During a very much needed tidying session this morning, I picked up a book and put it on a bookshelf and then noticed its neighbour - a book on the art of the first peoples of the Pacific coast of Canada. I took it off the shelf and it returned me instantly to the two years I spent teaching on Vancouver Island in the early 1970s.
Looking again, I remembered how much I had loved the stylised, dramatic, graphic representations in the masks, totems and other objects - mostly in black and white - produced by the Cowichan people. I haven't thought about them for so long, although I don't know why, considering how much I've been playing with black and white recently. Perhaps this visual treat from more than 40 years ago is the source of this current preoccupation - who knows how the mind works?
Of course, I stopped the tidying to look at the book, and then to google ... who wouldn't? Now I thought I'd share with you some of the images in the book and the websites I came across.
This is one of the most dramatic images from the book - a woven spruce root hat from the Tlingit of the northwest coast of the mainland of British Columbia...
Putting traditional art of the Cowichan people of British Columbia into google yielded a lovely montage of photographs and this website:
It provides an amazing list of artists that I will investigate at my leisure. It also gives a large hint about how far the art of this area has gone in the 40 plus years since I lived there..
When I think more widely, I also find it quite fascinating that the art of first peoples across the world shares so many of the same elements - simplicity of image, stylisation and of course references to their complex belief systems ... even more to investigate and explore.
PS the book is by Bill Holm and is called Northwest Coast Indian Art - google him and his book too and you should get another wonderful photo montage.