Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Many Faces of Ojibway Artist Paul Shilling

The Many Faces of Ojibway Artist Paul Shilling.


"For me, painting is a medium for healing, for celebrating the spirit and it is a gift. Painting gives me an opportunity to explore and understand myself and my place and relationship within the circle of creation."

As an aboriginal man, artist Paul Shilling feels the need to shed the image that was taught to him as a child — that as an Ojibway he was undesirable, shameful, unworthy. This continual redefinition, the questioning, and searching keeps Paul's work alive; seeking to shed the old self and invite the new and ever changing self. As he expresses himself, he heals himself. The inner voice and the inner eye clear and open for the energy of the image to move through him from the "great house of invention." This is the manifest vision from the sky world which springs to life in his paintings.

Born on the Mnjikaning First Nation, Rama, Ontario, a land that he still calls home, Paul's allure to art was a familial trait that spans four generations of the Shilling family. His elder brother Arthur Shilling is regarded as one of Canada's preeminent native artists and Paul was also the subject of some of Arthur's best received works.

Primarily self taught, Paul created his own artistic identity separate from Arthur and did study art at Georgian College in the early 1990s. Paul's art is informed through his life experience. That experience is shown in the faces of his subjects that predominate his work. Bright colors of expressionism found in one piece alternate with darker tones and primitive strokes found in another. In either form the eyes of his subjects are haunting.

"I have been haunted by faces since my early childhood. Faces of the living, of the dying and of rebirth," states Paul. "I see the many masks and layers of these faces but I am fascinated with what is actually underneath.

"The child, the adult, the elder all live simultaneously inside of us and are wrapped in the blanket of our spirit. Their voices are muted. Their cries for recognition unheard. Yet still, the indestructible spirit seeks to emerge, to be felt, heard and seen. There are few who can actually show their true self."

Away from his art, Paul encourages people to show their true self by hosting periodic sweat lodges on property once owned by his grandfather — property that he himself has built a home on. It is this bucolic setting where Paul's artistic energy comes alive. His home is his studio, it feeds his art and his garden feeds him. This is where he finds bimaadiziwin — the good life — and where he nurtures his inner child.

"There are many bundles that we talk about — the pipe, the drum, the rattle, medicines and our children. Those are all sacred. I believe that the most sacred bundle of all is the little boy and little girl that live inside us. So the healing begins, the brushes begin to move, eyes begin to open, the fire is rekindled, the old self dies and the new arises. Heal the child within and life becomes sacred. Living begins to mean something
again."