Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I am really excited to share my recent paintings with you, my practice has evolved so much since the last time we spoke. I currently live and work in Montréal, and just returned from a residency at Vermont Studio Center. Right now I am a full-time artist along with a few side gigs doing digital art direction and web design. It was such an honour to work with you on the re-brand and website for yngspc back in 2017. It just jazzes me up to see how much you’ve grown and how much yngspc has made an impact on the wider arts community around the world. Thanks for all your hard work!
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I’ve always been the ‘artsy kid’. I quite honestly never thought about doing anything else with my life besides art. It was really just totally ingrained in my brain…I never really made a plan B. There were times that were harder than others, especially just starting out, where I questioned myself or felt unsure… but I think that’s normal. Overall, I was always super dedicated to living a creative life and making art. I feel very fortunate for this, because as I’ve gotten older I realize that not everyone has this level of certainty about their life’s path. More recently, I’ve been looking at a lot of older women artists who’ve been painting for 40, 50, 60+ years and I just think like wow, that is the most badass thing you could ever do. Live a life full of art, really dedicate yourself to your vision, no matter if success comes and goes (cause it will always come and go) and just keep on doing your thing.
What do you like most about working where you do?
I love Montréal because it is so diverse, artistically and culturally. It’s also much less expensive to live here than many major art cities in the rest of North America. So it’s feasible to live and work while still making time to enjoy the city and take time off for art trips elsewhere. That’s really key, because I love to travel, do residencies, go visit museums and galleries abroad. I feel like I have that flexibility both when I’m home in Montréal (we have many great galleries and museums here), but also certainly when I’m travelling to other places.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
Since graduating, and since our last interview, my practice has evolved considerably while retaining a common thread: I have always made work that examines the connections between manmade and natural phenomenon. Some of my past work has depicted cloudscapes or atmospheric gestures juxtaposed with city architecture to examine this relationship. The tension and harmony between organic and inorganic has always been compelling to me. I’ve always questioned whether the boundary between artificial and natural truly exists, or if its just an arbitrary classification we impose on our environments.
Since beginning to work with digital tools, around 2016, I’ve looked at this question through the lens of technology. I started to create lines, textures and forms using generative 3D modelling software, then paint the resulting compositions by hand using oils on canvas. Using the computer in this way felt like a breakthrough in terms of what I was trying to say about our relationship to technology and nature today. The forms that emerged (both from the algorithm and from my own tinkering around) were familiar and foreign to me all at once. I could light them up in various configurations, creating beautiful shadows and fields of depth, or I could play with the physics of the entire world which they inhabit, making them sub-zero gravity space-like entities. I called the resulting series ‘Soft Body Dynamics’, taking its name directly from the process in the software which simulates deformable objects. The forms are essentially all ‘soft bodies’ being manipulated in digital space.
They also strongly relate to the human body, and by painting them in oil on linen, I am sort of taking a stance for the legitimacy of the human hand’s right to authorship. Aesthetically, they curve, fold, and interact in ways reminiscent of a limb, intestine, or cellular organism, and in many ways represent a sort of digital skin, floating in and out of macro and micro perspectives. I really see these forms as having life in themselves, coming from a different kind of nature — a digital wilderness, regulated by the forces of chance and uncertainty inherent to their digital environment.
My main concern right now is to embrace technology as integral to a discussion of contemporary life and art today, and to try and impart an optimistic attitude to the viewer. (I’m a hopeless techno-optimist) Biology and technology are not as separate as we tend to think; Our brains are a technology, our bodies are another. So why do we fear the idea that computer technology will integrate with human technology? I think there’s a lot of fear of the unknown surrounding these topics, understandably. I guess my way of working that out is through painting. I want to advance the painting process in collaboration with the technology around me, and am always searching for ways to blur the line between my own creative agency and the machine’s.
What is your process like?
I work on two paintings max at a time. I need to build up quite a few layers in sections and coordinate dry-times, so having two on the go gives me the ability to save time in that regard. At the beginning of the process, it takes me quite a while to settle on something I’d like to paint. I have an archive of hundreds and hundreds of renders on my hard drive. On any given day, I might feel like experimenting in 3D, learning a new part of the program to render new models from scratch, or I might feel like digging through the archive of forms and trying to make something out of them. Once I have settled on an interesting composition, I’ll begin the physical painting process. Recently, I have been trying to encourage more painterly interventions to happen at this stage. I’ll sometimes consciously create a texture that could be rendered by hand by pooling solvent, or something more chance-based. I think it’s important to maintain the quality of the painted surface, so I’m currently working that out in my approach.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Alan Watts lately (tons of his lectures are up on YouTube if you’re interested) You might not first think of him as relevant to philosophy in the digital age, but I find much of what he says to be really related to today’s discussion about this dichotomy between human/non-human. He speaks a lot about eastern philosophy and religion, which I am also endlessly interested in. I have had this thought on many occasions — There is a fundamental connection between our exponentially evolving technologies and our advancement as human beings, in a spiritual sense. And the real blessing of the digital is that it allows everything to be accelerated: our relationships, our influence, our creative process etc. It’s like, we are able to go deeper, quicker than ever before. And I feel that through this narrative of technology, we are all growing towards some form of ultimate interconnectedness. People much smarter than me have called this the ‘Singularity’; the point in the future when technological growth becomes uncontrollable, resulting in irreversible changes to human civilization.
I am fascinated by this future, and what it means for our idea of what it means to be human.
Two Alan Watts quotes that I love:
“Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe.”
“The world is a marvelous system of wiggles”
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I have had many different jobs to maintain my art practice. In the past couple of years I’ve transitioned into making art pretty much full time. Before that, I worked as a Digital Art Director for a creative agency here in Montréal. I really liked it there and I got to design many cool web projects, but it was ultimately taking up most of my creative energy and draining me at the end of the day. I now do freelance web projects from time to time, and also had to pleasure to work with you on designing and maintaining the young space website!
I definitely think that every job I’ve had has given me an important takeaway that can be related back to my artwork. Working at an agency taught me the value of iteration and working on a deadline. Working for myself as a freelancer and business owner has taught me skills like bookkeeping and good relationships. I don’t necessarily think it’s a good or bad thing to have a creative day job, it just depends on your personality type and work ethic. For me, I managed fine with a 9 to 5 for about a year, but then found it to be too much. Now I think I’ve found a great balanced schedule while freelancing which gives me the freedom to work in the studio when I choose.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
I regret that I can’t remember who said this to me, or where I first heard it, but I have this line that I re-write at the beginning of all my sketchbooks:
“Keep investigating what you know is potentially amazing”
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
Try hard not to compare yourself or your work to others.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I’m a little out of sync right now, having just returned from being on residence, where I was often working 12 hours a day. But usually, in real life, I will try to go into the studio every day. Morning is when I work best so I’ll wake up, have my coffee and get out the door. It also depends on the type of work that needs to be done that day, if I have a lot of digital stuff to do, I might end up at the library instead, or just work on my desktop computer at home.
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
I struggle with this! I don’t have an MFA and I’m not sure I want one just yet. I think there are tremendous benefits and it can bring about a radical shift in your work. It’s also great to grow your network, build community, and grow alongside a peer group of artists. That being said, I don’t think I’m ready to go to grad school just yet. Residencies are pretty much filling that need for me right now, and I’m able to be in the studio pushing forward every day on my own. I feel like I will reach a point in the future where my work and process can benefit from grad school, but until that point, I’m fine with just living and working and seeing where the tides take me.
How would you define “success” in art?
Success for me is the long game. I want to look back when I’m 90 years old and have a lifetime of work to be proud of and leave behind when I’m gone. I guess it’s really about legacy… I want to leave a mark.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
I am most proud of the work I’ve made so far this year, 2019 as felt like a really creatively productive year. I’m also really excited for the year to come! In 2020 I will be having my first solo exhibitions. The first will be in Montréal at AVE Gallery in January, and the second at Robert Fontaine Gallery in Miami in March.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I am exploring new rendering techniques, continuing to paint, and also expanding my practice into sculpture. I am very excited to bring the works into physical space and relate them more directly to the human body. I’ve just bought a 3D printer and am really excited to experiment with resin, silicone and other materials. More to come!
Anything else you would like to add?
Thanks so much Kate! Keep rocking it!