Although I was born in England, I’ve been a Canadian from the beginning. Both my parents came from the prairies. They met during World War II in Ottawa, where they were serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Shortly after the War, my father was posted to London, England. I was born in Farnborough, in Hampshire.
My family returned to Canada when I was two, and until I was sixteen, we followed my father’s career from Ottawa to Kingston, back to Ottawa, and to Kingston again. During that time, we made frequent trips to Winnipeg and to Lake of the Woods to visit my mother’s family. Those journeys, by car and by train, impressed me deeply, and by the time I was eleven or so, I had fallen in love with the north. I had also decided that I wanted to be an artist.
When I was sixteen, my father was again posted to London, where I finished my secondary schooling. In my final year, one of my fellow students introduced me to the world of poetry in London. Although I spent much of that year thinking that I wanted to be a poet, in the fall, I enrolled at the Chelsea School of Art to study painting. Sadly, painting and I did not get on. In the final year of my four-year program, I began to work in photography and screen printing.
After graduation, I returned to Canada, as I had always intended to do. I had kept in touch with one friend from elementary school in Ottawa. As she was in Toronto and I knew no one in Montreal, I decided to take a chance on Toronto. From Baldwin Street, where I was living, my route to the nearest laundromat passed the newly-founded Open Studio, on Queen Street West. One evening I went in to see what was going on there. At the time, I was trying to make screen prints and photographs on my kitchen table. Open Studio provided the opportunity to work on a large scale and explore complex technical processes combining both media. For the next thirteen years, I made all my work there. I also became involved with artists working in photography, and joined the fledgling Toronto Photographers’ Workshop.
At the age of thirty-five, as happens to many of us, I came to terms with the reality that, if I was ever to move to the north, I needed more resources than my hand-to-mouth existence would provide. I had taken part in a number of adjudications for the Ontario Arts Council’s program of grants to artists working in photography, and had been active in Canadian Artists’ Representation, Ontario (CARO), now known as CARFAC Ontario. I applied successfully for the position of Film, Photography and Video Officer at the Council, and worked there for the next five-and-a-half years.
After I left the Council, I spent some time travelling in western Canada and the far north, thinking about where I wanted to live and what I wanted to do. To my surprise, I found myself thinking more and more about making paintings. I eventually found a little house in Temagami. Its location is a metaphor for Canada: the main road between the east and west coasts, and between southern Ontario and James Bay and Hudson’s Bay, runs past my front door. On the other three sides, the forests, bogs and lakes of northern Ontario stretch out to Lake Temagami and beyond.
Among other things, I am interested in the possibility that the presence of an image not only changes a room but also the people who live in it.