Emerge 5 Questions

Christopher Friesen

Search by Image

1. This body of work refers to the past, but also to contemporary cultural phenomena. Can you describe how you see these things intersecting?

“This work absolutely refers to the contemporary way we both produce art and engage in the dissemination and sharing of knowledge and communication. But I don’t separate the past from the present, in that you need to understand the history and evolution of a practice to see how and why the work exists now in a contemporary way.

If one aspect of art is to communicate, then right now I would argue the most effective and efficient way to communicate is through technology. Platforms like Instagram have evolved as a supplement to artistic practice and may ultimately become an exciting place for new practices. Encouraging viewers to post my paintings on their social media, for instance, helps me make my point about how algorithms search for images. My titles are the key to this process, as my contemporary paintings will appear alongside the historical paintings with the same titles by Corot.

This phenomenon of an image return, of typing into google what we want to know and getting back misinformation—and how easy it is to slip misinformation into a result—is the crux of this project. It asks larger questions about what else are we not being critical about, what else do we just take at face value, what else counts as truth. I guess to answer the question around intersecting the past with how the present operates, this illustrates it: it is trust. We can “google” anything we want, but do they have the critical faculties and knowledge to filter that information?”

Read More

2. You are not a traditional landscape painter, but landscape is the subject matter of these recent paintings. What places most inspire your work?

“I’m not a traditional landscape painter, but I am very interested in the Canadian tradition of painting landscape. I am very interested in how optics operate in painting, and Post-Impressionist landscapes like those by Tom Thomson illustrate the concerns about how painting can be representational (an image of a landscape, for example) as well as insistent on its material condition (the fact that it is a painting). I see contemporary painting addressing a similar issue: how do you introduce a structure like landscape as the subject of a painting and still address the reason why that needs to be a painting. Paint is a material and the paintings I respond to use paint in this way. Contemporary Canadian artists like Kim Dorland, Gavin Lynch, Steve Driscoll, Jeremy Herndl, Ben Reeves and international artists like Hurvin Anderson, Peter Doig are landscape painters that interest me. As far as places that inspire my work, living where I do in Brookswood, Langley, I am surrounded by trees, parks, and trails. I love driving around and exploring our province. Landscape is ever changing. For instance, if you drive from the Fraser Valley to the Cariboo, in five hours you will experience five different geographical zones. How can you not be inspired by the incredible diversity of nature we live in?”

3. When did you know you were meant to be an artist?

“Being an artist really is who I am, I love being creative and it makes me feel whole. I knew when I was 15 I wanted to be a professional artist. My father was diagnosed with cancer and required surgery to deal with it. At that age I began to take life seriously, to make plans and have goals. It might have been a reductive exercise: basically, what do I want to be, and what steps do I need to take to do that. I knew if I put the work in, I would be successful at it.”

4. How has becoming a teacher changed your art practice?

“First, I must say that the process of getting my MFA was the most revealing thing about being a teacher. I got to see behind the curtain, how the structure and operation of an art department works. University Professors are expected to have parallel teaching practices and art careers, and that is how I have always approached it. I have been involved primarily in the commercial gallery world and now feel that at this point in my career that I want to do more public exhibitions. By going through these processes, I can be a better resource for my students.

Teaching allows me and expects me to be current with the art world. I need to show contemporary work to students and to be able to put it into a historical context so they can make connections. Working with students, planning assignments, working with new materials and approaches really feels like an extension of my studio practice. I love being around creative, challenging people because that advances knowledge. I don’t assume my reasons and need to be an artist and a creator are the same for everyone, but for someone to take a class means there is something about art that compels them to be there. Teaching helps give my life structure so I value my time in the studio, it is meaningful. I often work on projects alongside my students so they can see how I approach my own work. I realized that showing students what I do is important; for a long time, I didn’t show students everything I do, as I wanted them to find their own path. Now I share my practice and process with them, specifically through Instagram so they can see that while I am asking them to do assignments, I too am working away in my studio.”

5. What is one of the most important lessons you try to teach your students?

“The first thing that I try to instill is work ethic: put the time in, life has a tendency to reward hard work. The more you are willing to do the more people are willing to do for you.

The next thing I emphasize is responsibility and time management. I usually only have students for one semester at a time, so I stagger assignments so students understand priorities. In every class I teach there will always be more than one project students can work on. That’s an intentional strategy: multitasking is real life. Responsibility is being accountable for your time and your results.

The final thing is to fail more. Success at anything comes through failure. If you fail faster and learn from those experiences then you are heading in the right direction. My assessments are set up so students have to approach them in different and revealing ways. Students find out about who they are and what their limits are. I can’t wave a magic wand and make you a better artist but what I can do is make you a better person so you become a better artist.”

Mark Neufeld

The Projectionist

1. What sort of research went into the creation of your current exhibition “The Projectionist”?

The research I do for this kind of show is wide-ranging but not particularly targeted. The research can take the form of and then related activities would include image research using the internet, google, Wikipedia, YouTube. I feel like it’s not what most people would call “scholarly” research in the conventional sense, and has more to do with what one might call “mining pop culture.” In addition, something I do which is more scholarly is I always bring an element of art historical interpretation to what I do, so the images I find online are measured against pictorial developments as they have occurred art historically. An example of that in “The Projectionist” would be where I take images from particular films (which are actually screen captures from YouTube) and by painting those images, I consider them in relation to art historical movements like realism, or early abstraction (to pick two examples). I tend to do that kind of analogous comparison a lot in my work. Another type of research happens in the exhibition space itself, where I bring my pictures and combine them with other elements like installation and performance. This is a kind of research one could call live or improvised. The work I do with actors is similar. Winding throughout and connecting these activities is what you could call associative logic, where images, objects and social narratives are connected in a way that might seem arbitrary to some people but which makes sense to me.

Read More

2. You use your paintings in your exhibitions, but you also you often include a lot of found objects and other ephemera. What prompted you to shift from a more conventional painting practice to this kind of assemblage?

The desire to work with space as a medium.  Also the feeling that paintings on a wall aren’t good enough. The German painter Martin Kippenberger, responding to developments in conceptual art and institutional critique, declared in the 1980s that simply putting paintings on the wall was no good; one had to consider paintings (or any images or objects) as they exist within networks that are both spatial and physical, but also discursive, related to language. Following on that, the whole space of the gallery becomes part of the work, as does the press release, the invitation, the artist talk, etc. This is an idea I have been testing out in my own way. Having said that, I do actually value the idea that pictures on a wall are potentially good enough, but I have decided to explore this other idea right now.

3. The nature of your exhibitions is not very commercial. Have you ever felt pressure to create work that is more market-oriented?

Sometimes I have felt that pressure, but I work at a University, where people often emphasize the divide between basic research and applied research (or between art and applied art, to use language more native to the arts). It’s an old-fashioned sounding distinction, but still common. The upshot of this is that I see my task as being research-driven and not product or sales driven, and of course I have the luxury to not be too concerned with sales. But I also think that in the end I do primarily make paintings, so they can be bought and sold and I am happy for them to be exchanged in that way. In relation to question 2, the market is another network (of distribution), so in the back of my mind I am often thinking about how to turn market distribution into some kind of content for my practice.

4. What advice would you give to emerging painters in particular?

I would say think broadly about painting and art and think of your work as potentially multi-faceted. It’s hard but old dogs can sometimes learn new tricks.

5. You are post-secondary art school instructor, what do you think is the most important piece of advice you would give to students who are aspiring to a professional practice?

I’ve always felt that the two most valuable things one can learn in art school are 1. The desire to make something, and the tenacity to see it through to completion no matter how big or difficult it is. If going into the studio is not a kind of addiction then maybe you are not cut out for it. 2. The creation of a social network that can sustain your practice, by which I mean a group of like-minded people showing together, looking at one another’s work, going out together etc.

Erica Grimm

Salt Water Skin Boats (in collaboration with
Sheinagh Anderson and Tracie Stewart)

1. You’ve worked a lot with the theme of liminality and the relationship between humans and the ocean. What first drew you to these themes?

I have always been curious about liminal, saturated or otherwise inexplicable but ordinary experiences. The philosopher Jean-Luc Marion calls these saturated phenomena, experiences that seem to exceed our senses, or extend them. Regarding the relationship between the ocean and humans, this is directly a response to processing my waking up to the magnitude of ocean change and its implications for life on the planet. Alanna Mitchel uses embodiment metaphors throughout her book Seasick as a way of making this intelligible. This work processes my grief and incredulity that the ocean is it-self sick, that humans have brought to a close the fecundity of the Cenozoic Era, and that we are in the 6th extinction. Reading Thomas Berry, however, restored hope. He talks of restoring/remembering intimacy with the earth as the great work of our age, and that the universe unfolding will draw out of us what is necessary. And it is happening. For example, in so many academic publications, people are talking about addressing the earth with subjectivity, a great deal of art and advocacy work is being done around Site C for example, contemporary indigenous work is more visible than ever before, the truth and reconciliation process is helping more and more people become aware, the academy is open to wider forms of knowledge and knowledge construction, waterways are been given rights in Australia and even Lake Winnipeg is being advocated for. These are all real signs of hope.

Read More

2. Salt Water Skin Boats is your first venture into large-scale sculptural work. What prompted this shift?

The work, research and the materials occasioned this shift. The forms were a result of spending my sabbatical in the forest, listening to the materials and following where they led. It is a process of inquiry, I approach the work with questions not answers, and materials taught me. What emerged through working/listening closely to the materials and following where they led is how amazing the branching patterns are, they are indexical whether in rivers, in tree branches, in roots, in our brains, lungs, guts, all throughout our circulatory system – they are all identical. Water runs through everything in an identical path, I suppose which maybe is not a surprise, but it certainly is a link indicating connection- we are not separate from nature, from one another etc. so a kind of one people, one planet, one future, kind of realization that might be apprehended through these shifting metaphors.

3. For this exhibition, you worked collaboratively with Sheinagh Anderson, a sound artist, and Tracie Stewart, an artist and arborist. How did this collaboration come about?

I invited Tracie and Sheinagh to work with me as I had a sense that I did not have all the skills necessary, and I am an external processor and love working with people. When I first started the research I invited conversations with many about the global ocean and Tracie was keen from the start.

4. When you were submitting work for your first solo exhibition, what were some fears you had (if any)?

Huge fears, always, even now! Let me see, imposter syndrome, not adequate, not current, interested in esoteric things like liminality, no irony…

5. How do you determine when a work is “finished”?

Oh, that is always a hard one. When the work tells me it is done, honestly. When my eye goes back again and again to a particular part, that usually is an indication that something needs to change, that it is not yet done.

Sage Sidley

Art on Demand 3.3: GAP

1. You graduated with a major in visual arts and a minor in mathematics, how did your studies inform your practice?

I really enjoyed learning the literal language of mathematics alongside the cultural language of fine arts. Both use abstract methods to explain substantially complex ideas and constructs within our society and the physical world. My studies inform the contextual research and the principles of time aspects of my practice.

2. What lead you to using the gallery walls as your canvas?

During the final year of my undergrad, I was presented with an opportunity to exhibit in an abandoned packing house. In the given context, drawing directly on the wall suited my idea to show, in part, the loss of the building. From there I continued to be fascinated with site-specific artists such as Robert Smithson, Richard Serra, Maurizio Cattelan, Daniel Buren, Banksy and Swoon (to name a few), and their connection to architecture and street art ideologies. Moreover, I enjoyed the ephemerality created by this method, and its contrast to the traditional discourses within the art gallery as an institution.

Read More

3. What advice have you received from a professor, mentor or colleague who has influenced your practice as a visual artist?

My printmaking professor would always challenge my “completed” work by offering the idea to push my work further, followed by asking me, “Why not?”. As I could never come up with a reason not to do more, I always worked until I reached the closest I could be to that ideal. This idea of infinite time dedicated to constant improvement of your practice, is forever ingrained in my practice.

4. How do you know when your work is finished?

I am such a perfectionist; my work is never finished. The best part about working directly in a space is the time limitation of the installation and the final destruction of the work once the exhibition is complete. This timeline allows the work to constantly be reborn, adapt and evolve, as each space creates a new level of dialogue to the concepts I am exploring.

5. You teach various drawing classes, what’s the most important advice you give to your students when drawing portraiture?

Be patient with yourself and be willing to constantly adjust what you have already drawn. If you get frustrated restart, with the idea in mind that you have already absorbed and learned how to draw your subject in your previous attempts. Finally, use to your advantage that everything must and will line up.