How do you feel your work evolved over the past few years? What are you currently focusing on?
Over the last few years I have continued to educate myself on new materials and sustainable methods for painting. I have been reading and listening to audiobooks on Earth Based Spirituality and Witchcraft as well as authors that challenge and build on the idea of the Anthropocene: a new destructive environmental period thought to be caused by human impact on the natural environment. These texts explore how to navigate existence by being actively aware of art-making from postcolonial, feminist, and environmental perspectives.
In 2017, I received a Canadian painting award that gave me the opportunity to live and work in Europe in order to research changing geographical landscapes and the methods and techniques used in ancient painting practices. I travelled to the Lascaux and Chauvet caves in southern France to see the land that the first cave painters collected their materials from and was able to experience the replicas of the original caves which were located close by but are permanently closed for preservation purposes. Following my research at the caves, I spent the next three months in my Berlin studio working on a new series of paintings. I continued that work during a month-long residency in rural Iceland early 2018. The work I’ve been making for the last six months will be exhibited in Ottawa with my gallery, PDA Projects in a solo exhibition ‘Ghosts’ this spring.
Your process is fascinating. Tell us a little bit about your work with plants and natural dyes. What initially inspired this part of your practice?
Thank you! After experiencing the Lascaux and Chauvet cave paintings, I was eager to continue to learn how to create pigments and dyes from my surroundings. I was in Berlin, so I contacted a local eco fashion designer, Elke Fiebig of Still Garments, and began working with her to dye my canvases using locally gathered plants and flowers. Learning from Elke about dye plants and how they function was an incredible experience. She has many years of experience in plant dyeing, so working with her allowed me to learn quickly from her breadth of knowledge in the area. We dyed canvases with a variety of plants, including tansy flower, wildflowers, ferns, acorns, madder root, onion skins, avocado, and one of my favourites, rose petals. Yellow rose petals create beautiful speckled lime green when dyed with a steaming process.
When I arrived at the residency in Skagaströnd, Iceland, I continued to gather my own materials for dyeing, including seaweed, moss, and the blueberries that a previous artist had picked in the summer months. My wonderful studiomates also saved their avocado pits and onion skins for me!
Through material gathering, I am able to develop a more intimate understanding of my immediate surroundings. These working materials reflect my aim to become more aware of how I function within local ecosystems. My new body of paintings combines the beeswax, raw pigments, and oil paint I was using in previous bodies of work with plant dyeing.