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The Artists & The Work

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“Different Together”
Oil on Panel, 30” x 40”

Before we initiated the project and before starting my own piece I did some reading as a way of lowering myself into the context. This felt like a part of the gathering in. Then when I received Negik’s work, after spending some time talking with him about it, I simply spent time sitting with the work and taking it in. My initial response was with sound made while looking at the work. I recorded these sounds and then played them back while I made my initial painted marks in response to the sounds. So sound became an intermediary between the two visual images allowing space for the intuitive. Those first marks were abstract, gestural and expressive. They did not represent things as such. I did however want to move in the direction of representational, possibly symbolic imagery, inspired by Negik’s approach. These images began to emerge as if of their own volition from the shapes, lines and colours that had initially arrived in my own painting. A process of making and refining then took off from there. Occasionally during this I would replay the sound recording that I initially made and this served to reconnect me with Negik’s piece.

In considering my approach I wanted to come up with a way that allowed a multidisciplinary arts-based response to the many and complex issues involved in the reconciliation process. And I was very aware that I did not begin to understand what reconciliation is or how you do it. Trusting that the realm of the imagination draws both on intuitive ways of being as well as conscious rational understanding I felt that the image should be at the centre of what I did and that it would provide a synthesizing force. Synthesis and reconciliation seemed like they might be similar and compatible impulses – a weaving together of difference. This honoring of the image was reaffirmed by what I heard and experienced in our initial sweat lodge. I wanted this to be a spiritual journey and one that could connect as fully as possible with the artists who preceded and followed me in the process and with all that had informed the larger Truth and Reconciliation process. This seemed to call for a gathering in and then a letting go.

When the painting seemed finished the final step was to write a poem that drew both on the visual experience as well as reflections on the intangible process of making the work as sources of possible insight with respect to the act of reconciliation. The poem and painting were then passed on to Robert, the artist who followed me.

“How the arrival of this image and its process spoke to me about reconciliation”

Like water you flow from stillness. You can reveal what lies underneath and what is
reflected in you. You find your own way, and your own level.
You dance like light, make things visible, and cast shadows. You are sometimes sharp and defining, sometimes soft like a blanket at twilight.
You come to us when we move slowly, with care, and respect and no fear of collision.
You are there when we sit in circle, in silence, in imagining, in speaking true, in hearing the other.
You show in the loose weave of a garden fence that while containing us gives glimpses of what it is to be inside or outside and of past and future.
You live in the white space of a David Milne painting, which shimmers with beauty and gives room to breathe and is nature inside us.
You have the sweetness of sage and roses and peonies and cedar, all.
You are found where orange and gold touch turquoise such that they hum together.
You are in each single note which seeks harmony and which also delights in the spice of dissonance.
You are there where many rhythms live together, meet and part and meet again,each dancing around the one heartbeat we all share.
You will appear when Ottawa tilts, when government and management are
subordinate to what is right and just and when apology becomes restitution.
And when we come to know that our legs and arms are as one then we can walk together 
And we can walk with all the beings of air, land, water and ice and our spirits can soar. 

Jon Oelrichs is a painter living and working in Oro Medonte Township. The seriousness of his practice has steadily increased over the last thirty some years. He studied drawing, and painting at Georgian College and with several other individual painters.  His first passion is painting and his preferred medium is oil. His approach to painting is also influenced by studies in the expressive arts.