Pulling Through, the current exhibition at the School for Contemporary Arts office at the Woodward’s campus, is a series of paintings on plaster by Adrienne Evans who recently completed her BFA with the school.
While plaster is generally used as a sculptural material by artists both as a medium for creating casts as well as a medium unto itself, Evans uses the material to create distinctly shaped surfaces that are painted on while still wet.
Either kayak-shaped, or cast from paint tubes, these paintings refer to the history between the artist and landscape, as well as to the tradition of fresco painting, but show a sense of humour in their handmadeness and use of found objects.
In this interview, Evans and curator Curtis Grahauer discuss the inspiration for this exhibition and the unique medium.
Curtis Grahauer: In your artist statement, you describe these works as “inspired by a summer spent road tripping and camping in BC.” What is your process of interpreting these experiences?
Adrienne Evans: I start by recalling what I consider to be the “tone” of the experience — the scent, the temperature and the scale of the place — and find colours, textures, and emblematic images that help to conjure them up. It’s kind of synesthetic, kind of symbolic, and also kind of revisionist in that I inevitably reinvent the memories while I’m in this process.
CG: How did you arrive at using plaster this way, to paint in fresco?
AE: I wanted to paint spontaneously, so I chose a more dynamic surface, liquid plaster, which, for a little while, is almost indistinguishable from the paint itself.
CG: Where does the exhibition’s title, Pulling Through, come from?
AE: It is an allusion to the window-like quality of landscape paintings by artists such as J.M.W. Turner and contemporary painters like Peter Doig. Standing front of some of them, I feel like I’m being pulled through into these amazingly vast spaces, not only in terms of the scene depicted but also the emotional tone. I wanted to make work that pulled me back to my own grand experiences of wild places.
CG: The cast paint tubes are funny. Up close, you can see the seams from where they were cast, but from a distance, they look as though they were taken off of a shelf from a painter’s studio.
AE: Because of their generally lumpy, fluid-filled shapes with little cap heads, I painted them in fleshy, mottled hues like human bodies — inspired by the dramatically lit bodies often shown in classical paintings — and thought of them as little compositions of people on the shelves and slings I placed them in.
CG: What is the relation between the tubes and the kayak-shaped paintings?
AE: Both are an attempt to use a brittle, opaque studio material to evoke something deep and atmospheric. The earliest painting, Squint, was a reference to the eye and how I often squint while out in the sun on the water. While the “eyes” and “kayaks” delineate the scene from an inside perspective, the paint tubes reference the vulnerable body of the seer from the outside. If the kayak-shaped paintings are the vessels, then the little paint tubes are the travellers. Like a tiny human figure depicted in a landscape painting, they give scale to the other paintings in the show.
Pulling Through is on until February 27 at the School for the Contemporary Arts office (GCA 2860). For more information, visit sfu.ca/sca.