"I received my greatest schooling during my upbringing at home, where music, the visual arts, science, history, politics, language, and a love of learning were ever present. Early influences included classical Irish illumination and calligraphy, cultural and religious symbols and iconography, dance, and musical, religious, and architectural structures. Five years of excellent art history education at the secondary level complimented this early education.
My university studies focused primarily on music - graduating with a BA (Ordinary) in Fine Arts (Music). My training in sculpture consisted of some studio courses, and a basic knowledge of the workings of the tools and machines in the sculpture studio. The rest was left to me – working with found objects for the most part, and being exposed to art and the critical thinking that was then (and still is) in fashion in many fine arts colleges.
Life after graduation saw extensive travel - visiting all the major European galleries and being singularly impressed by the work of Rodin, Bourdelle, Claudel, the modernist artists, and the freedoms they gained. Teaching the piano and selling my work gave me the means by which I could set up a sculptural practice. In 1995 I moved to Ireland and my first studio was opened in that autumn in Belfast, Ireland. Since that time, I have survived as a working artist, solely dependant upon my art.
During my ten years in Ireland, I exhibited widely, had works purchased for public/private collections, and received commissions for public murals and sculptures in many countries. I survived as an artist and co-founded the SPACE gallery in Belfast during a rough but wonderful and historic period. I traveled to Europe, India, Arabia, and Africa – working on public commissions or attending art residencies. I was commended by the Queen of Jordan for my sculptures. I published my own illustrated Inferno (Dante), and I was the house blues pianist for an Irish language theatre company on the Falls Road.
In 2004 saw a return to Canada, where I resumed my artistic practice. I continue to exhibit and work on commissioned pieces both here and abroad”.
I am a past member of the Sculptors Society of Ireland, the Sculptors Society of Canada, and am a current member on Elm Street.
The time period between 2004 and the present has seen exhibitions and commissions in Canada, Ireland, Cyprus, and Tunisia. 2013 and 2014 will see solo exhibitions in Toronto and Rome.
"Artist and the Soul. Animae Res 㯵l Objects"
A work of art is an object, within which someone has transferred part of their soul. The creation of such an object is made possible by the practice of the art itself. This art is personal to every artist, and is indescribable in words 毲 who could describe revelation any more than bring back a moment in time? A degenerate example of the art would be the alchemistest for transmutation. However, it is a truer thing to say that this art 衲dly disassociated from what was once described as a magical craft, is akin in both process and result to transubstantiation. This is to say that the pure and true essence of what one thing is 鮠this case the soul of the artist 鴳elf invisible and abstract, perceived in the artists own person or by its reflection in an outside source, has been housed in and is the same as a corporeal, created work of art. If we are unaware of this, or if aware would not describe this art in these terms 鴠is irrelevant. During the creation of such a precious thing, all questions are answered, the impossible is made possible, and paradox rationalized. It is more than the creation of illusion, the circle has been squared, and 䠨as not been made to look similar to 䬠䠩s What I describe is unlike that process which has resulted in much that is in fashion in the art world today, whereby something beautiful is dissected to determine its secrets, referenced poorly, then re-presented as something less - a nihilistic, deconstructed thing, and far too clever by half. The practitioner of this art seeks to create truly, and perceives the true nature of a work of art, a soul object, as having a clear reflection and existence in not one, but multiple realms; the physical realm being a corporal thing, the metaphysical realm being a platonic expression of perfection, the divine realm being the repository of the soul 鴳elf a fragment of the Primal Source, and in the realm of memory 㵢ject to time, degradation and changing sensibilities yes, but now having a life, like itࣲeator, not bound by its physical existence.
Our senses, conscious or not, perceive the soulful in art, even if the waking mind does not; when faith has become a matter of belief and human experience is divorced from relationships and the natural world. What the clouded, deluded, or academic mind cannot perceive is exactly that place the artist inhabits during the very act of creation 㵢merged in the art but taking the deepest breaths. To the viewer I say that a conscious awareness of this art is of no importance. Have we not all, at time, looked upon the artistic representation of a northern landscape, a lone tree, an iceberg, a pure abstraction, a still-life, and felt we looked upon something quite different, or felt drawn into a realm such as that which is opened to us by the highest poetry, or felt the sure presence of something alive staring us right in the face? The art/object has become an icon, and like to an icon there exists a depth immeasurable beneath the flat surface. Conversely, have we ever witnessed an artist destroy the work of their own hands and heart and felt disturbed or even violated? This is because a true work of art of this kind is the result of a positive act of creation, and its destruction, irrespective of motive, is a violent act, and a violation against Nature.
All of this points, amongst other things, to the union within ever human being of body and spirit, and the subsequent reflection of that same union within works of created art. The artist, by nature and choice, by a willingness to be subject to discipline, to pay the price demanded by the art in order to become the medium through which such creation takes place, offers the world a looking glass with which to seeerything. Artists and their art, by their effort and by their existence show that life exists and is possible.
I assert these things to be true - for so many of us learned after countless trials, wherein observation and reflection have been tempered and then freed by discipline, solidified by devotion and inspired by the valor of so many in daily life, and by life.
St. Patrick Street
Recently I woke up musing upon "memory" - its nature, qualities and scope, both realized and undiscovered (and who could discover all of something not corporeal and therefore subject to our senses?). My current understanding of memory - that Greatest of Houses wherein lies the treasure trove of all thoughts and goodness - leads me to think that sense impressions - primarily the sense of sight - provide us with the greatest number of images we keep in our minds to remind us of things and ideas. And then while we sleep our mind conjures up and plays with these images - providing us with our dreams and nightmares and phantasms. We sometimes remember so little of this exercise of the mind upon waking and are left with bits of images - themselves turned through the "washing machine" of our sleeping mind - originally gained from sense impressions of things corporeal in the waking world! Truly amazing the complexity and integrity and circumpherence of our mental faculties! I believe, truly, that the brain - exercising its own judgement with our memories and the images we carry to our sleep - represents a scene much like the lioness lying down with the lamb, or the sea caressing the nine/tenths of that very iceberg which we do not see with our eyes. Sleep is the caring parent that smooths our thoughts and prepares us for that time when we must all Wake.
So much to consider, in both our waking and sleep, this thing called Memory. Can anyone tell an entire story from a single line? I suppose perhaps, that God, Nature, and Art work in their own ways to help us regulate our lives and thoughts and dreams, even in our sleep. No wonder, I think, that memory and dreams, that is the Grand Narrative that holds all together and unites us with the natural world in a way our actions do not- comes to us very often - out of the massive tapestry, as a single thread..........
2009 and 2010.
Interview with Mybindi by Farhad Nargol-O'Neill. March 2010
How would you describe yourself in five words?
Due to life and the inflexibility of scars only I am sure, I would say: Determined, focused, spiritual, flexible, and creative.
What would you rate as the first professional achievement as an artist?
That's a hard one, but I would say my first solo exhibition as a full time working artist in December of 1994 at the McKay House Gallery on Main Street Unionville (my home town). It's the house where Fred Varley lived the last years of his life. It's also the show that raised the funds for me to be able to leave Canada and move to Belfast, where I opened my first studio proper on the Crumlin Road in 1995.
You mention various artistic influences as you grew up but what drew you to art?
What's the earliest artistic experiment/project you remember? That's two questions......I always drew as a young child, and that never really stopped. My mother drew, my siblings drew. However, I would say that the recognition of randomness inside of overarching structures as present in classical Gaelic illumination was one of the first major influences to me as a child. That pure creativity and abstraction could go hand in hand with structure and logic was a very liberating concept to realize at the age of 6 or 8. It encouraged the development of an individual, line-based style. Music (jazz/Indian/Irish traditional instrumental and "sean os" singing/flamenco) as heard and played in our house while growing up enhanced my feelings towards things visual, as I was always listening for structure and free expression in sound at the same time and wondering "what would a Duke Ellington song look like" in 3-D. Consequently, my favourite soloists have been often been my favourite composers - Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, and Thelonius Monk. After so many years now, I'm incapable of listening to anything but Monk while I carve. Anything else, even my beloved Beethoven string quartets, gives me a headache if I listen to them while I carve.
My earliest art project? I remember turning my bedroom in the basement of our family house in Unionville into one big installation - everything glued to the wall! The whole room looked like one big Rauschenberg sculpture that was hit by a grenade. I think the room had to be rebuilt after I left it. My parents gave me a lot of lee-way.....Our cousins came in one day and their mouths dropped, I think more out of the freedom I was given to create/destroy than with the actual art, which was probably pretty horrendous.
What role has your parental heritage played in how you view art and your approach to art?
I don't think you have the space for a full answer! I think that I, along with my four brothers and one sister thought that all families were like ours, that is, that our upbringing represented the norm, as we had a stable, and happy family life as children. When I look back on it, I can see that we were completely spoiled in terms of being steeped in a dazzling amount of culture. The music and art, literature and poetry, dance, architecture and history, politics and religion from my parents background were always part of our upbringing. My father is a Parsi from India, and my late mother native Irish from Belfast. In terms of what part that played in how I approach my own art, I would say that the focus on the single line in my art stems from the vocal traditions of both cultures. The impetus towards creating work which places complexity and a sense of freedom side by side with visual structures which are themselves creations of logic stems completely from my upbringing as a Monotheist who never really experienced Religion as a form of control. For me, a very positive religious upbringing as a Catholic who was also taught about Zoroastrianism from my parents and our family from Pakistan left me with an openness to consider, in time, the notion that things spiritual might also be represented in the visual world, in the metaphysical world, in the world of ethics, and logic, and in the real world (for me at least) that exists in Memory. I think that whatever I was imparted with culturally by my parents existed in me from the beginning as a new born, I am just discovering it all in reverse, and in real time.
Over the years, as you've evolved as an artist, how has your approach to art changed, if at all?
You know, I'm not sure that it has. It's changed, but my development as opposed to my approach is bringing me back to what I call for the point of this interview "the source". I think that I have improved in terms of increased understanding, and in terms of a developed conceptual approach, in terms of the creative use of materials and in technical execution, concentration, and in terms of being to improvise a corporeal single line in real time like a jazz musician within a three dimensional context. However, I still don't think that I've really changed in my approach to art making since the time I was six years old. It's still the same old playing with Lego and building blocks, making spaces for things to go in. That's mnemonics talking, but it's also chemical, and spiritual - a unified approach to making and an openness to be the tool through which things come into being. What has changed is that now I am any one of those blocks, or in the spaces between them, or realize that there are no blocks at all, and then I leave my constructions and enter the Void and realize that it is not empty, and then some notion will come to me as if from a flame which seems to me to be behind a translucent veil, and then the next thing I know is that whatever it is I was doing is finished. I call it going back to the source, to hear the original music but everything is perfectly silent. That's all I can say about that.
How does your creative process work?
I don't mean to be rude, Savia, and I'm not being coy, but that's personal. I don't think I could explain it, and if I could I'd be afraid and reluctant of doing so. I think that sometimes burrowing into something to find out what it is destroys the very Thing you are talking about. Ask an artist what their favourite poem is, and you'll get an idea of how their creative process works. Poetry is the highest and most difficult form of Art. My favourite poems are the "Rose Tree" and the "Hosting of the Sidhe" by Yeats, "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" by Robert Browning, and the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. I also like reading Calvin and Hobbes, and all the Snoopy and Red Baron stuff from Charlie Brown.
How do you face creative blocks? how do you work around it?
I work until the well runs dry, and I always have just enough to get to the end of whatever it is I am doing. But, the creation of art, and the practice of the Art seems to cost me more and more as I get older, and after the act of creating is finished it's time to rest, like a fallow field. I'm spent, as it were. Going for walks is the best way to do get over blocks. The pub also comes in handy. Looking at trees seems to be the best way to rest.
What drives you to pursue the various artistic routes that you have chosen for yourself?
Of course we all have choices to pursue what it is we want to pursue. Since I've returned to North American in 2004 I've heard a lot of talk about choice and lifestyle which for some reason I find bourgeois and annoying after living in Belfast for a decade. We all come from somewhere, our history and background, and I've talked about that already in this interview, so I think that answer to this questions is that "I am alive".
Do you have a personal preference when it comes to working with one medium, over another?
Differing media are good for different things, but an artist can force something resembling the same result in differing media if they are determined to do so. I am in the main a sculptor, and I find a soft medium better for catching emotion (which is generally not important to me - I'm attracted more to showing force and power) whilst a hard medium like plaster or stone slows down the act of creation and this time delays suits my thought process better, and my visual process too, as few if any of my works has a front, an inside, or an outside. All of the Stations of the Cross I have created in bas-relief for the Devotio Moderna exhibition were carved into hard plaster pourings. Overall, I don't have a preference in terms of materials, I just use whatever will work for the idea......
When you are commissioned to work on specific projects for public or private clients, do you usually have free reign about art work and how the final piece turns out? How do you find a balance between what's expected of you and what you perceive based on particular requirements?
The short answer is yes. I have complete freedom to create whatever it is I want to create. I have that freedom, I've worked to get it. In terms of public commissions I am of course very interested in the culture of the country and community I find myself within, and I try very hard to create a visual response to that culture by learning much about it and living with it. If you look at my public works in Belfast, and Cyprus, and Tunisia and in Aurora, you will find that to be true. Absorption into a different culture is for me something entirely possible. Such a relationship negates the negative and frankly rather controlling arguments about "appropriation" so common in art and academic communities in the West. It's a real conversation. True communication is possible through Art, if both artist and subject (for want of a better term) approach each other with an open mind and heart and of course it also depends on the maturity and artistic process of the Artist in question. Not all artistic processes lend themselves to cross cultural conversations, and I'm talking about culture here. Private clients are different. The work in question will speak to them or not. I don't do commercial galleries. I've never been accepted into the mainstream public galleries either, in any country. My work is not commercial, but I also have no desire to ape the intellectual stagnation of the so called avante garde, which for me is just as elitist as and nothing more than the cold Upper Canadian Protestant hegemony culture of 100 years ago. Talk about artists and art communities being co-opted, it makes me sick. My projects are all artist run, or I'm picked by someone who know full well my approach. That's just how it's all worked out thus far.
You have shown your works both publicly and privately. How do you deal with criticism?
Well, criticism in Belfast meant a pretty quick destruction of the art work in question, and as far as I know none of my works has ever been vandalised. Criticism of the general sort is just part of life. My experience with criticism is quite enlightening in that for me it usually tells more about the person conducting the critique than my art work in question. Since there is no difference in terms of the look of or approach to my art between my public and private works, I really don't care what anyone says as long as I'm satisfied with it.
Your website mentions working with youth in Canada. Please share your thoughts on the positive influence art can have on youth and/or visa versa. Anyway personal experience that stands out in your mind?
I worked at Columbus Boys Camp in Orillia on and off from 1989 to the present day. "CBC" is a camp for underprivileged boys from Toronto, Barrie, Orillia, and Midland. It was probably the best working environment I have ever been in, and certainly among the top five summer camps in the country. I learned a lot about people, their needs, and organization and leadership skills there. In fact, if had not been for CBC, I would not be where I am now. Art provides a focus for young people - especially those who are troubled - like the kids I dealt with at the camp, and with the youth clubs in Belfast later on. This focus creates a calming effect for these kids and makes them happy. It takes their minds off of other things, and it helps with their self esteem when they realize that they have talents, other than causing mayhem, that will be praised by others. I continued working with youth through the arts in Belfast when I volunteered at the Grosvenor Community Centre, and with Feile An Phobail (The West Belfast Festival). My mural commissions in Cyprus and Tunisia involved the apprenticeship of emerging artists which was more of a professional relationship than anything else, but all the experiences were good. Most of the time you just had to give the kids materials, and away they would go, at least at the beginning............and it never failed to amaze me when one day along would come along some kid who would blow you away with their talent. It was impressive. Important personal memories of art and working with youth? Teaching painting on birchbark from a canoe on the shores of Lake Couchiching to the campers from CBC..............drawing on the side walk outside the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai - surrounded by a whole crowd of kids and pilgrims who were also drawing on my page, or telling how to draw..................watching my Greek and Turkish Cypriot apprentices come up to receive recognition for their work on my second mural in Nicosia, next to a ruined Armenian Monastery which had been blasted apart by Turkish artillery........hosting live radio sessions with my friends Paul and Marty and Brendyo on Triple FM - the West Belfast radio station during summer Feiles. So many occasions, so many blessings for me, I could not list them all...........
How can young artist find forums to express their artistic sensibilities?
The first thing emerging artists need to realize is that they are like turtles - they can bring their whole life with them on their back...........Really though, I'm not kidding. The most important forum any artist will ever need is their own mind - the mind will furnish them with everything they need. Artists are one of the few truly independent beings on the planet, if they so desire such autonomy. Bring a sketchbook with them everywhere they go. For me, artist run projects and forums are the best way to go. You don't have to deal with the bureaucracy and control of others. Artists can create their own forums, their own groups, their own collectives. Other forums exist along gender and ethnic lines, along lines of genre and style, along historical lines. There are a million forums out there. The big challenge will always be the interior forum, and my only advice there is for emerging artists to stay in good shape mentally and physically, and to actively work on improving their powers of concentration.
Please tell us about your show Devotio Moderna. Where did this deep interest in religion/theology come from? Do you see religion/spirituality sharing a symbiotic relationship with art?
The title of this show was created by Father Gilles Mongeau, S.J., a professor at Regis College at the University of Toronto, where the exhibition is taking place. It sums it up very well, an exhibition of modern devotional art. Modern works, whether they be traditional or abstract in approach, that function as aids to devotion within the canonical traditions of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox faith. I'm Catholic myself, and the artist I am showing with in this exhibition, Galina Oussatcheva, is from the Byzantine tradition. This show has represented one full and very challenging year out of my life, and I'll be showing a series of abstract bas-relief sculptures depicting the Stations of the Cross. The work in the show addresses issues of perspective and inverse perspective, covenant, and the personal. You should come and see i!. The opening is on March 17th, which for me is also a special day (aside from being St. Patricks Day of course) as it will be 15 years to the day when I left Toronto on an Air India flight to London to get my connecting flight to Belfast in order to open my sculpture studio and " go pro" as they say. How time flies..........I've always recognized the link between art and spirituality.............the boldness of line in the art of the Haida people on the west coast, the purity of iconic Zoroastrian images and the carving from ancient Persepolis, the intensity and detail of Irish devotional illumination which has never been surpassed by any culture anywhere in the world, the merging of intellectual and spiritual efforts in Christian and Muslim sacred architecture, the amazing variety of devotional practices in Hinduism as seen in their statuary, the theosophic endeavours of Lawren Harris, the force and power of the minimal drawings of Kline and Motherwell, and it goes on and on. I don't know if I can say that my interest actually came from anywhere. I have travelled and seen things, but I am too convinced that I am part of God to worry about finding God in me. I would have made a great Bedu. All joking aside, truly accepting that their is a relationship between Art and God in your life brings it own challenges and rewards, if one is prepared to accept them all - the perfect cherry blossoms of seen and created beauty and the bitter pill of physical poverty and loneliness. I'm going to quote my own artist statement here. I personally hate the need for them, but there is something here that is at least indicative of what I am doing and where I am going: "The practice and growth of my Art has been informed by many and varied influences, not only by the visual but also by the unseen, the interior, the inexpressible, or the musical. I include my Catholic spirituality, mnemonics, a mixed Irish/Zoroastrian parentage, knowledge of justice and community, music, and observations regarding the relationship between object and place. I believe that all of these things find their truest representation, in a sort of reverse Platonic fashion, in the physicality of created Art. Art, therefore, is for myself the means by which all those things that exist in human nature and the natural world find their truest expression". I would sum it all up by saying that the attempt over time to attain a unified approach to art making takes into account all inner and exterior influences; this whole effort is a recognition of the spiritual.
"Spiritual Devotion in Art" for "Shoppinghour" Art Magazine by Farhad Brendan Nargol-O'Neill . April 2010
Over the past year I have approached a series of disciplines as I've been reading the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola, heightening my practice of the visual and mnemonic Arts while creating a "Stations of the Cross" for an exhibition of modern devotional art in Toronto. I have been investigating the relationships between structure and improvisation in the musical and visual realms, and their corresponding representations in the unseen and spiritual worlds. All of this has found corporeal form in my created Stations. I moved past the pain and effort of it all and realized that the end result of this process is nothing less that complete spiritual liberation, that artistic development and spiritual liberation could develop side by side with each other, and that placement in the art world and historical definitions means very little.
It began with observations remembered from my youth. My first step along the path of Art and Liberation was the recognition of randomness that coexisted alongside overarching structures present in classical Gaelic illumination. That pure creativity and abstraction could go hand in hand with structure and logic was a very liberating concept. The visual form this took was the focus on the single line that existed within larger shapes. My father comes from the Parsi community in India, and my late mother was native Irish from Belfast - and the focus on the single line stems from the vocal traditions of both cultures. The impetus towards creating work which places complexity and a sense of freedom side by side with visual structures that are themselves creations of logic comes completely from my upbringing as a Monotheist who never really experienced Religion as a form of control. For me, a very positive and informed religious upbringing, as a Catholic who was also taught about Zoroastrianism from my parents and our family from India, left me with an openness to consider, in time, the notion that things spiritual might also be represented in the visual world, in the metaphysical world, in the world of ethics, and logic, and in the real world (for me at least) that exists in Memory. Western Art music, or jazz, which I was exposed to and later trained in as a pianist, also functioned to provide clarity of the link between structure and free expression. Consequently, my favorite soloists have often been my favorite composers - Powell, Parker, Ellington, and Monk. Such observations gained from music seemed to be the same observations gained from a consideration of similar concerns in the visual and spiritual worlds.
The link between art and spirituality and how it is played out with regards to visual building blocks finds as many individual expressions as there are different cultures and artistic movements - the boldness of line in the art of the Haida people on the west coast of Canada, the purity of iconic Zoroastrian images, the intensity and detail of Irish devotional illumination which remains unsurpassed in the world, the merging of intellectual and spiritual efforts in Christian and Muslim sacred architecture, the amazing variety of devotional practices in Hinduism as seen in their statuary and temple design, the Theosophic works of Lawren Harris, force and power of the minimal drawings of Kline and Motherwell, and the profundity that comes from the relationship between object and placement in installation art, are all obvious expressions of this relationship.
Differing theoretical approaches which have dominated art making within the academic avant-garde, historically, exercise a negative and controlling influence on the subject of whether or not something corporeal - created as a the outcome to process - is even valid any more. Only process is valid, only the non corporeal is valid, only nothing is valid, only orthodox tradition is valid... Relativism, Nihilism: it's all rubbish.. The only thing that matters is Artists and their Art, and the community they exist in, if at all. Sadly, many practicing artists today fall into the trap that others have set for them. Why would any individual seek to set limitations on their own growth? The great Irish parliamentarian Charles Stewart Parnell said: "No man shall have the right to fix the boundary to the march of a Nation." This is true speaking. This letter of mine describes a personal journey. Behold the ridiculous chains that some curators, academics, and others try to lay upon us! It is nothing, and we must shake them off! I see no argument between process and result, between the seen and the unseen, the corporeal and the non-corporeal, between those seekers of liberation who search for the absolute and those achieve the same end by reverse means. Read Victor Hugo: "We grasp only a few strands in the tangled skein of being." That's fine, no one would deny the depth of creation, but read the art theorist Patrick Waldberg (from "Surrealism" 1962): "What is apprehended by our sense and faculties - only a minute fraction of an iceberg whose center of gravity lies far below the surface could not satisfy these seekers of an absolute." Waldberg is talking about the Surrealists. So much wonderful liberating art they made, but they were also their own worst enemies, the victims of their desire to create their own orthodoxy. Ridiculous. I care deeply for Breton's influence and contribution, I care nothing for his intolerance. the realization of objective truth is not in my opinion an expression of intolerance. Clarity and true-seeing is possible. As an artist I have no desire to ape the intellectual stagnation of the so-called 'avant-garde' so as to gain inclusion, like so many other artists of our generation, or to revel in tradition for its own sake. Progressive and Regressive elements represent the same thing, stagnation, when they seek to define and control a scene. Artists must develop their practice and protect their approach without the limitations and definitions of others being thrust upon them. They must, however, want it badly enough.
My own struggles have led me to see that development and approach are different things. My development has changed drastically over the years, but my approach? It's still the same old playing with building blocks as a child,making spaces for things to go in. That's mnemonics talking, but it's also chemical, and spiritual - a unified approach to making (the physicists call it the "Theory of Everything") and an openness to be the tool through which things come into being. Now, I am any one of those blocks, or I exists in the spaces between them, or realize that there are no blocks at all, and then I leave my constructions and enter the Void and realize that it's not empty, and I see something centered in the distance, as if there exists a flame which lies behind a translucent veil, and then the next thing I know is that, whatever it is I was doing, is finished. I call it going back to the source, to hear the original music, yet everything is perfectly silent. No great celestial pipe organ to thrill me with the sound of God's first utterance, before it kills me. Silence over the waters. This state of being, of enlightenment, represents at the same time true autonomy and that most perfect forum, total inclusion inside that which exists and has always existed: the individual and community, the circle squared. It's all the same. I'm not worried about finding that highest creative expression, or in the existence of God. I know that it exists and that I exist within it in perfect freedom.
My mind goes back to playing with building blocks once again - about making a place to put something else in - and also the creation of a line akin to an improvised jazz solo that exists corporeally and develops in real time. I can tell you what I think it might all look like. Can you imagine something invisible, but very much alive, in a three-dimensional geometric space making lines in the air while the dimensions of the space constantly change? Living lines within the pulsing chamber, constantly reforming itself into different geometric shapes, the living line and the changing geometrical structures in perfect sync with each other. The co-existence between Law and Chaos. I think perhaps this can only be illustrated at this moment in time via digital technology or perhaps live 3-D holograms. It is about visually actualizing a relationship of a kind that thankfully the world has many examples of already. Think of Bird and Dizzy, or Lester Young and Billy Holiday. Think of the relationship between the strings in the middle register of a Beethoven symphony through which the melody is being resolved, while the instruments at the top and bottom registers constantly change and provide focus and profundity to the developing line.
I believe that all of these things find their truest representation in a sort of reverse Platonic fashion, in the physicality of created Art. Art, therefore, is for myself the means by which all those things that exist in human nature and the natural and spiritual worlds find their truest human expression.
Article for St. Patrick Church, McCaul Street, for their Easter Bulletin by Farhad Nargol-O'Neill. April 2010
As a Catholic, and an artist who creates works which are reflections upon our aspects of our Faith, I find Lent an amazingly inspirational time of year. The disciplines which we practice during this period leading up to Easter can be exercised in many aspects of our Lenten life. Stopping to reflect at different times during each Lenten day- we can look back at how our day has been spent and gain wisdom by doing so, thinking of our vows.
Much of my past year has been spent creating a very personal and abstract Stations of the Cross which was, in a sense, a response to the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola. The time it has taken to complete each individual station has allowed me to reflect upon not just that particular part of the narrative, but also upon a deep meaning contained within each. This approach has brought home the pain and sacrificial nature of the Passion, but has also allowed me to move past the pain and realize that the end result of our Lords sacrifice represents nothing less than complete spiritual liberation. For me this is the Church Militant at it's most glorious - a perfect mix of individual and community liberation and the means to achieve it. Freedom not from suffering or injustice, but from sin, the negative habits in our lives that keep us back - a freedom which comes from being in the world, but not entirely of the world.
Station X: "Jesus is stripped of His garments" is a wonderful example of the truth and liberating beauty of Christs sacrifice. In my Station, Christ is the sacrificial lamb of Yom Kippur - that takes away the sins of the world. Wrapped around that lamb was a scroll on which was written the sins of the faithful, and the lamb was then driven out into the desert - showing the ancient Hebrew's faith in their very personal relationship with God and in His capacity for forgiveness. Our sacrificial lamb is not being driven out into the desert, but rather to the Cross, and His garments which the Roman soldiers strip from him are our sins, which He has worn and borne for the sake of our liberation, and our salvation. Christ being stripped of his garments is a wonderful example of Christ the Victor, rather than the victim, and this part of the Passion says to me very directly that the day of liberation is coming. The day of liberation is of course, for Christians, Easter Sunday - a day of joy, but I find that this type of reflection upon the Passion during Lent can bring clarity of mind, and courage in action to those who believe and want to improve their own lives, and the lives of those around them.
Statement by the Canadian Neo Modernists. Toronto. 2009.
The Neo Modernist...is more concerned with the dynamic and power politics behind the asking of the question than with (most) questions themselves. It seems to be a useful concern, given the dominant trend within the culture of learning and the culture of vocal/written expression in Canada's "cutting edge" art scene. Those who ask the question have the (implied) power over the practitioner (Artist) - without offering much in return....Free Artists reject the dominance and function of the "curatorial culture" whereby the desire by artists to search out and find truth in their art - within our pluralistic society - is being co opted by the corporate and academic art establishment to water down progressive tendencies in the scene (if there even is such a thing). If you want to derail progressive change, then find the beautiful thing, regard it as a specimen for dissection, and fund research and learning into what makes the thing live (thereby killing it). This is the strategy of the regressive elements in the scene. Once again we are left with a newer but equally cold version of "Upper Canada" culture, despite our changing cultural demographics. Poetry is the only form of written or vocal communication which can truly relate to or explain Art! Postmodernism was, perhaps, a worthy tool of pluralism, but it has gone astray and now functions as a Tower of Babel, the symbol and tool for the creation of confusion and non-communication - plenty of people asking questions without anyone offering any certainty about anything. The result: things remain static and the status quo is retained. The modernist dream was lost after WWII with it's full potential unfulfilled. No surprise then at the power and popular reaction (by artists at least) to Neo-Modernism in the European scene today, a positive response to the negative dominance and inflexibility of postmodernism as it is expressed and managed by the Art Establishment and its followers and servants. These are some of the thoughts shared by the members of the Canadian New Modernists. We have nothing to say or to ask about Art that our Art cannot answer on it's own as an unspoken, pure, and wordless expression - or that Poetry cannot sing to the heart of. Farhad Nargol-O'Neill, Founder: Canadian New Modernists.
Article for Winters College Press, York University, September 2010
Describe the journey that you堢een on since you graduated.
You know, I wanted to be like Oscar Peterson or Budd Powell or Monk, or one of my piano profs such as Mark Eisenman, Frank Falco, or John Giddons............that did not happen, but what did happen was that years later I realized that I have managed to integrate almost everything of import I learned from my education at York into my current art practice - and I still play the piano. Other incredible teachers I had such as Mary Ann Parker, Bill Westcott, Larry Lake, and Jay Rahn had a huge influence on me, in that their method of explaining musical principles was done in such a fashion that I was able to translate this learning into other realms aside from the musical realm. This has been as much of a journey for me as the geographical or professional one. Those journeys led me to leave Toronto in the mid nineties to return to Belfast (I'm an Irish citizen, actually) and to live there as an artist in my studio on the Falls Road until almost 2004, when I returned to Toronto. The practice of the Art has brought me or my work to Europe, America, the Middle East, India, Europe. Equally of importance to me, it has brought me into close contact with a realization of the spiritual and metaphysical world, the world of mnemonics - in short that sphere where the principles of higher learning I garnered at York which were later tempered by experience and struggle find a home.
What is the best thing about the path you堣hosen (being a musician/artist?)
I'm free. I'm independent. I'm unplugged from the machine............I'm as autonomous as I choose to be. Being thus brings it's own challenges, but that's life, as they say.
What made you decide to choose York and the program you studied?
At the end of grade 13 it was a five second coin toss as to whether I study visual art or music at the university level. I did not give it much thought to be honest. Music won the toss, and the guidance councillor told me to apply to York, Western, and the U of T. I applied to Western but didn't in my heart fancy their euro-classical program or the bus trip to get there, or moving so far away from my home town of Unionville, so I didn't bother to go to the audition. For my U of T audition I was playing the first movement of the Waldstein, and the full Pathetique, but the fingers on my left hand got badly and deeply sliced by a croissant knife in the bakery I worked in a week before my audition was to take place (I was practicing between five and eight hours a day a year to get ready for this) and I went to my audition in the very unfriendly and sever Walter Hall with bandages on my fingers and my fingers bleeding. No kidding. Suffice it to say, it did not go well. I fancied York because of the jazz program and my brother, the jazz double bass player Darius Nargolwalla, was already in the program, and he raved about it. I used to mitch off high school to go to York to hear Oscar play when he was running master classes for the jazz students, and I really wanted to be there. John Giddons - who is a wonderful man and a musical and intellectual giant - was head of the jazz and also I believe of the social science departments, ran my audition. I got in. It was the best place I could have been. I am so glad I went to York.
Can you talk about highs and lows while at York ಯblems, successes?
My education was broad, and deep. At the time I resented having to take courses outside my major, but now I am glad my education was so broad. Things were very free and open then in the Visual Arts department, and I was able to take two sculpture courses, and equally of importance I was able to use the sculpture studio (thanks Joel) whenever I wanted to, and so I created my first body of work made up of found objects of metal. Showing and selling these works allowed me to move, when the time came, to Ireland to set up my first studio. Hanging around Winters and Mac (and the Ab) was fabulous, as I had access to artists and musicians, poets and philosophers. The multi-interdisciplinary nature of the College was just the right enrivonment for me to be in. The life of the College was the heart of my university experience. This was very important as York is so huge, and it would have been easy to get lost otherwise. My experience of York was my experience of College life.
What sort of extra-curricular activities were you involved in at Winters? What did it mean to you?
Jazz jams, excellent and endless conversations in the hallways, the common rooms, and in the Ab with other musicians and artists. Being able to go to performances of visiting south Indian artists that Trichy Sankaran organized in the performance halls was a definite plus. Creating installations on campus in odd locations was always fun. Dances and parties in the residences were excellent. Everything that was being taught in the classroom was being expressed in the College outside of class - it was an excellent time to be there, once again because all these things were happening in the College itself, and were not dispered and segregated into various other buildings and departments.
From your experience at Winters college, what was your most memorable?
Too many to mention. Seeing and hearing Oscar in a smoke filled jazz shop room for the fist time. The feeling of living in a very romantic time, in that all the things I've mentioned were alive and happening every day in the classes, in the hallways, and in the common rooms. It was like being in a continual and wonderful realm of creativity. It was very free. My most memorable experiences? A class on German music and poetry with Jay Rahn. A class on how Mozart piano sonata's were really mini operas, that had the whole class in stitches - the teacher there was Bill Westcott - such an honor to have been one of his students. A class on electronic music with Larry Lake that opened my ears. Every jazz class with Frank Falco or John Giddons. A class with Mark Eisenman when I finally understood how to understand phrasing as it related to time and the harmony of a tune. All the friends I made.
How would you like to stay involved with the college?
Well, I owe my continuing connection to Winters to the College Master, Marie Rickard. Through her I re-engaged as an alumni fellow, and had a show a few years back at the Winters Gallery. I'd like to engage and debate with the top emerging artists in the college - those who are 100% dedicated to a full time professional life in the arts. It's been almost 20 years since I graduated, and I'd like to give back and share my experience and experiences with my fellows and students.
What kind of events would really be of interest to you? How do you see yourself giving back to the college?
Taking part in debates as to the nature of the art scene on campus, in the GTA, and in the nation. Exhibiting again at Winters. Helping to organize live installation making in the College.
What advice would you give to aspiring students?
Know yourself. Go for walks and stay in shape to keep your focus and concentration what it needs to be. Make sure the life of the artist or musician is what you want. If it is, then work hard - very hard. There is no room in the creative world for those who can't work and sacrifice- but take joy in what you do. If things are not working for you, then just work harder, or smarter. Be aware of how you practice your discipline. Be open to what is happening around you, but be wary of fashion. At some stage, depending on what it is you do, you will have to close yourself off to everything around you in order to develop your own style. Develop your natural instincts, and then trust them. As you improve, wrap your confidence around you like a cloak that shields you. In the meantime, learn everything you can from your profs, and then take what you need and work it into you style. Good luck.
Share any personal stories with us or any upcoming events that you want to share in the newsletter!!!
At the moment, I am showing work at Regis College - which is the Jesuit College at the U of T. The show is called Devotio Moderna, and I'm showing an abstract Stations of the Cross in bas-relief. The exhibition runs until May 17 and it's open from Monday until Friday, from 9 am until 430 pm. After that I'll be looking to show them somewhere else. Come the summer and fall I'll be involved in a number of art performances where I'll be doing live projections - automatic writing to live music. Come the fall will be a show of drawings based upon the figure and automatic writing, a duo show with the Canadian Neo Modernists that I founded last year with artist Ottilie Mason, and a show in the city of my entire collection of abstract works in bas-relief. Towards Replica Piaget Watches the end of the year I might be moving to Beirut to set up my sculpture studio there and creating public works of art in an around the Med. My plans for a major solo exhibition in an independent space in Toronto is about a year or so away. I'll let you know!