I follow the maps to the actual sites.  I draw, take photographs, and explore.  Often, while I’m there, some event will unfold or some metaphorical reading will become the focus of my attention.  Sometimes my experience at the place is quite contrary to that described in the original map.  The points of tension and confluence between two different points of view are critical to the meaning of these works.

Phil Irish About the Map Paintings

More to come.....

Each work in my series of Map Paintings begins with an encounter with another person.  Friends and strangers alike have been generous enough to share a piece of themselves in written form.  This creative process, at its centre, asks: “Can you understand another person’s experience?”

An interactive space, called The Cartographers’ Lounge (see image below), welcomes people into this collaborative process of drawing hand-drawn .  The maps are about places of personal significance - perhaps where a decision was taken, or an accident happened, or where solace was found.  Participants are also invited to annotate the map, sharing some of the personal meaning attached to that place.


Take Moving Day, for example, in which we see a house suspended from its foundation and a bulldozer hovering next to it. By comparing this image to the inset map that inspired it, we are invited into the story behind the painting. Who was moving? Why did he or she move? What was significant about the home and the way it was moved?  The painting also points to broader questions, such as how secure are our lives’ foundations?  Or what does “home” mean?

The visual languages of the paintings are diverse and rich, taking the cues from each individual place.  There is often a collision between representation and some form of abstraction that points to a metaphorical reading of the scene.  There is joy in the sensuality of the medium, pulling the viewer deeper into the experience of viewing, interpreting, and exploring.  Through the act of painting, the documentary sense of each map is expanded into open-ended poetry.

The Cartographers’ Lounge, at the Toronto Alternative Art Fair International.  In the Drake Hotel, 2006