Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Maps and UnNatural History

The work of Vancouver-based Paul Morstad involves some of my favorite things, and I don't just mean the magpies (as in Magpie Bacchanal, above). His series of multimedia paintings on nautical charts and maps have a sort of chaotic and romantic welter of natural history (flora, fauna, gems and geology) and subtle, imaginative, visual puns.

Consider the ruby-throated hummingbird raising a ruby in her nest.

Humbolt's Acordion seems to allude to one of my favorite, heroic nineteenth century naturalist-explorers, the biologist-meterologist-earth scientist-freedom fighter Alexander von Humboldt, who, amongst many adventures, famously learned 40 words of the dead language of the lost Atures tribe of South America, from a parrot, the last surviving speaker. Though, it isn't impossible it may have just been inspired by accordion players in Humboldt, Saskatchewan (or any number of other places of the same name). It makes me imagine tucans passing on the lost accordion music of some imaginary people. I love how the natural lines of inlets and rivers become trees and branches. I wouldn't have thought forks in rivers were isomorphic to branching in trees, (and I happen to be the sort of person who has spent hours looking at the Canadian Hydrographic Service chart for Jervis Inlet) but the organic lines work so well.

There is something magical and menacing about the regal prairie chicken, over the sedimentary section with cut gem stones, grasshoppers and smoking black-eyed susans in Prospector.

I too am charmed by weather prognosticating rodents.

Paul writes that he is deeply influenced by the "landscapes, people, flora and fauna" of the Western provinces (Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia) where he was raised. Do yourself a favour and check out the rest of his portfolio. I stumbled upon it while looking at some of the animations of his immensely talented sister Julie Morstad; they created the animations together.


  1. Hi there,

    i just read your comments on my paintings. Great interpretations. Actually very similar to how I think about these paintings. I'm still rolling along on this series, but the hobo theme has taken front stage and I'm working toward a show of works featuring seafaring, adventurous hobos. If you want to chat more about it, email me. Seeing as you are so into maps I could forward you some higher res details of some of these paintings so you see them up close.

  2. Hi There,

    Love your comments on my work. If you'd like to discuss it further please email me. I can send you some hi res details of the work so you can see them up close.


    1. Hello and thank you very much for commenting!
      The idea of seafaring hobos sounds enchanting, actually. I think I will write you a quick email.

      Ele (aka minouette)



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