Judith Mason Biography


Judith A. Mason View Works

Judith A. Mason is a visual artist, performer, and curator who has been actively involved in the art world for over 45 years.

“Before I ever knew there was such a thing as ‘art’, or what being an artist was, I couldn’t help making things.  I didn’t grow up in an artistic environment so I had to secretly steal bars of soap from the family bathroom to carve into little turtles, or used fruits and vegetables as materials for sculptural figures for a school project, or waxing a selected collection of perfect fall leaves, then meticulously arranging and pasting them on a piece of cardboard.  I loved making things for holiday rituals – decorations for Valentines Day, Easter and Christmas.”

Mason has a MA degree in Cultural Theory from the Frost Center, an Education Degree and an Honours BA, from Trent University, Peterborough, ON.  She completed a two-year curatorial course from the Visual Arts Centre of Clarington under the mentorship of curator Caroline Bell Farrell and for all of her adult life taken various courses from numerous arts institutions such as NSCAD, OCAD, The Visual Arts Centre of Clarington, Green Heron Pottery, Celtic Collage (Cape Breton) and George Brown College.  She has curated several exhibitions, written and published curatorial texts and presently, teaches visual and media arts at the Canadian International School in Cairo, Egypt.

The Process

“My painterly images emerge from a number of different sources. They apply experiences I’ve had working in mnay media – clay, fabric, sculpture, drawing, puppet-making, photography and performance – and my interests in literature, poetry, theatre, religion, and psychoanalysis. Perhaps one of the most informative and consistent experiences is my listening to jazz.  All these mix together with the mundane experiences of everyday life, creating an energetic topography of form, texture and colour that communicates something that one cannot speak about but only experience in the moment of doing it or making it – of bringing something to life.

What the ‘it’ is remains a mystery to me, I only know that when I am in the flow of the moment of making, the work becomes more than I could possibly make.

I begin my work without thinking about its appearance but allow my body to initiate what happens.  After building up multiple layers of possible encounters and incidental opportunities I spend enormous amounts of time looking, carefully and thoughtfully at what has appeared.  I begin to consider some areas as beginning to work and obliterate others. I try to allow the work to suggest what’s next by engaging my interest in one area or another.  After building up particular forms in various configurations that set up particular confrontations with one thing to another, then I consider colour, it’s implications and interactions.

Themes of my Work

Often I don’t need any ideas or themes to start but begin through spontaneous feelings and gestures.  I pick up my brush and dip it in any colour of paint just to get started.  I am getting rid of the white canvas.  Sometimes, I may begin with a large and open idea such as the seasons, to give me a beginning colour palette or a certain direction of movement. But as the work progresses, it shifts to its own iteration, taking its unique appearance.  I’m not a thematic artist in that I can’t illustrate an idea or create images that communicate a political viewpoint or opinion.  I work through a painting experience as a kind of energy exchange, but the source of this energy and it’s particular ways of transmission remains a mystery.

If I am pressed to put words to my work I would say that I go on a journey that ends in the creation of an abstract image, an image that seeks it’s own birth through the world of material form and through immaterial form. Similar to the words of a story and the story itself, I am constructing a visual surface that through it’s process of construction transmits something that is unsayable, unspeakable, of what it is to be a human being living in this time and in this place. Not what it means, but what it is.  The ‘is’ remains as a testament, a residue of the becoming.  I think about it as a change in tense.  Paintings are relics of the past, even the most immediate past. In a similar way to experience.  Experience is what’s left after the action of living.

Why do I paint?

It is the sense of exploring, of not knowing what comes next, of discovering a new way of working, a new obsession.  It is the joy of making an image on the blank white canvas, of destroying its whiteness, its emptiness and filling it up with colour and form. The pleasure of putting on and taking off.  Of balancing and unbalancing.  Of finding the way through the endless relationship problems that occur on the surface.  It is a belief that I can always make it work one way or another, that I will receive an idea, in time, that I can through this reciprocal process between the work and myself, find the solution and create an image that is not of the world of language but of something else.  First and foremost it is always a personal journey of discovery, some with ease and little effort, others encounter difficulties, wayward children, foreign and uninvited elements, uncompromising relationships.