Interview with Neil Polson (NP) by Phil Anderson (PA)
PA: What was your artistic background?
NP: I first studied at the Toronto School of Art back when it was at Dovercourt and Queen. I then attended the 3-year program at Central Tech before enrolling at OCADU where I started in 2nd year. I only completed first year … financial problems stopped me from continuing.
PA: What does the title of our current exhibit “Promise Land” refer to?
NP: It is about the loss of land on the reserve …the title work features a reserve house. I am Ojibwe and my family still lives on the reserve.
PA: What message are you conveying with this body of work?
NP: The work speaks to the loss of land on the reserve but also speaks about the ecology of the land and there is a cautionary message in the works. Thus the use of the men in hazmat suits that are looking for something on the reserve and in the woods. They seem to want to contain something. In one work, the wolf veers away from the men in hazmat suits and goes his own way sensing trouble perhaps. There is a sense of dread that perhaps it is too late to save the land. In Confluence the man from Bear Island (my Mother is from there). He was perhaps a deal maker and the other figure is an elder. It is perhaps the meeting of ideas. Virgin Forest shows the young girl in the forest … there is even tagging and graffiti in this forest. Indigenous youth use tagging in their culture. Three Women refers to the Trinity using the number 3.
PA: I asked whether there is perhaps a reference to indigenous youth taken to Residential Schools as the women could have been teachers?
NP: Perhaps that’s it.
PA: Why use the text in your work … the tagging and graffiti?
NP: the use of graffiti and tagging might seem unusual it’s use is not restricted to just urban settings. I incorporated the graffiti and tagging in my paintings to make a link between the urban setting and the forest.
PA: How is your art work changing or evolving?
NP: The Man in Hazmat Suits are probably not going to reappear in the next works. I am looking at other urban subject matter, perhaps looking at addictions and how indigenous youth might be effected in an urban setting. My process is a continuous starting and restarting journey. Sometimes I turn my paintings facing the wall to give the work time to become a little unfamiliar to me again. The work tells me when it is finished. After inspiration, words and images get reinstated. I know a work is finished when it surprises me or is going well during the painting process.
PA: What is next?
NP: Perhaps more cautionary tales told through paintings.
*Exhibition information: Neil Polson, Promised Land, January 17 – 28, 2018, Gallery 1313 Cell Gallery, 1313 Queen St. West, Toronto. Gallery hours: Wed – Sun, 1 – 6 pm.