Neil McClelland: Essential Travel
Slide Room Gallery
March 5 - April 11 2022
302-733 Johnson Street, Victoria, BC
My “highway” paintings explore the sensations, perceptions and meanings of travelling through landscapes, a journeying through space and place, time and transformation, movement and transition, stillness and motion, and identity and belonging. My position is that of the driver but also of the vicarious passenger: I draw upon source imagery from my partner Kay’s quickly snapped photos and randomly captured video from the passenger seat. Much of the material was gathered during essential travel trips that we made during the COVID-19 pandemic. Driving along these highways, the landscape feels like a sped-up experience, one of being immersed in a rushing monotony of getting from here to there but also of continuously encountering the sublime. I think of Canadian poet Earle Birney’s “Bushed,” in which the protagonist is overwhelmed by “a mountain/so big his mind slowed when he looked at it.” I want to slow down the mind to create an experience of looking that conveys a sense of travel and movement but also the slowing down that happens when making and looking at paintings. Clouds in the upper part of the compositions stand in for thought bubbles, representing a state of mind or reflectivity, that we can fill up with ourselves, our imaginations, or even an absence of words.
What can be experienced along these highways that cut through lands and waterways is the traditional settler Canadian visual iconography of landscape and the sense of a vast and possibly dangerous wilderness, but there are also the countless human interventions, displacements, and dispossessions that mark these spaces. For me, uncertainties around home, place, and belonging arise. I work with these themes from my perspective as a settler Canadian of Irish, English, and Scottish descent from Quebec who relocated “out west” many years ago and now travels the highways between my homes in British Columbia and Alberta.