Strange Dream is a 1900 square foot paper mural exhibited at the Art Gallery of Alberta's Manning Hall space in 2014.
The installation is comprised of 210 separate three foot square panels of white kraft paper, each hand-drawn with an acetone-based ink, and then pasted to the wall in a grid format with a removable glue made from potato and tapioca starch cooked with water.
The initial concept sketch was made to scale, and then gridded out into 3'x3' squares in Photoshop to translate into the life-size drawings. I drew them all in six-panel groupings on the floor of my small studio in Edmonton. I transported the mural in 30 separate rolls of paper, one for each column in the grid.
My work explores composition, narrative, and alternate realities through the language of comics. I am drawn to comics and how they describe the world in contrasting ways: the Real (readers are able to follow a narrative and/or characters which draw them in, despite unlikely events and strange visuals), and the Unreal (strict observational or true-to-life depictions are not mandatory, and magic realism is encouraged).
I refer to dream imagery, hallucinations, and alternative states of consciousness in my drawings, since they offer an interesting opportunity to explore unexpected narrative and environments which feature both descriptive and abstracted elements. Since these situations are often surreal, I am able to concentrate more fully on manipulating the viewer’s perception of the work through experimental compositions, markmaking, and depictions.
I have been working concurrently on creating my comic series, entitled Headspaces, and exploring the environments within these dreamlike comics on a larger scale. I find landscapes in dreams and hallucinations so fascinating because they keep you on guard; they contain information grounded in reality, but this information has been altered so that the familiar becomes slightly off-putting and a bit eerie. I am interested in recreating this mental space both through small-scale drawings, and increasingly, large-scale environmental drawings, installations, and maquettes. Being confronted by strange environments sends us subliminal question marks—where am I? What am I doing here? Why does this place feel so familiar? Why do I feel so strange? With the large-scale landscape works, I want to synthesize a feeling of simultaneous familiarity and unfamiliarity within my viewers.
The project in the Manning Hall space is related to these concepts. It consists of a large-scale hallucinatory landscape drawing covering all three walls.The dreamy landscape features a thick forest complete with flora and fauna.
The magnitude of the drawing and the overall pattern-like effect of the environment in that enclosed space draws the viewer in. From there, viewers start to notice smaller-scaled aspects of the work on a more human level—patterns in tree trunks, strange creatures, watching eyes in the bushes, etc.