Phone Tag: Interview with HaeAhn Kwon

Sock, 2016, sock, human hair, feather, paper, plastic wrap, string, wooden fruit crate, 7 x 11 x 12 inches

Just before the end of 2016, I Skyped with HaeAhn Kwon. HaeAhn is an installation artist whose work with sculpture and assemblage uses common and inexpensive materials to attempt a poetics of space and relation. Previous Phone Tag participant Walter Scott knows HaeAhn because they both began the University of Guelph’s MFA program this past fall. Before her recent move to Guelph, Ontario, HaeAhn has lived in L.A., her native Seoul, Korea, and New York City, where she did her undergraduate degree. In the interview, we speak about her recent interest in ritual, a manner of working with perceptive responsiveness, and how moving has changed her relationship to materials.

 

Phone Tag is a generative interview format, where I ask each participating artist five questions (plus others as the discussion meanders). At the end, I ask him or her to introduce me to a working artist whose attitude and work they find interesting and inspiring, who I then interview with the same five questions.

***

Bread Rolls, pipe cleaner, paper maché, oil pastel, road salt, 8 x 7 x 9 inches

Linnea West: “Could you briefly describe what your practice is? What do you make?”

HaeAhn Kwon: “I’ve been making sculptural installations using provisional materials that are found or cheaply purchased. It’s hard for me to summarize…not least because it’s in flux…but more recently I’ve begun incorporating a ritualistic approach. It’s ritualistic in the sense that American poet CAConrad puts it: ‘It brings a heightened awareness to the present moment.’ I think I’m using the provisional materials to think through the time we are living in, this waste culture, and the rituals in the work are about not taking the materials or actions for granted but to recognize something of their material abundance…”

LW: “It seems like there is also something humorous about the objects.”

HK: “Yeah, humor is a big part of the work. They’re lowly materials, discarded or discardable, and through quiet arrangements they bring a sense of humor and…attentiveness, maybe.

My work used to be much more spontaneous, but I’m changing the way that I’m making. It used to be more intuitively responsive to available materials. But these days I’m much more involved in taking a premonition, like instructions for myself from my subconscious, so that’s why I’m having a hard time trying to bridge these two methodologies…”

Bag, 2016, bag, marker, straws, 15 x 8 x 4 inches

LW: “Is this something that has evolved because of your time in grad school, or was your work already shifting this way?”

HK: “Earlier works from 2014, from Korea, are installations made using industrial materials that are readily available. Those were about encounters on the streets of Seoul where you see private gestures and arrangements of objects that people make for their personal use in public space. Like, an ad-hoc parking stop or a rack repurposed to dry food on. The particular way that they engage with materials in Korea, I think, has to do with the generation that experienced war and poverty like my parents’ and grandparents’ generation. They have a specific, more attentive relationship to materials that are around. Then I moved to Los Angeles, where I became very isolated not only in terms of attending a disjointed MFA program at University of Southern California but also living without a car in a city which I felt was built on the scale of cars; I totally shifted gears from walking around and salvaging materials from the street to working in a ceramic studio and working with relatively traditional art materials. That time was also such a weird pressure cooker for me because I had to constantly negotiate with myself and others about reasons and meanings for being in the school, which was under scrutiny from the art community.  The recent works seem to really speak about my desire to break from all the rationality or valorization, validating why I’m making them or what’s good about it. In that way, L.A. actually really changed the way I work with materials and my attitude toward materials.”

LW: “I could see that. To go from Seoul, to L.A., to Guelph…I can only imagine if you’re paying attention to everyday materials how intensely that could change things…”

HK: “Exactly. I was paying a lot of attention to the way people use materials in Korea, and L.A. changed that for me.”

LW: “What are you working on now?”

HK: “I’m working on sculptures that I now see as discrete objects. Previous works were a series of objects that became an installation. There were mostly fragile gestures that had to speak to each other to become more of a dialogue in the installation itself. Nowadays, they are much more autonomous. I see more separations happening in between them, although I still use impoverished materials, like pipe cleaners, papier mache, or mass-produced food items, like ramen noodle packets or bread. What I’m working on currently are sculptures that incorporate exchange with other people, such as somebody’s handwriting or a collection of hair. Something that the person I know has or is capable of attaining that is particular to them only, and I would have the idea of using that specific material. But they don’t necessarily connect overtly to their identity. It’s a weird state of making an amulet or talisman that is charged in between the maker, the collaborator, and the viewer in a way. It’s not neutral, the way that the object gets charged with meaning.”

From the series Parasite and Ghost, 2016, ceramic, instant ramen noodle, spray paint, rock, sleeping eye mask, dimensions variable

LW: “So the object itself has this kind of energy?”

HK: “That’s how I think I operate, with these everyday materials that aren’t imbued with significance. They get charged in a specific way that is not necessarily accessible or readable right away.”

LW: “Who has influenced you as an artist?”

HK: “I want to answer in two different ways:  I am influenced by those I am around, like who is in my life at this time. So, Walter Scott is influencing the way I look at words and narrative, and my partner Paul Kajander is a constant influence in how I make and see art, and Kirby Mages, my friend in Chicago who is in touch almost daily, always thinking and sharing about art in text messages and snapchats…

Kim Beom is an interdisciplinary artist from Korea, who has been a great influence. He wrote a book called Noonchi (2009), which is about caring for an imaginary dog. The narrator is a mediator; he is introducing you, the reader, to a dog and asking you to be introduced and be responsible for this dog and become the dog’s owner. ‘Noonchi’ is a Korean word that doesn’t have a direct translation in English, but it’s a kind of perceptive intuition. It also has a connotation of response, as in a social intelligence and responsibility that calls for a certain response in a given situation. His work is very specific in its cultural context yet he doesn’t didactically draw from the cultural identity per se. His relationship to language and to this idea of care and perceptiveness has been a great influence on me.”

Installation view of “What You See Is What You Make”, Samuso Space for Contemporary Art, 2014

LW: “When did you first think of yourself as an artist?”

HK: “I have a really bad memory…as if I’m pro-forgetting. Because of that quality, I have a sustained feeling of fleeting moments of being an artist. It’s kind of like when you’re aware of the banality and brutality of life but at the same time have a heightened awareness of the materials around you, the people around you, the gestures around you—those moments feel so precious to me. And that’s when I feel I can call myself an artist. Because I have a very ambivalent position about this title of artist, my doubts and convictions all get mixed in.”

LW: “What’s an ideal day in the studio?”

HK: “My studio is always in a mess. I tend to meander a lot. It’s a lot of inefficient, time-consuming labor that doesn’t really get anywhere. So the ideal day is similar to what [Phone Tag participant] Tiziana said—she starts working and wants to work for as long as she wants, and that’s how I work too. I do a lot of different things all at once almost to the point of distracting myself in a way, and I would have these surprising encounters. That’s the spontaneous thing in the process, where I’m surprised by things that I didn’t know I was going to do. It’s definitely more than six hours at a time, starting in the afternoon, because I get overwhelmed with daily tasks in the morning. So after lunch I get in the studio and meander for a while until things start getting loose. I’m listening to podcasts or talks or lectures online and doing things with my hands at the same time. At the end of the day, there’s something that you didn’t think that was on your agenda. That kind of thing.”

LW: “So you don’t plan out a specific outcome…”

HK: “There are plans, but more often than not they don’t come out as planned. That’s what the perceptive response is….you’re responding to how things are different than you expected.”

LW: “It sounds like you would have to have a lot of faith in the process. And that you would have to have the patience to sit with it.”

HK: “Yeah, I spend a lot of time waiting. It takes time for me to intuitively do something that I’m happy with.”

LW: “Is this ever in conflict with having a deadline, like for a show…?”

HK: “Yeah, I think so, but it’s kind of funny. I think I’m built on crisis, like South Korea is built on crisis. I really started thinking that I have this dualistic mode of being that is constantly in crisis. Somehow deadlines just push me to break down more often, maybe more efficiently.”

Which One Slab, 2014, 31 x 23 x 1 inches

LW: “I think you’re in a great position to speak to my final question, given how you’ve moved around lately. Do you think it’s more important for an artist to be in a big city where there are cultural institutions and chances to show your work, but it is busy and intense and expensive, or to be in a quieter place where maybe you can focus on just making?”

HK: “I’ve lived most of my life in mega-cities. I know that cities have vigor and diversity in communities, which are great. But having experienced these hubs, I’m really enjoying time away, having a distance from cities, especially because I understand now that I have a hard time listening to my own voice. I think it depends on the person and the kind of phase that the person is in, and I think our relationships to cities change. At the moment, I’m really enjoying more of a focused time in my studio, where I don’t have to worry about getting somewhere to be in the right place at the right time.”

LW: “Do you know what you’ll want to do next?”

HK: “I really like Toronto. I think I’ll stick around Ontario for a while. I’ve been jumping around; I did an undergrad in New York, went back to Seoul, then went to L.A., before finally coming to Guelph. I want to see what it’s like to be settled in one place—nurturing my practice, caring for those around me, and supporting a community.”

Phone Tag: Interview with Walter Scott

Walter Scott, Excerpt from Wendy

Walter Scott, Excerpt from Wendy

The former Phone Tag participant, Tiziana Le Melia, put me in touch with Walter K. Scott, a Canadian artist perhaps best known for his Wendy comics. Walter speaks with me about creating Wendy, a fictional character trying to navigate the art world; his sculptural practice; and his recent move to Guelph, Ontario to pursue an MFA in this Phone Tag interview.

Phone Tag is a generative interview format, where I ask each participating artist five questions (plus others as the discussion meanders). At the end, I ask him or her to introduce me to a working artist whose attitude and work they find interesting and inspiring, who I then interview with the same five questions.

***

LW: “If you had to briefly say what your practice was, what kind of work do you make?”

WS: “I started making comics again in 2011. I have this comic series called Wendy. It’s a fictional narrative of a person named Wendy who strives for art stardom but her life keeps getting in the way. She tries to access the art world and continually try to define herself as a successful artist without really knowing what that means. So it’s the story of someone’s personal life but it’s set in the art world.”

LW: “Does this relate to what you are seeing in other people when you were out at openings, or is this more a personal feeling as well?”

WS: “Wendy is based on me. Wendy started as a story of a girl who wants to be an artist but she lives in this punk community like I did in Montreal. As Wendy’s adventures have continued, they are inspired by the things that have been happening in my life, to me. They go from the punk loft to galleries, openings, parties, conferences, all the art milieu places.”

Walking Across Campus With a Form to Fill Out, Acrylic and Watercolor Pencil, 14x17", 2016

Walking Across Campus With a Form to Fill Out, Acrylic and Watercolor Pencil, 14×17″, 2016

LW: “In terms of who has influenced your practice, are you looking at other comic books? At life?”

WS: “My first influence was Kathy Acker. The first Kathy Acker book I read was Don Quixote. I like how the main character speaks but then the dog will speak, and the prose was inspiring to me. I wanted to channel that punk spirit. But at the same time it was influenced by Legally Blonde and the idea that a person on the surface can be conventionally attractive and well-dressed but in fact is a mess. That’s where Wendy came from. Formally, because I picked up drawing comics where I left off, when I was 16 years old, the same formal inspiration is there. Like Matt Groening’s Life in Hell or Ren and Stimpy.

Then from comics, I started to make sculptures. But I wasn’t totally sure where the sculptures were coming from. They felt a little bit forced and too autobiographical. But then I had a really good studio visit, where this curator said, since I already made this fictional universe with Wendy, that it was actually totally OK for me to jump from fiction into sculptural practice, and that it didn’t have to be a sculptural practice that was a direct one-to-one translation of my life. In that way, it’s more interesting because it gives a third space for both me and the viewer to draw from and more opportunity for complexity in the reading of the artwork.”

LW: “Yeah. I could imagine—or you could tell me—that you chose a comic format because you wanted to use narrative. But then, narrative doesn’t always work the same way in sculpture. Do you think about narrative with the sculpture?”

WS: “I do. Although, because Wendy is about a person, Wendy has an emotional dimension to it. Each of the characters in Wendy are a different representation of me—different facets of my identity—so I think there’s a kind of shape shifting or drag performance going on in a way, some process of embodiment or transformation. With my sculptures, I use the opportunity in working with physical materials to draw out that relationship more: between the artwork and between the body and transformation. For instance, I had a sculpture that I made in 2013 that was called Wendy’s MFA Application or I think it was called MFA Application 2016. It had this weave hair attachment all around the outside of an envelope. It pointed to this idea of the physical embodiment of fiction, or how I use fictional characters as a costume or a cosplay of myself. I’m trying to play with ideas like that in my sculpture. Lately I’m realizing while I’m doing my MFA that I’m more interested in the embodiment of fiction and visual metaphors and allegories for embodying fiction, where intestines can also be a line coming out of a pencil, and things like that.”

Excerpt from Wendy

Excerpt from Wendy

LW: “When did you first think of yourself as an artist?”

WS: “Maybe when I won a drawing award or something? When I was like 3 or 4.”

LW: “That’s super young. So you were always drawing as a kid?”

WS: “Yeah, I was the one in school that could draw. That was my thing.”

LW: “And you were making comics when you were 16, and then you stopped for a while?”

WS: “I was drawing since I was very, very young and then maybe around 14 I started to make my own zines. Later on I would start selling them at school. I had these comic series I would make, editions of comics, and I would Xerox them on my lunch break in high school on the Xerox machine at the corner store down the road. So, yeah, that was my thing. I think I really needed it at that time to define myself.”

LW: “Did you go on to get an undergraduate degree in painting, drawing..?”

WS: “I got an undergraduate degree in studio art at Concordia University in Montreal. I graduated in 2009. I specialized in printmaking. I was interested in the screenprinting process. During undergrad I was also interested the punk DIY music scene. I was making posters for events. I wasn’t screenprinting them, so they were either photocopied or colored digital images, but they used the screenprinting process in the way that they images were layered.”

LW: “That’s a solid gap between undergrad and grad.”

WS: “2009 to 2016…oh my god, yeah, it’s been seven years.”

In the studio

In Walter Scott’s studio

LW: “Do you have a new studio at the school? What’s an ideal day like in the studio?”

WS: “I have a pretty big studio. We all have pretty nice studios here. I’m slowly breaking it in. I’m kind of welcoming the mess. A perfect day in the studio is not very long. I don’t like to work very long. Maybe I’m lazy, but if I get four hours in the studio, I’m OK.

In the four hours, there’s room for sitting and staring and walking away and then toward the objects and textures and stuff that I’m working with. I like to collage or edit. A lot of my sculptural practice, the first parts of it are me drawing textures or using watercolors or acrylics on paper and then putting them on the wall alongside fabric or material. Then walking away from it, moving around, and walking around my studio moving pieces and seeing the relationship. Just trying to feel out the spatial relationships between the objects, the textures, the fabrics and then how they exist in the space also—whether something is better lying on the ground or hanging off of the wall or somewhere in the middle. Because these things that I’m making will eventually determine their own space in the gallery in the way that only they could.”

The Pants of Law and Order, Acrylic and Watercolor Pencil, 14x17", 2016

The Pants of Law and Order, Acrylic and Watercolor Pencil, 14×17″, 2016

LW: “Do you feel it’s more important as an artist to be in a city, where its expensive or tough or whatever, but there’s a strong cultural scene where you can see art and you can show art; or, like you are now, to be a small town, a quieter place, where you can really focus on making?”

WS: “I think it’s OK to have both if you can manage to do both at different times. Because I see people in cities struggling constantly and I see more isolated rural people struggling in a different way. My solution has been to try to do a little of both; it’s almost like seasons in a year where I will try to spend some time in cities and some time more isolated. It’s not easy to do because people have different responsibilities.

But I work best when I know that I can enter and exit. I’ve been a nomad and home has been a difficult thing to define. So I decided that every place I’ve been in, is just another room in my house. When I go back home, to my hometown, I say, this is one room, like the guestroom or bedroom. And a big city like Toronto or L.A. is like the living room, and maybe Vancouver is the bathroom…I don’t know. Because every city also has its own spatial, empathetic, psychic character. You know how, when you walk into a church, there’s a certain protocol? It’s just like in a city, there’s a certain protocol in the way that you behave with others. Somewhere like New York it’s crazy and you just could do whatever…that’s kind of like being in a nightclub. Yeah, every city is kind of like being in a different room. I’m not really settled anywhere, nowhere is home right now, just yet. The way I try to feel at home now is to imagine that every city is just a room in the home of myself.

So after the last 3 years of being in these huge random cities, I really really welcome these two years in this small town. I think that I’m going to draw a lot from these experiences I had being in Chicago or L.A. or Tokyo, and really put it to good use while I’m hunkering down in Guelph, Ontario.”

LW: “These past few years of moving around—presumably a lot of it was residency driven—this is a strange model for a lifestyle. I know other artists who cobble together different residencies and they do it for a few years. Its sound really amazing but really draining.”

WS: “Oh, it’s difficult to get any work done! I expect to not. Sometimes I see a few months coming up for an arts related residency but I don’t expect to get any work done there and then I’m going to be in this other city, and I’m definitely not going to get any work done there. You sort of have to decide that some cities are more for experiencing than they are for actual production. It’s a matter of balancing out when during the year you have time and space to be productive, if you can, and when you’re going to say OK, these next few months are for experiencing life only and logging that and later maybe turning that into an artwork.

It’s kind of why I started to make comics again—the beginnings of this nomadic life. I stopped having a studio and I stopped having space to create larger psychical objects. I would literally just plop down in whatever bedroom I was staying in at the time. It didn’t take that much space to take out a notebook and a pen and an eraser and make artwork in a very transportable modality.”

Phone Tag: Interview with Tiziana La Melia

smile even when its bad, chalk pastel on paper, 2016

smile even when its bad, chalk pastel on paper, 2016

Following an introduction from Rachelle Sawatsky, I Skyped with Vancouver-based artist Tiziana La Melia for the latest iteration of Phone Tag. Tiziana is active in both the literary and artistic communities in Vancouver, and her visual artwork often playfully blends narrative and imagery. In this interview, Tiziana describes current projects, how a space or location can affect what she makes, and attempting to balance an ideal working style with the demands of reality.

 

Phone Tag is a generative interview format, where I ask each participating artist five questions (plus others as the discussion meanders). At the end, I ask him or her to introduce me to a working artist whose attitude and work they find interesting and inspiring, who I then interview with the same five questions.

***

Innocent Oyster, water colour and flashe with collage on water-jet cut aluminum, led strip, 27" x 29"

Innocent Oyster, water colour and flashe with collage on water-jet cut aluminum, led strip, 27″ x 29″

LW: “What are you working on now? You mentioned that you have a studio visit later today. What will you show?”

TL: “I will be uncrating these free-standing paravent paintings that I started making last fall when I was at a residency at Parc Saint Léger, in a town called Pougues-les-Eaux. I recently got them back after exhibiting them at The Rooms in St. Johns, Newfoundland, but they don’t feel finished, so I need to look at them again now that I have more space to walk around them and look. I didn’t have room for that before. These works are called Purple Poses and there are three narrative threads, three sisters who are the three fates tickling the moon, a pond covered in algae blooms, and bodies made out of wine spills.

I’ve also been collaborating on the voice over for a film by Courtney Stephens. She’s a filmmaker who runs this screening series called Veggie Cloud in Los Angeles. The film-essay is based on letters from female travelers focused on illness and virtual and real time. I’m planning on going to L.A. in a week or two so we can be together to finish the script. It’s at a point where it is challenging to collaborate from a distance. It is also an excuse to see some art and connect with friends.

The third thing that I’m been preoccupied by is a manuscript for a long poem. I’m not sure what the title is going to be. Either The Eyelash and the Monochrome, or maybe Staring at the Ceiling Seeing D.O.G. It’s a text that I started in 2014 as part of an exhibition at Mercer Union in Toronto also called The Eyelash and The Monochrome. A version of the text is printed on dye sublimation bed spreads, but when I was invited to submit a manuscript to Talon Books this March it felt like the occasion to return to some of the ideas in this work, and to think about scale in writing and the time-based-ness of it, which are really obvious things… But thinking of books more as a form or space and its material though this space began to consume me. It’s not so unlike the script with Courtney, which has me thinking about similar things in terms of the formal and material conditions of working with language and time, and in this instance I am responding to images already shot for the film, and linking it to our research, but also again struck by the sensation of time. Which, with painting I think about sometimes, but in a very different way. More as a still document of time.”

Staring at the ceiling, performance documentation, Contemporary Art Gallery Vancouver, 2016

Staring at the ceiling, performance documentation, Contemporary Art Gallery Vancouver, 2016

LW: “Since you just moved studios, you can unpack this work in a new space now. Was this super-disruptive, or does having a studio matter less because a lot of your practice is writing?”

TL: “It’s been really disruptive. Before this move, I had just reorganized and expanded the space at Model, which also functioned as a gallery and event space. My studio tends to be messy, with layers of activity, storage, gestures…the incidental collision of different modes of working really influences how I think through my work.

Moving to the current space was unplanned. I wasn’t even looking for a new studio. I was going to try working from my garden, because, as you said, with a writing practice I can be more flexible. So I thought: Maybe I’ll work completely outdoors. I’m really lucky to live in a house with a big back yard and a landlord who I’ve become friends with who encourages us to use the space how we like. I was also fantasizing about setting up in the old fruit stand in my parent’s orchard in the Okanagan Valley; it’s about 4 hours from Vancouver. I was recently out there to work for an artist who has a ranch across the lake from where I was raised. Being there this time made me really feel like there was something unique to not being in the city… to experience things like boredom, but also being in tune to hear your own thoughts without the constant interruptions of the city. The ideal way I would want to work is a place that is quiet so I can tune into how I am actually feeling and to what’s happening in the world. Here, I end up absorbing the stress of the city; it is numbing. The last time I was in New York I felt that so dramatically. If you have the choice it seems crucial to try to be in a space conducive to the work you want to do, even thought I’m not sure I know what that is yet.”

burning herb on the four corners, 22" x 33", gesso, aluminum, mugwort, gaouche, on canvas, 2016

burning herb on the four corners, 22″ x 33″, gesso, aluminum, mugwort, gaouche, on canvas, 2016

LW: “Right, this is a question that I like to ask people: Is it more important as an artist to be in a city like Vancouver or L.A. or New York, where it is expensive, big, busy, distracting, or to be in a quieter place and you can focus, but its like–really quiet…?”

TL: “I grew up in a really tiny town, so the city always held this fascination and mystery for me, and also this possibility of reinventing yourself—of forming an identity outside the sort of conservatism of smaller places. For me, that felt like what I wanted to do. It felt more free…. I think I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. Just being in a ranch, where there were other artists and encountering other sorts of livelihoods and animals and plants and flowers and, like, silence… It’s just a total different thing. But also I just had more time; one day felt like four days.”

LW: “It sounds like being outside of a city is your ideal.”

TL: “I mean, I love cities—the access to libraries and museums and public institutions and friends. I used to embrace the constant distraction, as a kind of resource. But I don’t feel like it’s necessarily a good life. I don’t want to submit to that kind of resourcefulness.”

LW: “Do you think you would have had the same opportunities, the same people asking you to submit writings to things, those kinds of connections, if you were in the middle of nowhere?”

TL: “Not if I hadn’t come to the city. They would have been different opportunities and a different life. I wouldn’t have the gained access to certain opportunities or had the same jobs and encounters that lead to things. I was talking to the writer Steffanie Ling yesterday, who had brought up the luxury of staying home if you don’t want to go out. The social aspect of art is a significant aspect to participating as an artist in the city.  But it’s not the only way to be.

When I’m working on a project, I like to work in a continuous way. I don’t like to like socialize much when I’m working on creative projects, so that’s when I was thinking I could go to the Okanagan for stints of time where I have a deadline, and then I could live in the city when I’m doing research or working on things that don’t rely on a studio space. The reality in the city is that it’s hard to be fluid. A day in the studio has so many interruptions. I do contract work, and otherwise have my own schedule, which can be in conflict with the 9 to 5 of the world.”

Who is the boss of my dreams? Dye sublimation on silk, powder coated medical screen 2016

Who is the boss of my dreams?, Dye sublimation on silk, powder coated medical screen, 2016

LW: “Would an ideal day in the studio be working for 8 hours at a time? Do you need that long of a period?”

TL: “Totally, I love having a full 10 hours to lead up to like an hour of something—extraordinarily inefficient. But this doesn’t necessarily mean always working on the thing. When I used to have a studio in my apartment, I’d be tending to things around the house. I like just to be around the materials that I’m working with, but doing other things like reading and writing, making a meal…gardening. Ideally it would be all those things and kind of moving in between them. Ideally the art part is just one of the many things to care for in a day.

I don’t work in the mornings, so that’s why when I’m working on a project I become anti-social. Most people work a 9 to 5, and I tend to start at 5 pm and work until whenever. I start when I do and then I like to keep working as long as I can. I don’t get to do that very often, but that’s how I would like to work.”

LW: “When did you first think of yourself as an artist? And is that a different timeline than when you first thought of yourself as a writer?”

TL: “I don’t remember exactly when I thought of myself as an artist. But I do remember being interested in art at a young age. I must have been 4 or 5 when I became really fascinated by the mimetic aspect of art. I loved… just the sensation of seeing something reproduced. I used to draw a lot when I was a kid, but I never drew particularly well. People would be like “you’re a great drawer” but it was more like because I was drawing all the time. So I was always making things, making videos. I didn’t think of myself as an artist at this time. Because I was so shy, I really had trouble speaking, being ESL might have been part of it, but I remember being this way in Italy too. Making art was a survival strategy, and in school, for example, it was a way to avoid doing a typical report. I would make a video instead. I waited until after high school to pursue it seriously.

When I went Capilano College for studio art, I had the option to take creative writing as my English elective. The course was stimulating but also confused me—in the sense that it made me wonder if I wanted to pursue writing instead. Cap had a strong connection to Simon Fraser University, which is the school I transferred to a few years later. I ended up taking a class with a Canadian poet and critic whose books I had read. He encouraged me to write and this eventually connected me to the Kootenay School of Writing, to writers and publishing.”

Who is the boss of my dreams? (detail) Dye sublimation on silk, powder coated medical screen 2016

Who is the boss of my dreams? (detail), Dye sublimation on silk, powder coated medical screen, 2016

LW: “So this is related to my next question, which is, who has influenced your practice? Presumably writers as well as artists are influences.”

TL: “Ada Smailbegovic is a writer who has influenced my practice. She’s a friend and has a biology and literature background. Conversations with her have probably been the most influential. We met at a coffee shop that I used to work at. Her way of thinking has influenced me.”

LW: “When you say her way of thinking, is there something in particular?”

TL: “Her commitment to constantly trying to describe what you’re feeling. The experience of proprioception and the links between things, of autopoiesis. Her sensitivity to animals and plants was and still is beautiful. She studied moths and fungus and counted seals. Always thinking about how constellations of encounters are forming and transforming you, at a molecular level. And by extension, thinking about how forms produce thoughts and how thoughts produce form.”

LW: “Great. Thank you so much for participating.”

TL: “Thank you.”

 

No. 5 Orange, oil on linen, 77" x 55", 2016

No. 5 Orange, oil on linen, 77″ x 55″, 2016