Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Aaron Paquette -- Trickster

New work by Aaron Paquette
Bearclaw Gallery
March 3-15

The Trickster figure is a near-universal element of human mythology. Noble, craven, generous, greedy, wise, ignorant, creator and clown, hero and deceiver, the Trickster is the eternal shapeshifter, the primordial power of chaos and change. In his new exhibition, painter Aaron Paquette deals with this ancient force as a real and present power in his own life -- and in our modern world of constant change and shifting identities.

"Just because we get the concept of the Trickster from our shared mythology of long ago doesn't mean it isn't a current and applicable figure in today's world,” says Paquette. “In fact, I would say that it is even more important to society now than it has ever been. Among the many facets of the Trickster myth is this idea of adapting to changes, of looking at the world with curiosity and humor. Tricksters are, in essence, problem solvers.

Paquette’s own encounter with the Trickster’s invitation to change came, as it so often does, exactly when it needed to. “Early this fall,” he recalls, “I’d made the decision that I was going to be diligent, I was going to be disciplined, I was going to paint every day. I was going to get serious.

I soon realized that I had nothing. I was good for about a week, and I was out. I was like, ‘What’s the purpose of life?’”

Retreating for recharge and re-inspiration to the woods of the river valley near his northeast Edmonton home, Paquette soon afterward found what he was looking for in a series of vivid, demanding dreams of the Trickster in his mythical identity of Raven.

I started really dreaming about the Raven about six months ago, and then I started getting all these images in my head, all these ideas for paintings. Of course, the process takes so long that I've only tapped the surface, but I find it really interesting how this exploration is affecting my typical style… the technique itself is slowly becoming a bit more immediate, a bit more raw. I'm loosening the reins a bit, letting more come out than I have in the past.

Those familiar with the style Paquette has been noted for – a luminous blend of Pop art, Native painting and Christian iconography; dark, fluid lines and bold fields of color – will immediately see this change. The new work is indeed looser and more organic, some of it seeming more conventionally representational/narrative and some more impressionistic -- but all of it showing its dreamscape origins in terror and power.

I’d wanted to help be a part of a new symbology,” says Paquette, who is of mixed Native and European blood, of the orgins of his older style. “Many young people growing up have lost their symbols, their rituals that tell them what it means to be human and a functioning member of the community. I co-opted some of the stronger iconic concepts of European religious culture in a way that I hoped would make sense to the viewer. It was my hope that if I continued to work that I could offer a few new ideas to people, a few concepts that they had never considered. It worked, and that's the path I assumed I would remain walking… until these dreams began intruding.

Now, any ideas I had -- which I admit were rather hefty, but you can't blame youth for idealism -- flew out the window on those charcoal wings of the raucous squawker we call the Raven. Now, I just basically paint what I see in what I would describe as flashes of images burned into the front of my brain for scant seconds, usually right before sleep, or just on waking up in the morning. I have only a few moments to either sketch out the scene or burn into memory before it's gone, or else it really is gone.

Some of my best stuff has evaporated back into the ether because I didn't act on it immediately. But this happens to people all the time. Remember that amazing moment, so profound and full of meaning that you swore you would never forget? No you don't, because unless it's in your top ten, you've probably lost it along the way, not even remembering enough to miss it.That sounds kind of sad, doesn't it?

Though his painting is moving in a less literally iconic direction, Paquettte remains committed to transmitting the power of myth through his painting.

Mythical art reminds us of our origins,” he says. “It reminds us that we are not history's orphans, that we really do come from somewhere and something, and that the wisdom that will help us to live good lives, or at least happier lives, has been painstakingly earned and collected by generations passed, basically for our benefit. “We only have to listen and keep ourselves open to it and it will speak to us.


Aaron Paquette said...
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Aaron Paquette said...

Awesome. Thanks, Darren.