships between significant objects, symbols and events: texture and temperature of air, weather, smell and sound, distances and the way things sit in space, the effect of human activity on the landscape and in reverse, the effect of the landscape on culture. My goal as a painter is to develop and increase my ability to be present in order to create a visual language for these experiences. My artistic intention is that each painting, alone or in the context of each series of paintings, conveys to the viewer this sense of time.

Martha Eleen 2009

Necessities of Life was exhibited at the Architecture Gallery, Harbourfront, Toronto, 2010;
Hokkaido Garou Gallery, Sapporo, Japan, 2010;
16 paintings, 16" x 16", oil on wood

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