Odysseus is a saga shared by hundreds of thousands of young Canadian men who were called to serve in Europe from 1914-1918. Odysseus is a man taken away from his Alberta farm and family, whose main goal is to return home. In addition to the World War I story, these panels are also telling a very well known story. As the main title and each piece’s title suggest, Homer’s Odyssey is juxtaposed against the more modern war story. All of the imagery suggests the Great War while the titles point directly to the classic Greek tale. The prose written on most panels mentions neither Homer’s original text nor the world conflict. This text speaks more to the state of mind of the hero which connects to equally to both the ancient and more modern story. Each panel is filled with hints and clues. The viewer must take their knowledge of The Odyssey, the title of the panel, the prose, and assemble the connections with the images and words.
When first encountering the viewer is struck by a epic World War 1 story laid out in 18 individual panels running 4 feet high and 24 feet in length when displayed side by side. To view the complete Odysseus can be daunting. One notices that this piece ebbs and flows throughout the panels between total chaos, and calm. It can be frightening and beautiful. These paintings take on the rhythms of storytelling.The work as a whole are very unified despite the amount of information. Looking closer at these panels, the muted camouflage abstractions, give way to multiple layers both drawn and painted, bursts of colour, figures, text, and hommages to art history. Everything is made up of spray paint and mis-tints. There are many entry points for those who appreciate Art, literature and history. There is an almost unknowable amount of detail in it’s cacophony. Give it a second, fifth, twelfth look, each reading will give you something else to discover and think about. Odysseus will bring you in.
Craig B. Friesen and David Nielsen, aka Quality Painters, have re-created a collaborative tome of grand proportions. Hints of Beckmann, Lichtenstein, Chagall, Kline, Renoir, Millet, Kirby are sprinkled throughout. It takes the viewer on a journey, and goads them to be active participants. Odysseus was made for adults and children in equal measures.
It does not glorify war. It uses conflict to speak of dignity and resolve.