Odysseus: Concept

Craig Friesen wanted to make something narrative that would provide the opportunity to paint and draw things like costume, gesture and action. They both agreed that they wanted to work on a large scale, and sinc two subjects together that were by nature incongruous. They discussed different genres, and frequently the topic came on to Ancient Greece. A few years before, David Nielsen’s son Oskar, needed practice reading aloud. Oskar was introduced to a book series adapted for young readers by the author Mary Pope Osborne. Tales from the Odyssey, was the first novel Nielsen’s son ever read cover to cover out loud to his father. Together they read about the Greek Gods, Warriors, Kings, Queens, and monsters. Nielsen suggested that for their first collaboration, they could retell the Odyssey.

Having agreed on a subject, Friesen then began wondering if they could retell the Odyssey in a different context. They decided that in the spirit of collaboration, they would throw out any idea, and determine which one caught their collective imagination.  Odysseus, it was decided was to be a farmer from the Alberta prairies, who is drafted to serve in World War I. Thematically, Odysseus is one man’s journey which takes him from his home and family, and his desperate attempts to return. Friesen and Nielsen saw where there were many parallels in the narrative, and the backdrop of the First World War could work.The two artists did not realize it was the Centennial of World War I beginning, until they were well into the project.