War Artist Profile: Scott Waters

Scott Waters received a visual art degree from the University of Victoria and a Masters of Fine Arts from York University. Born in Northern England, he grew up in British Columbia but now lives in Toronto, Ontario.

After retiring from the military, Waters was asked to join the Canadian Forces Artists Program (CFAP), a program that was created to ensure that an artistic record of Canada’s military history was developed and preserved. He agreed, and over the past two decades Scott has created an exquisite collection of work that investigates how the military (especially the infantry) society operates as a social unit both in isolation and in relation to civilian society; how fraternity and mythology informs these societies and how the external viewer perceives them.

However, Scott’s paintings represent more than a historical archive of Canada’s military history. Scott explains, “One of the reasons I made the paintings is that I have a lot of unresolved feelings and unanswered questions about my time in the military. In one way, the paintings are just a methodology. The physical act of painting was a way to work through these incidents to try to come to some resolution about them.”

Scott paints on sheets of plywood, using acrylic and oil. His art is distinct, dynamic, powerful and thought-provoking.

“The other week I was watching the enjoyable but flawed movie, Lucy. In this lil story Scarlett Johansson develops the ability to use 100% of her brain (most of us use around 10%…. I use slightly less). When asked what she should do with her new abilities, she is told that the sole purpose of being alive is to pass what we know to the next generation. And so I’ll use this dubious pop cultural artifact as my object lesson.

Living half of the time in a world of academic and contemporary art, I regularly find myself in the “art about art” scene. And while I very much appreciate the importance of understanding the inherent qualities of your tools – those things that separate one thing for another – at the beginning and end, for me, culture should be about storytelling. It’s the telling of tales that allows us to make some small sense of the messes that often define humanity.

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But there’s also this: As a sailor during world War Two, Tony Law was involved in numerous combat actions, often at night. After the war, he created paintings that depicted as accurately as possible his experiences. Upon viewing these naval combat nocturnes, his civilian friends were mystified: The illumination rounds and tracers were of a foreign world that made no sense to them.

So, we have this strange, compelling Catch-22: Literal depictions of the military paradigm fall short because the world of military activity is often unknowable to civvies. Images fall short, and what is needed – in Law’s case, and often in mine – is a text. Words here must be reduced to their basic function: the telling of facts, but also to acknowledge the ongoing failures of artists to breach the gap between those who have a set of experiences and those who don’t.”

– Scott Waters

Connect with Scott Waters:

Website: www.scottwaters.ca
Twitter:@flyswaters
Instagram: @mr_scott_waters

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