Favourite woman artist and why/how has she/her art or life inspired you?
Alisson Schulnik is pretty amazing. She's fearless with impasto oil, her colour mixing and placement is inspiring and her subjects captivating. Alisson's 3D animation videos commissioned by/for the band Grizzly Bear are so imaginative. I look at her work and feel nothing can stop her fierce creative drive.
When did you first discover art? and when did you realise that you wanted to pursue it professionally?
It's tough to say when I first discovered art because I was always painting even as a small kid. Discovering artists' work, well, I suppose I started taking notice around the age of 12 which was also when I started taking serious extracurricular painting classes with instructors outside of school. From the age of 12 my interest built momentum, and then one day when I was 15 I remember deciding, knowing, saying out loud, that I was going to become a painter. It was pretty liberating, especially because it was the age where my high school began putting the pressure on students to sort out what college programs to apply for later on in year 12. I feel lucky that I knew so young.
Can you tell me a bit about you/your background? (eg where are you from/based? What has your educational path been like or are you self-taught?)
I am Canadian, now based in the capital city of Ottawa, and I grew up on the East coast of this huge country. I studied fine art at OCAD University (Toronto), and spent a year at OCAD's Florence campus studying Renaissance art. I also studied for a year at the National Academy School of Fine Art in NYC, and most recently I completed the correspondence course with Turps Art School in London. Having said all that, I look back and feel I taught myself a lot of what I know painting wise. School was more of a time-out for me to lay it out and play it out in my head, in a workspace void of all the stressors and distractions of the big bad world outside.
What themes or ideas do you explore in your work?
My current painting series “It Fell From Earth” springs from fragments of the world we inhabit, bringing together a collection of small encrusted and gloopy oil paintings, and collage work assembled from torn and painted pieces of paper, sometimes stitched or taped together. The work is presented as a conversation around the unknown, while vaguely referencing the things that surround us. Some artworks could be interpreted as microscopic/biomorphic phenomena, or outer space life forms from another planet, another cosmic dimension, or dreamscapes. The imagery ends up hovering somewhere between reality and painterly fantasy, organic life and dystopian form. In turn, I aim to allow the viewer to ponder all these worlds and atmospheres through my work in a way where the point of origin isn’t clear.
Describe your process!
Recently I have chosen to just walk into the studio and engage in unresearched free fall to see what happens - I'm going with my gut and it is purely in the moment. I used to spend ages researching and making photo-collage paint studies which I would use to create a much larger version of as a finished painting. Not having a blue print to call upon and live up to has been tough at times but it can be rewarding all the same. I usually work on about 10 to 12 pieces all at the same time, but only 2 or three are up on the wall at at once while the others are put aside to dry and to let my eyes and mind rest - that way I can deal with them with a clearer idea of where I should take them next once they've had a chance to dry. Some can take a few weeks to come together and others can take months, but none of them are worked on every day during those time frames.
What have been your influences? (Anything in history? A particular work of art? Other artists? Landscape? Movies? Family/friends? Literature?)
I think that the history of painting, travel, films and television have all shaped a great deal of the way I approach my ideas, compositions and colours. To me they have been fully immersive experiences when they captivate my imagination. I cannot say that there is one tour de force artwork or film that I look to, but it's the accumulation of constantly engaging with these art forms over my lifetime which inspires me to create a spark of my own.
Could you name a book you would recommend to every artist? (Not necessarily art-related)
"Girlfriend in a Coma" by Douglas Coupland - it's a visually descriptive novel of well observed reality and nostalgia rolled together with sci fi, dystopia, and the fighting human spirit.
Do you have any advice for other artists? Particularly students/emerging?
Just keep making a lot of work, and keep at it, even when it’s not working and you feel like you are dragging yourself through a trench of futility. You will gain higher ground eventually if art truly is what you want to do as a life choice.