Human history has shown us that though we may progress in many ways, many negative events repeat themselves. In books we chronicle injustice, hatred, wars, and even today we still see such play themselves out. Such tragic occurrences seem almost a foregone, and so we become desensitized, turning a blind eye to suffering when it suits us. However, though we accept such things will happen, we continue to ask ourselves why? Why do these things occur? Why can’t we stop them, and bring the cycle to an end?
Perhaps we do know the answer, though. Within all of us is a dark side, and while we don’t explore such so readily, we all know it exists, and fear what it might do if provoked, whether we are all capable of committing those acts. James Picard hopes to bring us to talking about it, to confront it, and in doing so, fight it through understanding it.
Picard, an accomplished Vancouver-based artist who has exhibited in over one hundred shows and with works in prominent display with collections throughout the world, heard about the tale of a friend who, having been sexually abused by her father, would visit him for holiday dinner and both would treat the event as having never occurred. Recalling his own childhood with an alcoholic father, he realized that this silence was pervasive. Societal pressures to maintain a good outward appearance internalize themselves, spurring us to block out negative experiences from our conscious memories. However, he feels this doesn’t also erase their effects from our psyches, and so this causes people to act out in a variety of ways.
To try and break this silence, Picard decided to do what he did best: paint. But instead of pursuing aesthetically pleasing art, he decided to pursue the uncomfortable, to depict scenes of violence, of loneliness, of agony. Preparing his work required immersing himself in the crimes of others, and creating it in the most chilling environments. Closed prisons, mental institutions, and sanitariums became his artistic haunting grounds. And the result is The Dark and the Wounded.
Displayed in the Vancouver Police Museum (Vancouver being the site for the world premiere), Picard will also be showing his paintings in Alcatraz, Kingston Penitentiary, and numerous graveyards and camps across Europe. In doing so, he hopes to amplify the discomfort by throwing the observer in an environment which is unsettling, driving home the fragility of their existence. In doing so, he hopes to bring us to speak to one another about our collective unease, helping us to confront our demons, one by one.
Looking at a painting may not seem a challenge, but the longer I fixated on one in particular, the more difficult it became to study it. Picard’s skill is in transporting people to that plain of experience – staring at a painting of a shadow, I felt myself sinking in feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and despair. I sought out conversation – about anything – in order to dispel these feelings, and at once I started to understand what Picard was trying to do.
The paintings are all made with tender care and precision, which is incredible considering that Picard, by all accounts, produced paintings at the rate of approximately 1,200 a year for this series. “I felt incredibly depressed at the start,” he confided to us, “As I saw these scenes continually unfold before me, I didn’t know if I could continue.”
I had the same feeling and I was just seeing the paintings. So, what did happen?
An epiphany. “Afterwards, I saw that I appreciated the small wonders of the world so much more. A simple walk outside, the sunshine – I felt beauty so much more acutely.” He looked pensive as he said the words, almost as if he was lost in that moment once more. “The world has so much that’s beautiful about it,” he reflected, to no one in particular, “But we still need to discuss that which is not.”
Walking out of the gallery, I think I understand. It’s not really about the actual depictions, about actual murderers or depravity, but rather our reactions to them and our ability to reach out and connect with others.
It’s about realizing that all of us are, at our cores, the dark and the wounded.
But, that through understanding the darkness inside us, we can also find light.
The following is a preview of The Dark and the Wounded:
Read more about The Dark and the Wounded at http://www.jamespicard.com/james-picard-the-dark-and-the-wounded/.
James Picard’s website can be found at http://www.jamespicard.com/.