Speaker: Dwayne James
Topic: Visualizing Franklin
Ever since his youth, local artist and Trent alumnus Dwayne James has been fascinated with the riddle of the Franklin Expedition, and he certainly has not been the only one. Few historical mysteries have persisted quite like the one surrounding the disappearance of the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror some 174 years ago. From books to folk songs and from movies to television series, the enigma of Franklin and his men is one that continues to impact popular culture well up to the present day.
For the artist, this fascination in all things Franklin culminated last year in what Dwayne hopes is the first in a number of paintings based on this, the greatest of all Arctic mysteries. Titled “Until Called”, Dwayne’s watercolour painting reimagines the classic concept of a ship in a bottle by depicting both of the ships from the expedition as real vessels frozen in ice within their own respective bottles, with both of the bottles sitting on a rocky beach somewhere on King William Island in the Canadian Arctic. To complete the image, there is a “long-forgotten lonely cairn of stones” in the foggy background.
In a public lecture on the subject, and in what the artist very much hopes will be a lighthearted presentation, Dwayne will walk through the creative process behind this, and some of his other paintings, and will share some details about the doomed Expedition that inspired this watercolour in particular.
Local Watercolour artist Dwayne James lives near Lakefield, Ontario where he paints as often as he can, that is when he’s not spending time with his daughter, twin boys, and his very forgiving wife.
Dwayne studied historical archaeology in University, and as a result learned how to write creatively. “The most important skill I learned in University,” he says, “was the ability to pretentiously write about myself in the third person.
With no formal art training, Dwayne has always preferred the self-guided, experimental approach. In fact, he taught himself how to illustrate archaeological artifacts while completing his Master’s degree at Trent University. Said his thesis supervisor at the time: “There might not be much in the way of coherent theoretical content in Dwayne’s thesis, but damn, it looks pretty!”
After spending close to a decade as a technical communicator at IBM, Dwayne opted to look at their Jan 2009 decision to downsize him as an opportunity to become a stay-at-home Dad for his young twins, and pursue his painting and creative writing whenever they allow him to. It is a decision that continues to make him giggle with wild abandon to this very day