How would you describe your studio practice?
Besides painting, my studio practice consists of a lot of preparatory work, which has lately included drawing and collaging to work out the compositions of my paintings. This also includes isolating images from old books and photographs by cutting them out or painting around them. I have also been drawing from live models. I listen to music and audio books all day, which probably unconsciously contributes to a sense of storytelling in my work.
What inspires you to make the work that you make?
Drawing and painting have always been the most natural way for me to externalize what is happening in my head, probably because it has been such a regular exercise since a young age. By isolating these thoughts and memories two-dimensionaly, I am able to better explain them to myself while hopefully providing some insight to others. Lately I have been influenced by the cover illustration of young readers mystery novels from the 1930’s through to the 60’s. This includes covers such as Nancy Drew novels and the Ken Holt Mystery series, by illustrators such as Russell Tandy and Bill Gillies. I like the tension and high narrative quality of these illustrations; they attempt to explain an entire story through minimal actions and symbols arranged on moody backgrounds.
How would you describe the physical nature of your artwork?
In the past my painting process has included a lot of glazing, but I have recently been working more directly with paint rather than with many thin layers. I have found my most recent work to be a little more loose and reckless, which I find exciting, though it still appears quite controlled compared to the work of many other painters.
Do you have any friends who are artists that you talk to about your ideas/work on a regular basis?
Yes, quite a few, though since I have left Vancouver it has become more correspondence-based, which is never quite as good as having someone in your studio. My friend Kitty Blandy and I discussed our work quite often through a daily coffee routine, and still do from a distance. My friend Devlin Shea who lives in Stockholm, and I exchange ideas and feedback about our work regularly through e-mails, photographs and proofing each others writing. Also, I have been working on an ongoing series of drawings with Vancouver artist Christian Nicolay, which we mail back and forth, always using the same envelope. The envelope has now developed a thick outer crust of postage stamps and stickers, and it is always so funny bringing it in to the post office to re-send. We also mail each other scraps of paper and things we find on the street.
What recent work are you the most happy with?
That would have to be my most recent work which has managed to break away from the more formulaic aspects of my painting that have developed over the past few years. In my new work there is a less structured figure/ground relationship. I’ve been trying to depict scenes in a more dynamic way, as they would happen in my head, rather than anchoring them in physical reality. The work is also more raw, reflecting a recent and rather chaotic period in my life. In this new series, called “Memory Tangle,” I have been trying to map together memories and situations using tree branches as a framework. This functions visually and metaphorically in the same way as a family tree, weaving together the contexts of various lives and creating associations between them.
Two of my favourite themes in your recent dream-like paintings are floating bodies and standing cats. What influences you to use these subjects?
I depict individuals and animals in supernatural situations that stand as open-ended narratives. The floating figures suggest a disengagement from everyday life, which has been a continual theme in my work. There has been quite a split reaction to this work, as people tend to view it as either very innocent or sinister.
Any upcoming shows? Or anything else you’d like to mention?
An exhibition of my recent paintings titled “Memory Tangle” will open at Bau-Xi Vancouver on June 5th. I have also been working on a separate project since 2008, for which I have been recording and illustrating individual notions of the afterlife. I will be finishing this project in residence in Iceland this summer as well as exhibiting it there for the first time, before it shows in the states.