The Walrus magazine ran a good piece recently, highlighting five Canadian artists to watch. I was immediately intrigued, since it was great visual art coverage in a mainstream publication and FOUR of the five were women artists.
VoCA: Did you write this piece?
I did write the piece. I went to school for fine art, and there was always an assumption that I would go to art school. I grew up in Vancouver. I remember when I was a little kid I saw a Gathie Falk exhibit. She did all these busts of Queen Victoria, I fell in love with that installation. I’ve always had a connection with art, so it was nice to be able to do this.
There are thousands of great artists in Canada. How did you select these five?
We asked a few writers and a few critics, and I had a long list. We had an informal panel and a lot of us seemed to coincide on certain people.
For example, everyone wanted Jessica Eaton, which I concur with.
What were your criteria for choosing them?
We were hoping there would be some sort of regional distribution and some kind of distribution in terms of what the artists did. We really don’t have sculptures represented here. We used some regional sorting and medium sorting. We were looking for people beginning to make names for themselves abroad–our readers are not necessarily readers of Canadian Art magazine. They will know about Shary Boyle, because she was in the news and in Venice, but we are looking for people who are right behind her. We couldn’t quite do emerging, we wanted to find people who if you lived in Winnipeg or Vancouver, tomorrow you might walk into the museum and see something by or about them. Raymond is a good example of that, his work is part of the Beat Nation show.
We were trying to get people interested in art by saying these are people you should look for and they are probably actually….nearby.
Julia Dault. Image: JODY ROGAC/thewalrus.ca
Is there a quality that they all share that you can articulate?
They represent all sorts of things…each of them has approaches that make them akin to each other, each one to another but not all across the spectrum. Melanie and Jessica are both very interested in colour, but they come at it from totally different perspectives. I can’t speak for Raymond but I feel he comes out of the Vancouver tradition of Fluxus…and I can’t line him up with anyone except maybe Julia, because there is a quality to that in her sculptures.
You can join each of these artists up but can’t draw a line through them.
The Oh Canada show at Mass MoCA – as a Canadian it’s impossible to say what Canadian art is…People have tried to suggest that somehow we are about landscape, but we are intensely urban people when it comes down to it. I come from Vancouver where everyone is doing things with a bit of a wry smile, but even then you can’t use it as a container to contain the major artistic production.
I was thrilled to see so many women. Do you think women are making particularly strong work in Canada?
This list kind of just happened, from the point of view of gender. I think the women were just there. I think we are getting to a place where gender doesn’t matter. When I went to school the guerrilla girls were making their point because it had to be made, and I feel that we are moving to a place where that doesn’t matter any more.
It’s not that women are making stronger work than men, but that the institutional barriers are finally eroding. They are still there, but it’s a great thing for society. It’s just that people are finally judging them purely on their own merit. Obviously the art world is a very difficult place for anyone to make their way.
Jessica Eaton. Image: JODY ROGAC/thewalrus.ca
In recent years it seems that mainstream (non-art) publications have begun giving art and artists more broad exposure. Do you agree? If so, why do you think this is?
I’m not sure – it’s a greater realization in the culture at large that the arts are important for plotting the future of our society. There are more channels for diffusion so people are more interested in contemporary art, so it has a feedback loop.
For the Walrus, we have always tried to maintain a strong connection with the arts, so it’s something we have been trying to negotiate for a long time.
The Walrus has a history of commissioning illustration by Canadian artists.
Sure we do. Shary Boyle did a cover for us, actually, I think in 2004.
I noticed that your piece was sponsored by TD. Is this the way more media is going? Sponsored content?
I don’t think so…this was a happy synergy. Their support enabled us to put more pages in the magazine to do this piece in the first place. It was critical. I don’t think that’s necessarily the future of our arts reporting…I would be happy if they kept this partnership because it led to a nice result.
its good for us and good for them. I really want to support contemporary Canadian art, it’s part of our cultural mandate too.
Is this going to be an ongoing feature in the Walrus? I can think of many, many, many qualified artists for a ‘Ones to Watch’ section…
I hope so , we have a 2 year agreement with them. We are talking about other projects internally as well. Personally, I really enjoyed the result because I can say the name Julia Dault to people who should know better, and I’ll get a blank face… about her work. Or Melanie. She is a classic example of someone who is doing something so hard, and it’s so hard to do that well…there’s a certain invisibility.
In Canada, we treat our art as if we were the Swiss uninterested in chocolate. Art is something we export. We are not interested in our own stuff…its for other people to appreciate.
Hopefully that is changing.
Find work by Melanie Authier at Georgia Scherman Projects
Find work by Julia Dault at Jessica Bradley Gallery
Find work by Jessica Eaton at Jessica Bradley Gallery
Find work by Raymond Boisjoly at Catriona Jeffries Gallery
Find work by Aurel Schmidt HERE