We took a moment to ask the artists of Lives (on Canvas) specific questions about their artistic method and what makes them tick. The answers may truly surprise and inspire you.
Minimalist artist Carl Andre wrote, “Art excludes the unnecessary.” In what ways do you find the minimalistic style accurately demonstrates what you want to convey through your art?
Lynn Brophy: At this moment in my art-making life, I am fascinated with minimalism in a whole range of expressions: minimal colour palettes, minimal tonal differences/contrast, minimal 'objects' on canvas - and all the combinations these variations can encompass. I am curious about how little can have an impact, leave an impression, elicit a feeling or feelings.
I disagree with Andre's dictum that art excludes the unnecessary. Some art and artists indeed embrace this as a goal - to pare down to bare essentials, insofar as each artist understands and interprets them.
To extrapolate, however, from a personal decision, passion, goal, exploration to a general statement about all of art - that goes much too far for me. The art I love includes the 'unnecessary'. I love over-the-top, riotously extravagant art. I love art that spans the entire continuum between minimalism and 'maximalism'.
While I greatly admire Carl Andre's contribution to minimalism in particular and to art in general, his approach does not define art. It is part of a much larger, richer, more robust and inclusive tradition of human creative expression.
A number of your paintings are abstract, and a number are figurative. What determines both an abstract and a figurative painting in your mind? Does the style directly relate to the way you experience a scene?
Deborah Clarke: To me the essential difference between figurative and abstract art is that figurative art is derived more clearly from the real world around us, it is easily recognizable. Abstract art can be independent from tangible, visual references. However, the dividing line is often wonderfully undefined!
In my own work I enjoy the freedom of abstract painting, like dancing without choreography. Abstraction appears to be the only way for me to capture the mood and visual ‘enormity‘ of landscape scenes.
When painting a more palpable object, the human form, a flower or tree, I choose a more representational approach but I still take liberties with style and form and flirt with my use of colour.
What would you say changes in particular about the style and technique of your portraits as time goes by and your children mature?
Patricia Dundas: It's not really that my style has changed as my children have matured or that the techniques I use have changed. With every painting I do I’m a little more relaxed, and every painting is a little bit better than the one before it. I think that I have learned to make features a little clearer and that makes for a better portrait. It has nothing to do with the children getting older but more to do with my skill developing.
If you were to choose a destructive event or current situation that particularly incenses you, what would it be? How do you channel these emotions into your painting?
Diana Ericson: To be incensed by destructive events would be to blame. Certainly, scientists have convinced us that humans share a large part of the responsibility for the increasing number disaster landscapes that we see today. We are too many. We live in the wrong places. We want too much. We don’t share enough. But this is who we are, and this is what we do. Inventing, creating, striving, wanting, improving, expanding, and destroying has been the history of our species. The results are on the landscape.
I think that those who think about landscape have accepted that we need to change and to live more lightly on the earth. Many are working worldwide to bring about radical new ways to build, to travel, to power our lives. Many of us are making changes in our individual lives in response to these consequences on the landscape.
But the question remains: As a species, can we – will we – change? My paintings are asking this question. I don’t think they are about blame. I think they are more contemplative than emotional: This is who we are and what we do. But can we change?
In your artist statement you explain that you are drawn to the “beauty and resilience of walls over time” and often bury meaningful elements or text within your paintings. What kind of elements do you bury, and why do you hide them?
Susan Friedman: My paintings are initiated by an intention; each inspired by my response to the natural world, a world event, a personal experience, or simply by the beautiful texture of found materials.
In the paintings inspired by walls I have included newspaper articles, graffiti, and personal photographs. I do not set out to hide any of these elements. It is all part of my process; abstracting, layering, being spontaneous and listening to what each piece requires in that moment. What eventually is buried informs the painting giving it depth, no matter how minimal its ultimate availability. My hope is, that at completion, each painting resonates with the original feeling that inspired the work.
You state, “Making art is an act of pure faith”. Could you expand on that assertion? And if you were to choose, which artist’s painting inspires you the most?
Madelaine Roig: I think creating anything is an act of faith because to do so means bringing into being something from nothing. The question arises: Will that something embody beauty, meaning and value?
Since I paint without any preconceived idea or image, I must hold faith that whatever is driving the momentary mark-making will eventually lead to a finished piece I find arresting, cohesive and ultimately revealing. There’s no guarantee, and it is not always the case.
I begin with emotion, whatever is most pressing, writing and scribbling on the canvas in a fast and furious manner. Thus the underbelly of each piece is a kind of journal entry which will mostly be covered over, or may appear in parts as illegible graffiti.
There are countless artists whose paintings inspire me, so it is really impossible to choose. But I find I am drawn back to a handful of mid-century abstract expressionist artists to view their works again and again. Artists like Richard Diebenkorn, Franz Kline, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Motherwell, Cy Twombly. It was such a wildly experimental time in the arts, and I think that excitement, freedom and passion stirs me to paint.
Alain de Botton and John Armstrong believe that art can be used to help us interpret our problems. Drawing from your artistic statement, where you say that art helps you to pinpoint your own mood and feelings, how effective would you think art would be as a kind of therapy?
Candace Séguinot: Alain de Botton is one of my favourite authors because he writes simply in a familiar voice and yet manages to suck you in to a recognition of fundamental, universal truths. Those truths for me are not so much about problems and how art can help you understand them but about the nature of reality. Yes, I’m sure that art therapy can be helpful, to answer your question, but the process of making art and the process of viewing art are both therapeutic in a broader sense, a meditative sense. They take you into the moment. There is no room for anything else when you are fully present . And as with meditation, you long for an optimal, all-absorbing experience, but to get there you need to drop your expectations and desires and simply be with whatever is.
You describe your paintings as an “obsession” that you become attached to. Does this artistic process ultimately make it difficult for you to sell and part with your work?
Marilyn Vasilkioti: A painting becomes an “obsession” to me when I have given up on art as an experiment and I begin to have distinct ideas of how it should turn out. Spontaneity is lost and I become obsessed in having the work completed as I believe it should be, rather than a more creative process that brings me to the “end of the work.” The obsession is very much about the process and completion. Upon completion, when I am satisfied with the work, I am able to disengage from the painting and have no qualms of giving it up for sale or as a gift. By that time I’m usually involved in thoughts of, or actually in the process of creating another piece of work. When I am dissatisfied with a painting, I don’t want to sell it as the quality is a disappointment to me. I am able to put it aside and work at it another time. I have completed or changed work as much as a year or two later.
Lives (on Canvas) is on from December 3rd - 21st at Twist Gallery.