Bill Reid was my first engagement with art. I can still remember seeing his Raven and the First Men sculpture and the sense of awe that I felt. The launch of the new toonie with his design brought me back to those memories.
It’s interesting to think about Reid’s work and my own practice all these years later. What stands out to me now when I look at his work is the quality of his craft and the narrative clarity.
Looking at a Reid sculpture, I have the same “how did a person make that” response that I did all those years ago. His work is beautiful. The composition, the detail and his carving technique are all incredible.
As a kid I remember getting pulled into the story of Raven. In a single still image we understand the story that Reid is trying to communicate.
As an artist I strive for these same artistic qualities. I want my art to be beautiful and I want it to communicate clearly.
Reid might not seem like an obvious influence on my work. We are working in different cultural traditions. For me what connects our work is craft. Reid apparently rejected the title of artist and called himself a ‘maker of things’. I get that. Like him it’s this process of making that drives and defines my practice.
My knowledge of craft acts as an entry point for me to engage with different fine art traditions. When I look at something like sculpture (which I don’t do myself). I look for clues to how the artist made the object. When I start to understand their process the intention of the artist starts to reveal itself organically. There is always a connection between how something is made and what it is trying to communicate.