Totems

Totems

Scott Waters

From July 7th to August 1st
Opening July 9th, 2010 from 7-10pm

Totems is an examination of the ways in which militaria is emblematic of traumatic epiphany in cultural depictions of combat. These paintings, mostly of firearms, start with military themed cinema, narratives in which characters enter into a mythic journey of self-discovery. Many of these films parallel author Joseph Campbell’s notion of the archetypal heroic quest whose central premise is that through a physical and mental journey into the unknown, the hero will gain a new understanding of the world. While I am attempting to address the power these myths hold over susceptible individuals, within this body of work there are counterpoints, pieces that emphasize the tedium and disappointment that often defines soldiering. While dominant social dogma asserts that damage and loss are the principal results of combat there is tension between these notions of damage (and tedium) and the mythic tendency towards revelation as seen in cinema.

Director François Truffaut, author Anthony Swofford and visual artist Nancy Spero have all written about the near impossibility of anti-war image making, asserting that the aesthetic results will trump any critical message. As Swofford writes, all anti-war films are pro-war. To some degree my painting method is an acknowledgement of swofford’s premise but also, this meticulous and highly aesthetic method is a sort of personal confession: The way these objects of destruction are painted is the way I feel about them. The paintings are called “Totems” as they are objects of devotion and of contemplation.

While there is personal culpability built into these works, I am more interested in the relationship between the power of myth and the primal, violent draw that is arguably rooted in humanity’s basest desires: to test ourselves and understand our relation to the universe. This desire might not be ubiquitous but it is nonetheless active within society so it seems important to consider how these motivations are germinated and disseminated and to consider this dialectic between myth and lived experience. Spirituality, transcendence and trauma are the anchors of this project. The environment of warfare – so distant and unknowable and yet so close – is one of the most contentious environments in which to assert the possibility of the almost impossible moment of true transcendence. For this reason it seems the most worthy.

Scott Waters

Scott Waters is a graduate of the Master of Fine Arts Program at York University (2004) and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Victoria (1997). From 1989 to 1992 Waters served as an infantryman in the Third Battalion of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, Bravo “B” Company, stationed in Victoria, British Columbia. His work has been exhibited extensively throughout the Canadian Public Museum System including the Canadian War Museum, The Dunlop Gallery, The McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and upcoming at Art Gallery of South Western Manitoba. In Fall 2006, Cumulus Press published The Hero Book, a hybrid work including Waters’ drawings, paintings and writing about his experience in the Canadian Army.