In From The Cold - David Wilson
Most of my work is an attempt to portray the human experience as found within the metropolitan landscape. As an urban dweller for the past 30 years, I’ve come to enjoy the way a city concentrates so many elements of humanity inside a physical and psychological space. For me, it’s mostly a good experience. Living in such proximity with one’s neighbours requires a certain degree of communal empathy. One’s perception of personal need or importance is overridden, and a city can only exist when it achieves a sort of tenuous balance. It’s this centuries old experiment in human nature that always and endlessly draws me in.
Each of my paintings imagines an urban centre that may or may not exist. None of the images are literal. They’re meant to act as a surrogate for the thoughts that run through my head as I work. These ideas are often reflected in the title. Some derive their names from the music I’m listening to (Wish You Were Here, Dreams); others reflect the way an image speaks to my own experience in the moment (More Than I Thought I Would, I Like to Ride in the Back Seat With You). And within those images, if one looks closely, a jumble of symbols and text speaks to those thoughts and ideas, like a record of my psyche during creation.
As my days and hours were increasingly absorbed into this new exhibition, thoughts often turned to the volatile time in history we find ourselves in. Loss, climate change, COVID and its variants, and most recently the Russian invasion of Ukraine all morphed into a sort of wintery cloud of thought. As the work progressed and spring drew near, the notion of renewal began to loom over my time in the studio. Within each painting there is an opportunity for the viewer to find shelter and escape the weight of winter. Whether it’s an umbrella, a doorway entrance, the warmth of a speeding taxi, or the comfort of a high-rise apartment or office, the viewer is presented with an opportunity to step in from the cold. This is the guiding metaphor that emerged as I got deeper into the work.
Spring acts as that great time of transition, from the quiet cold of winter into the season of growth. Earth does not think of us as it cycles through its seasons, yet we set our calendars by it. And within our urban canyons and leafy suburbs, all densely populated and trafficked, we are held together with the finest filaments of our own creation. Copper wire and PVC; blacktop and concrete; wood and glass; it’s a delicate web, and it’s prone to decay. Without great care this construct falls quickly into disrepair, entirely reminding me of what it means to be human. As we navigate the many perils of our present moment, this desire to step out of the cold and into the promise of spring propels much of my work. And it’s not lost on me that this annual promise does not always bring about regeneration; not while I watch and read about the plight of those souls in Ukraine whose towns and cities are being reduced to dust. We in the West are the fortunate few.
While the familiarity of the seasons can be vaguely comforting there is always the reminder that, as they change, it will be one less season I will experience in my lifetime. Still, somehow, that ever wonderful promise of April and May is enough to soften the annual reminder that life is much too short. It’s telling me that I have been given yet another opportunity to step in from the cold.