“It is especially interesting when a collective consciousness is expressed through the work of many artists to capture the energy of the current era.”
- Emma White
what was your childhood like and who/what were your early art influences?
I spent large parts of my childhood summers outdoors, either camping/canoe tripping, or visiting the Black Hills in South Dakota, USA (where my grandparents lived). These experiences in nature were extremely meaningful to me, and wilderness imagery hugely inspired my work when I was younger. It still does to this day, although now I tend to enjoy interrupting natural scenery rather than dutifully representing it.
can you tell us about your workspace/studio and local creative community?
I am very lucky to have found an amazing organization in Toronto called Akin Collective, which provides affordable studio spaces to so many artists in the city. I am currently a resident in the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto (MOCA) X Akin Collective studio program, so I get to make art within the museum. Everybody in the program is very motivated, which keeps me working hard as well. (www.akincollective.com)
What type of work do you make and what mediums do you use?
I would like to be able to say that I have a diverse practice, however, I really only oil paint. Sometimes I think about starting a sculpture or a print, but I automatically gravitate toward oil painting and have stopped trying to fight this urge. I paint on canvas, board, and paper, but paper is probably my favourite on which to paint because it feels a bit more temporary, or like a study. Because of this, I generally paint more loosely and end up liking the finished product more than some of my “polished” works on canvas. I don’t mess around with mediums - I generally just use the paint out of the tube with some linseed oil if needed.
Can you describe some themes which run through your work?
In my recent work, I have been focused on depicting perception or “the act of looking”. Specifically, I’m interested in depicting the act of looking at Wilderness. I find it challenging to attempt to paint human presence, without actually inserting the human form into the picture plane. Instead, I try to find more creative methods to mark the human gaze on a natural scene.
How has your work developed and changed over the past few years?
To continue from the last question... In the past I was depicting the human gaze by inserting paint forms that are reminiscent of migraine aura or sun spots on the retina. Recently, I have been experimenting with marking the scene with human presence by inserting shapes and forms that don’t necessarily fit the scene, and appear to exist on a separate plane.
Do you have any rituals or a routine when it comes to creating your work?
Generally, I begin by referring to a photograph to begin my preliminary underpainting. Once I’m finished with the photo reference, I almost always paint sloppily on top of the middle of the photograph, to get comfortable with the thought of interrupting the scene. I find that it loosens up my physical painting, but also loosens my mental image of what the final product should be.
Can you tell us about another artist whose practice you admire, do they influence your own?
An artist that I admire right now is Emma Webster. Her work beautifully combines art historical references with topical subject matter, as well as realistic representation with sections that are purely painterly. She also appears to combine collage, sculpture, diorama, photographs, etc. to create references for her paintings, which is something that I would like to attempt as well in order to create paintings that don’t appear so flat (which is something that I struggle with). Seriously, her paintings always blow my mind. (www.emmawebster.com)
How do you define the role of an artist?
Recently, I have personally struggled with knowing what my role is as an artist. Some days, I am not even sure it is what I want to be. Generally, I believe the artist’s role is to represent the views of the present day. It is especially interesting when a collective consciousness is expressed through the work of many artists to capture the energy of the current era.
Do you have a job which sustains your art practice, what is it how does it effect your art?
I do not currently work in the arts. It would be a dream come true to be able to make a living by creating art, and might be something that I pursue in the future. My current job is a huge and weird leap from my previous life as an art student, but I currently work as an Anti-Money Laundering Investigator for a bank in Toronto. It is a job that is interesting, but in the past I have kept this part of my life fully separate from my life as an artist. It would be interesting to work the concepts of crime and confidentiality into my work - it would completely throw my paintings into a different realm, which could be a good thing. For now, I am a master compartmentalizer, for better or for worse.
What are you up to when you’re not working or making art?
I feel as though I spend a lot of my time listening to podcasts, and hanging out with my wonderful friends in Toronto. There is no shortage of fun things to do in this city.
Who/what inspires you day-to-day?
My loved ones inspire me daily, because they are all extremely motivated in their respective fields. One of my roommates works in theatre, and the other is studying to be a teacher and is writing a book. They both care so much about what they do and I find it insanely inspiring. I also have friends working in art galleries or with art collections (and it can be so hard to find work in these areas). My friends who still paint after graduating inspire me and challenge me immensely, because they create really beautiful work that pushes me to be better. My boyfriend is a stand-up comedian who never seems to stop working and is insanely creative when coming up with his material. Basically, all of my friends are amazingly hardworking and seeing their success and talent really pushes me to work on myself as well.
Anything exciting you’re currently working on?
I have taken a bit of a break recently, but this summer I hope to create some smaller works that have a really chaotic feel to them; colourful pieces dominated by loose brushwork.
Do you have anything else you would like to mention or add, perhaps an upcoming show?
I have an upcoming show with MOCA Toronto! I will be showing work with the rest of the MOCA X Akin Collective artists in later this summer.