NEST Collective: http://nestcollectivestudios.com/
Born in 1987, Toronto, Canada
NEST Collective: http://nestcollectivestudios.com/
Born in 1987, Toronto, Canada
You were out of town, vacation?
Skiing before the snow is gone!
You graduated at OCADU, what was your last day like as an undergrad?
A bit sad, but a huge relief too. I was so ready to leave. By graduation day, I had already been invited into Nest Collective, so the day after GradEx I basically moved all my thesis work, paints + drawings into my studio and started painting again the next day.
How was the community at OCADU?
The community at OCADU was both wonderful and difficult to access. It’s there, but you have to put in the work - it’s not a typical undergrad campus experience. My first undergrad was at University of King’s College which is a small arts university and I experienced a very typical arts campus/dorm lifestyle. But OCAD is a commuter school, so a tougher community to crack. You have to go to gallery receptions, start crit groups, get engaged - and it’s worth it, because when you graduate, you depend on that community.
Can you talk about your early work Backwoods (1) and (2)?
Before I started working in oils I was doing a lot of watercolour and it was my first love. it’s such a powerful and yet fragile medium. I love how immediate it is- you have to work quickly and precisely, but it takes on it’s own personality and does what it wants. in a way, you can’t really control it. At the time I created the Backwoods pair, I was really interested in exploring the body in a foreign environment and evoking some that weird forest/jungle mystique.
Why do you like to paint portraiture?
The face is just undeniably interesting. It’s hard, too. It’s an insane challenge. The slightest alteration in the droop of an eye or the corner of a mouth can change an entire expression. All we do every day is study each other’s faces, so we’re really good at picking up on the most subtle facial cues. I think a lot of artists are afraid of it. I’m obsessed with it though… clearly!
It’s also a vessel for paint. I just love paint and how it can be manipulated and tricked. I love finding ways to contrast the human with the material - so your eye is constantly moving from the subject’s gaze to the brushstrokes and where the bodily shape meets flat fields of colour.
Most of the portraits are females, do you think that your paintings address the notion of feminism?
Yes, I’m very interested in addressing that right now.
What do you think about photography?
I can appreciate a beautiful photograph - there are some photographers I absolutely love - but I’m more personally interested in work where you can see the artist’s hand.
I often use photography in my own work as source material, but the photo/painting relationship can become slavish. I don’t want to be beholden to a particular image, because the subject can really lose it’s vitality. I usually discard the photo along the way and let the painting determine its own outcome.
Do you like Janet Werner?
Love! I have a distinct memory of starting my first of many sketchbooks in my first year at OCAD with a picture of a Janet Werner painting called Girl With Sad Eyes. I remember seeing it online and being like “OH”.
I actually met her recently at her show at Birch Contemporary this year, I wanted to ask her questions about the work but I think I just ended up fangirling pretty hard.
You recently had an exhibition at Hashtag Gallery called Inhabitance, Can you talk about what it was about? Why was it called Inhabitance? how was it?
It was an awesome show, the opening was packed! We got incredible support and turn out. I have to give all the credit to Erin Kjaer who is the resident curator + facilitator for our collective. She organized this and really wanted it to be an introduction to our work as a group, how we create and embody our collective environment.
What are your thoughts on Toronto’s art scene?
It’s a bit difficult and somewhat insular since it’s so small, especially when compared to bigger cities in the US or Europe who have such an established and expansive history with much more support. We have such a small community here and the danger is that the tastes and market can be determined by a small group of people.
I think that’s evolving pretty rapidly though. I’m seeing a lot of emerging artists starting their own groups, collectives, pop-up shows, and other really creative solutions to connect with each other and have their work seen, and I think this will breathe a lot of vitality into the Toronto art scene. Hopefully over time we can see more of a supportive community and less of a scene.
Your thoughts on Canadian art?
Canada is such a young country and we’re just trying to find our identity and move away from more traditional mid century tropes like the group of seven imagery. I think we also need a much much higher degree of support from the Canadian government - better funding for arts programming, artist centres, grants, etc.
A prime minister that thinks art is a “niche issue” that ordinary people don’t care about (actual quote) and recklessly cuts major funding for the arts just shows ignorance at the most basic level about the fundamentals of our culture and society.
The ongoing series, Good Girls, - most of their facial features are similar, the oval eyes, monochromatic skin tone, long hair, unique colours, etc, and some of them don’t even have a face, just blank. there are also a few familiar faces such as Lana Del Rey-look alike and Emma Watson-look alike. What are the types of girls considered as good? Who are bad girls?
I think all women know what it means to be called a Good Girl. its a really dynamic and contradictory term. it’s simultaneously complimentary, derogatory, sexual, patronizing…
These portraits are extremely spontaneous and I allow them to take on their own personality and shape based on a gesture or shape that I lay down with ink or watercolour first. They kind of emerge out of the void and form their own identity.
What’s your ideology of women?
They’re great. Some of my best friends are women.
Where do you go for inspiration?
Oh my god, pretty much everywhere. I usually spend half my studio days falling into a rabbit hole on the internet looking for inspiration, which I think is integral. Going to shows in Toronto (or Montreal/NYC if i can get there) is incredibly inspiring. But i see poses and colour combinations everywhere, it could be a pattern on someone’s coat, the way a woman is standing on the subway, something from a book i’m reading.
Why do you paint? What influences you to paint? How painting has influenced your life as a human being and a painter?
I paint because I need to, it’s really as simple as that. It’s hard, it’s a constant struggle, trying to coax out an image you have in your head based on a single expression or a simple gesture. Sometimes the idea of pushing this strange oily substance around on a piece of canvas seems like the most ludicrous thing in the world. But then you stand back, and something is staring out at you, and your eye catches on a brushstroke or the vibrancy of a blue or purple and it’s just too sublime.
Untitled (Self Reflection), what questions do you often ask yourself?
Where am I headed / am I comfortable in my own skin / do I feel powerful… all these questions about my own identity that I think a lot of people experience. Being human is about self-awareness and that process is where the art comes in.
Do you see your work as a form of meditation?
Sometimes, there’s so much involved in the process that it varies. Sometimes I’m just drinking coffee and drawing, manipulating source material or playing with colour combinations. That can be pretty mundane. But when you have your colours mixed and you really sit down to paint and get into a rhythm, it’s definitely a kind of meditation and you have to remind yourself to actually stop and drink or eat!
Luc Tuymans, Elizabeth Peyton, Shary Boyle, de Kooning, Shelley Adler, Kris Knight, Jaime Angelopoulous, Dana Schutz, Erik Olson, Peter Doig… so many.
Do you have a day job? What do you do when you’re not painting?
Yes! Artists don’t like to talk about this, I think it’s somewhat taboo, but I work at the University of Toronto, which I really like - It’s incredibly flexible with my studio hours and I love being in an academic environment.
“it is possible a great presence is moving near me”, a physical presence or a psychological presence or both? This work brings me back to Good Girls series, but this time the portrait has a shadow-like structure with minimal facial features and a pair of nipples. Based on the title, you place yourself as the main character, What do you think about this work if you are a viewer? What’s the relationship between this work and Untitled (Self Reflection) as they are part of Shapes and Fires series?
This piece is named after a Rainer Maria Rilke poem titled “You, Darkness”. For me, the poem is about making your way in the darkness - sensing this movement and activity around you that you can’t see, and being simultaneously scared and excited by the unknowableness. For me, the Shapes and Fires series is about that. The title of the series is actually a little nod to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave + my literature background. As my work progressed, the faces began as really representational and identifiable, but the work started to become a lot more abstract and obscured. I liked that, because it became less about a specific person and more about a metaphor or idea.
Are you happy?
This is a hard question to answer… Yes? I think so.
Are your subject matter real?
Sometimes! I usually start with a photo and sometimes it ends up looking like the source material and other times it takes on it’s own personality and becomes someone new and unrecognizable.
What are you currently working on?
I have a bunch of paintings on the go, I work best when I have multiple surfaces to work on and switch between. I have a 6 foot painting in the works right next to a tiny little guy, so I’m experimenting a lot with scale.
Can you talk about “You Remind Me of Someone”?, She’s glowing from the dark and she seems struggling.
That work was really a fluke, which is how the best work happens. I had created an underpainting that i wasn’t happy with, and painted over it with a thin layer of white. i really liked the ghostly image and decided to keep it underneath a second face. it creates this really strong duality and sense of implied movement and internal struggle.
Untitled (Disappearing) is interesting, do you think that your work is part of you? like an alter-ego or a persona.
How could it not be!
Can you talk about the Nest Collective?
Nest Collective was formed last summer by Erin Kjaer, Stella Cade and Erin Loree. We found a big collective studio space to work amongst each other, and it’s also a great foundation for a group of artists with similar sensibilities to hold exhibitions, workshops, crits, etc together. We won the Artscape Youngplace 2015 residency, which means we’ll have space to hold shows, classes, and engage with the community. For me personally, it’s been crucial not to be alone in the studios. I know I could easily become a hermit.
Lots of stuff in the works. Our collective won an Artscape Youngplace Residency for 2015, so I’ll be showing there on March 30, and in the fall too.
And just painting painting painting so I can build up my body of work.