Ken HouseGo - Snap Shot

Influences and Concerns and Approaches

Gingerbread trim [1971] and folk art [1973] have always held a very strong interest for me. I have long been intrigued by many forms of carving; ranging from an individual’s naïve expressions to those of commercially produced circus wagons or ships’ figureheads. These, I can Identify as dominant influences in my art.

Greg Curnoe is perhaps the only artist who has had a long-range impact upon my aesthetic outlook. Regionalism in art or the love of that which is local is echoed in my interest in folk art. I preferred to use my own environment and experiences as the source for my visual explorations, as opposed to the conventions of mainstream art. However, once those seeds are planted, your education can pop up at the strangest times.

I admire art works with a conceptual edge, but often they lack material richness or tactile manipulation, which leaves me wanting for a fuller art experience rather than just the manifestation of an idea. Less is not necessary more. I have a very strong response to craftsmanship and surface sensibilities in art. For that reason, I admire the sculpture of HC Westerman although; I do not consider him as a direct influence.

I tend to work in a cyclical fashion; often exploring an area of interest for five to ten years before moving on to another direction. Work is created within a responsive framework, bouncing materials and ideas off each other. I usually work on six to ten works simultaneously, playing and juxtaposing them with each other while introducing art parts and studio junk, treasures like rusty metal, chains, old tools and other found objects. The broad concepts of the works seldom change, but the details do. It is this playful sensibility of subject matter, surface and colour and handling of materials that thread my art together.

Nova Scotia College of Art and Design helped me to establish my primary aesthetic directions, but it was York University, where I polished the concepts that would guide my art for later years. Now, I find myself at full circle wanting to re-explore earlier interests. One of those interests is the figure, not as I did in the early 1970’s, but as I would handle it now. I am looking forward to the next thirty years of art making.

Download: Alternative Artist Statement 2008, Every Artist Needs a Hobby and Artist Statement to flush out further ideas about influences.

Consolidation

Consolidation, 1970's

1970′s, Consolidation

Using primarily woodworking techniques, I explored sculptural painted forms that borrowed motifs from architecture. Initially, I was very conscious of the folk art appearance of my work, but as my wood working skills developed and became more refined, my art started to take on the temperament of cabinetmaking. This experimentation culminated in 1977, with the completion and installation of a Public Works Commission, for the Woods Island Ferry Terminal, in Prince Edward Island.

Wood is the common denominator of my visual expressions. Constructing in mixed media is essential to both my thinking and building processes. The materials, surfaces, patterns and textures that I use are organized with a painter’s sense of composition. Both two-dimensional, the retinal and three-dimensional, the physical concerns are of equal importance to me in my work.

Apothcaric Mysticism

Apothcaric Mysticism, 1975

Collection: Artist, (Cannibalized)

Medium: Mixed materials - Wood, enamel and oil paint, fabric, linoleum, candles
Measurements: 70 x 43 x 43 (178 x 110 x 110)

Sun Rise Echoing Crys

Sun Rise Echoing Crys, 1975

Collection: Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, NS

Medium: Mixed woods, enamel and oil paint, found weathered wood
Measurements: 109 x 49.5 x 42 (277 x 125.75 x 106)

Noel

Noel, 1978

Collection: Private, Edmonton, AB

Medium: Mixed woods, enamel and oil paint, sheet lead, sheet metal
Measurements: 75 x 32 x 27 (190.5 x 81.25 x 68.5)

P.E.I. Woods Island Ferry Terminal

P.E.I. Woods Island Ferry Terminal, 1977

P.E.I.

There is always a moment of rejoicing and anticipation as an approaching ship blows its’ whistle and docks. The main wall of the mural, “P.E.I.” depicts the ferry, viewed by someone waiting in the terminal.

The sculpture like a ship’s bow is breaking through the waves, as sunrays are emerging above the shoreline; a grazing cow and orchard tree are reminders visitors of the pastoral nature of the island. The minor wall represents the starboard and port lights of a departing ship heading for Pictou, Nova Scotia.

Within this motif, can be seen, the influences of folk art and Victorian gingerbread architectural trim. The work evokes feeling of welcome to an idyllic island community.

Commissioned by
Public Works Canada
Erected May 1977
Painted wood and natural finishes
Each Wall, 10 feet high by 11 feet long

PEI — Main Wall, Approaching Ship

PEI — Main Wall, Approaching Ship, 1977

Medium: Woods Island Ferry Terminal, Prince Edward Island
Measurements: 10 feet high by 11 feet long

PEI — Detail

PEI — Detail, 1977

Medium: Mixed woods, varathane and oil paint

PEI — Minor Wall, Departing Ship’s Lights

PEI — Minor Wall, Departing Ship’s Lights, 1977

Medium: Mixed woods, varathane and oil paint
Measurements: 10 feet high by 11 feet long

PEI — Detail

PEI — Detail, 1977

Medium: Mixed woods, varathane and oil paint

Constructions Within Installations

Constructions Within Installations, 1980's

1980’s, Constructions Within Installations

In 1978, I entered the MFA program at Toronto’s York University, (1978-80). This was the first time I had encountered and dealt with the physical associations of materials, and the dialogue between materials, processes and concepts. For me, this was a Sculptural Renaissance with many experimental directions. My initial MFA work, Noel was created with precise, fine woodworking and sheet metal skills, while my last work, an installation, Gently Down The Stream used direct, raw materials coupled with miniaturized constructions. This installation set the stage for five more installation exhibitions between 1985 and 1989.

These installations were often staged with full-scale, wooden constructions, similar to those found in house framing. The environment was augmented by: grain, animal bones, fur, cordwood, bread, dollies, stones and rocks. The last layer of interpretation was the detailed painted and dyed constructions that employed plank on plank model building techniques, woodcarving and mixed media.

Three installations explored a Maritime theme: water — travel and transcendence, and home — nurturing and harvesting. The other two exhibitions focused on the Albertan culture, of wheat farming, and the colonization of Western Canada.

Gently Down The Stream

Gently Down The Stream, 1980

Dock With Baptismal Font

Dock With Baptismal Font, 1980

Medium: Mixed woods, found weathered wood
Measurements: Main Dock: 8 feet wide x 9 feet long

Baptismal Font — Detail

Baptismal Font — Detail, 1980

Medium: Mixed woods, found weathered wood
Measurements: 32 x 21 x 21 (81.3 x 53.3 x 53.3)

Night Ferry

Night Ferry, 1980

Collection: Artist, (Cannibalized)

Medium: Mixed materials - cement, found wood, wood, various metals, doilies
Measurements: 56 x 84 x 26 (142.3 x 213.4 x 66.0)

Keep The Home Fires Burning

Keep The Home Fires Burning, 1985

Cord Bread

Cord Bread, 1985

Medium: Bread, cord wood, craved wooden Chickadee

Beacon

Beacon, 1985

Collection: Artist family

Medium: Mixed materials - wood, sheet lead, tar rope, dye, paint
Measurements: 76.5 x 28 x 26 (194.3 x 71.1 x 66.0)

Lucky Strike Punt

Lucky Strike Punt, 1985

Collection: Artist, (Cannibalized)

Medium: Mixed materials - wood, paint, rocks, rope, bread, folk art fishes (by Sidney Howard)
Measurements: 74 x 40 x 18 (188.0 x 101.6 x 45.7)

Requiem Arrival and Departures

Requiem Arrival and Departures, 1986

Arrivals and Departures South Gallery: Arrivals — Entrance

Arrivals and Departures South Gallery: Arrivals — Entrance, 1986

Arrivals and Departures South Gallery: Arrivals — Harvester

Arrivals and Departures South Gallery: Arrivals — Harvester, 1986

Arrivals and Departures Foyer: Harvesting

Arrivals and Departures Foyer: Harvesting, 1986

Collection: Artist, (Rack Cannibalized)

Medium: Trophy Rack, Mixed materials - wood, mixed metals, dye, paint

Severe Distress

Severe Distress, 1986

Sever Distress

Sever Distress, 1986

Collection: Artist, (Cannibalized)

Measurements: 7.5 feet diameter (2.3 meters in diameter)

Sever Distress — Construction

Sever Distress — Construction, 1985

Medium: Mixed materials - wood, sheet lead, salt, tar, mixed finishes, 450 lbs of wheat

Western Icon

Western Icon, 1988

Western Icons — Installation

Western Icons — Installation, 1988

Medium: Mixed materials - 1 ton wheat, 100 lbs coal, 200 loaves of bread
Measurements: 18 feet long x 12 feet wide (5.5 x 3.7)

Western Icons – Installation — Detail

Western Icons – Installation — Detail, 1988

Western Icon #1 — Back Wall

Western Icon #1 — Back Wall, 1987

Collection: Alberta Foundation For The Arts, Edmonton, AB

Medium: Mixed materials - wood, resin, antler, pigment fillers, mixed finishes
Measurements: 33 x 51.5 x 9.5 (83.8 x 1.30.8 x 24.1)

Queen Elizabeth II Hospital

Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, 1989

Of The Heart

“Of The Heart” is a symbolic depiction of the Tree of Life, and stands as a perpetual reminder of the Family of Man.

Through its branches, can be seen: the reaching sunrays, the clouds and the symbols of this land … a bison, a beaver, a homestead, wheat, a grain elevator, the stars and moon.

Within this motif, can be seen the influences of folk art in a pastoral setting which evokes feeling of warmth, reflects the Earths’ abundance and provides an eternal welcome to Mackenzie Place.

Commissioned to celebrate the 75th anniversary
Of the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital
June 16, 1914 – June 16, 1989

Sponsored by
Alberta Art Foundation and Swan City Rotary Club
Erected October 6, 1989

Of The Heart

Of The Heart, 1989

Collection: Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, Grande Prairie, AB

Medium: Welded Steel and Endura Paint
Measurements: Height 12 feet Weight 6.5 Tons

Of The Heart — Detail

Of The Heart — Detail, 1989

Of The Heart — Detail

Of The Heart — Detail, 1989

Pixels Pay The Bills

Pixels Pay The Bills, 1990's

1990′s, Pixels Paid The Bills

My first computer, a Macintosh, was purchased in 1992, and I then became very intrigued by HyperCard, a very minimal black and white graphic application with basic interactivity.  By 1994, I was on a sabbatical leave to study Photoshop, Macromedia Director and Interactivity at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

In 1995, Grande Prairie Regional College, my place of employment, established one of Alberta’s early digital programs. As one of two co-founding instructors of the Interactive Digital Design Program, I was kept very busy installing software and dealing with upgrades, while learning how to teach and evaluate a digital aesthetic, both in static and time based media. Interactive Lingo coding for Macromedia Director occupied much of my free, creative time.

Digital instruction took most of my energies from 1995 to 2006. During that time our traditional studio enrollments were low. In essence, the digital program saved my job and pixels paid the bills.

Studio work did take place, but at a snail’s pace. There was an eight-year exhibition hiatus. I kept my artistic endeavours alive thanks to the Prairie North Creative Residency (PNCR 1993-96 and 2004-2009). I founded PNCR; self financed the initial year, first acting as coordinator and later as, assistant coordinator for the last three residencies. In addition, I was engaged in these residencies as a practicing participant. This experience provided me with a studio venue that acted as a bridge back towards the tactile qualities that could only be found in a studio shop environment.

Cream of Wheat

Cream of Wheat, 1990

Collection: Private, Grande Prairie, AB

Medium: Mixed materials - wood, resin, bronze leaf, dye, mixed finishes
Measurements: 29 x 60 x 4.5 (73.5 x 152.4 x 11.4)

Heart Land

Heart Land, 1990

Collection: Private, Calgary, AB

Medium: Mixed materials - wood, mixed finishes
Measurements: 13.5 x 31.5 x 9 (34.3 x 34.3 x 22.9)

Farm Charm

Farm Charm, 1991

Collection: Private, Calgary, AB

Medium: Mixed materials - wood, copper, metallic leaf, mixed finishes
Measurements: 30 x 24 x 16 (76.2 x 61.0 x 40.6)

Now, he Sleeps Like A Hill

Now, he Sleeps Like A Hill, 1991

Collection: Available

Medium: Mixed materials - wood, copper, metallic leaf, mixed finishes
Measurements: 13.5 x 25 diameter (34.3 x 63.5 diameter)

Northern Incantation

Northern Incantation, 1991

Collection: Available

Medium: Mixed materials - wood, resin, lead, metallic leaf, mixed finishes
Measurements: 22 x 37 x 6.5 (55.9 x 94.0 x 16.5)

Dear John

Dear John, 1991

Collection: Private, Grande Prairie, AB

Medium: Mixed materials - mixed wood, lead, antlers, metallic leaf, antique store fiqures
Measurements: 20x 35 x 13 (50.8 x 88.9 x 33.0)

Satellites

Satellites, 1994

Collection: Artist family

Medium: Mixed materials - wood, graphite, oil paint, mixed finishes
Measurements: 35 x 62.5 x 4 (158.8 x 88.9 x 10.2)

Back to the Roots

Back to the Roots, 2000's

2000′s, Back To The Roots

The exhibitions, Symbols of Presence (2000) and Place and Circumstances (2001) helped my re-entry into a focused studio practice. I would like to respectfully thank Donna White the past Director/Curator of The Prairie Gallery and Bibi Clement of the Muse Gallery for their support, at this time.

My self-directed leave, from work, in 2007-08 was an opportunity for me to test retirement, and focus on home, family, travel and studio work. This break came at an excellent time in my life. During this time, I met an old acquaintance, Doug Haynes who had recently retired from the University of Alberta and I asked him “If he was making more art?” His reply was, “No, but I am enjoying it more.” These were my exact feeling about my time of introspection.

On March 19, 2007, I had scheduled a tentative meeting with Robert Stevens the Curator of The Prairie Gallery, with the intention of procuring a show. That morning the gallery roof collapsed. We were all in surprise and shocked and the meeting obviously did not take place.

With no exhibition as a goal, I was liberated to make art. — This felt very natural, just creative play, without a goal. I have always enjoyed painting, and at this time I reintroduce mark making and brush strokes back into my art. This redirection focused primarily on the drawn and painted surface with the use of constructive elements.

My leave culminated with a TREX two-year, travelling exhibition, Dreams Do Not Come With Titles (2008 -11), sponsored by the Prairie Gallery and an invitation to be one of the guest presenters at the Art of The Peace Symposium (September 2008). My year off was a reflective journey and a creative rebirth.

Polaris, NorthStar, AB

Polaris, NorthStar, AB, 2001

Collection: Alberta Foundation For The Arts, Edmonton, AB

Medium: Mixed materials - wood, found wood, metallic leaf, oil, various mixed finishes
Measurements: 27 x 22 x 1.75 (69.8 x 55.9 x 4.4)

Wapiti Sunset

Wapiti Sunset, 2001

Collection: Available

Medium: Mixed materials - wood, rusted metal, antler, dye, oil, various mixed finishes
Measurements: 42 x 71 x 13.5 (106.7 x 180.3 x 35.0)

Harvest Star, Grande Prairie, AB

Harvest Star, Grande Prairie, AB, 2004

Collection: Private, Grande Prairie, AB

Medium: Mixed materials - wood, found wood, dye, lacquer markers, various mixed finishes
Measurements: 13 x 7.75 X .75 (33.0 x 19.7 x 1.9)

Anchor

Anchor, 2007

Collection: Private, Grande Prairie, AB

Medium: Mixed Materials - pencil, pastel, acrylic on Strathmore w/c paper on wood
Measurements: 24.5 x 20 x 2.25 (62.2 x 50.8 x 5.7)

Island

Island, 2008

Collection: Private, Grande Prairie, AB

Medium: Mixed Materials - found wood, pencil, oil on wood
Measurements: 11 x 8.28 x 3.25 (28.0 x 54.5 x 8.3)

Night Harbour

Night Harbour, 2008

Collection: Private, Grande Prairie, AB

Medium: Mixed Materials - pencil, pastel, copper, rusty metal on wood
Measurements: 22 x 22.75 x 3.25 (55.8 x 57.8 x 8.3)

Captain

Captain, 2008

Collection: Private, Grande Prairie, AB

Medium: Mixed Materials - collage, acrylic, oil, Strathmore w/c paper on wood
Measurements: 21.5 x 18.75 x 3.25 (55.8 x 47.6 x 8.3)

Drawings

Drawings

Drawing, A Private Activity

Drawing in the mid 1970’s was out of fashion, at least as an instructional technique to equip students with a fundamental skill set. Humber College, in Toronto gave me a great foundation with a good balance between discipline and playful exploration.

By 1972, when I arrived at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD), the faculty had abolished all advance level drawing courses and other studio disciplines for the last two years of the BFA in favour of an open studio concept.

At this time, I likely required another year of drawing instruction to develop a better sense of competence. Instead, I found myself migrating towards wood, because it was a natural medium for me. In hindsight my last two years of study was in the temperament of an open studio residency. — It was perfect Timing!

I was also exposed to the broader concepts of what art could be. Education is about growth and change, if you are not changing, what are you doing?

— I greatly appreciate the experiences that I had at NSCAD.

Currently, I use drawing to revitalize my aesthetic and explore the boundaries of an idea in a different media. This regular activity has had a great impact upon how I handle the surface on my mixed media constructions, thus opening up new directions.

I see very little difference between drawing, painting and building. I foresee working in both two and three-dimensional expressions in the future.

— At this time, I consider drawing primarily as a private studio activity.

Portion Of A Park — Detail

Portion Of A Park — Detail, 2010

Collection: Private, Grande Prairie, AB

Medium: Mixed materials - pencil and pastel on paper
Measurements: 22 x 18 (55.9 x 45.7)

Long Arm of Jason

Long Arm of Jason, 2009

Collection: Private, Wembly, AB

Medium: Mixed materials - pencil, pastel, charcoal and acrylic on paper
Measurements: 18 x 24 (45.7 x 70.0)

Heart Land Study

Heart Land Study, 2009

Collection: Private, Grande Prairie, AB

Medium: Mixed materials - pencil and encaustic on paper
Measurements: 8 x 12 (20.3 x 30.5)

Figure Drawing — Detail

Figure Drawing — Detail, 2010

Collection: Artist

Medium: Mixed materials - pencil and pastel on paper

How To Build A Painting

How To Build A Painting, 2010's

2010′s How To Build A Painting

Ideas may incubate for years, until the exact combination of materials collide and launches a work. Found objects, materials, art parts and cannibalized older works become my toy box for play and discovery and re-discovery.

Reading more like poems, sculptures or constructions are painted and paintings are built. I have come to realize for myself that the artwork and materials are not separate but one in the same act of creation.

Never straying to far from the original idea, the inter-play and jousting of materials and processes bring forth new possibilities that where not originally considered. Materials and ideas are bedfellows discovering each other, in a ‘flash of laughter.’

It is in this moment of discovery that I live for as an artist.

Hornby Island like my art is like a piece of sea glass, not sharp, not shiny, not new, not showy, not slick — It just fits!  (Written on Hornby Island, British Columbia July 8, 1996)

My work contains the embers of a personal landscape that I leave behind for others to discover.

Chinnook #1

Chinnook #1, 2011

Collection: Private, Grande Prairie, AB

Medium: Mixed materials - pencil, pastel and acrylic on wood
Measurements: 13.5 x 16 x 2.75 (34 x 41 x 7)

Chinnook #1 — Detail

Chinnook #1 — Detail, 2011

Harbour Home

Harbour Home, 2010

Collection: Private, Grande Prairie, AB

Medium: Mixed materials - Acrylic and pastel on canvas

Harbour Home — Detail

Harbour Home — Detail, 2009

Fresh Perspective

Fresh Perspective, 2011

Collection: Available

Medium: Mixed materials - Acrylic and ink on canvas

Fresh Perspective — Detail

Fresh Perspective — Detail, 2011

Fallacy Of Expectations

Fallacy Of Expectations, 2011

Collection: Private, Grande Prairie, AB

Medium: Mixed materials - pencil, pastel and acrylic on paper on wood
Measurements: 22 x 15 x 2.75 (55.9 x 38.1 x 7)

Fallacy Of Expectations — Detail

Fallacy Of Expectations — Detail, 2011