Artist Sinéad Breslin has created art in various countries across the world. Currently based in Fermanagh, she tells The Impartial Reporter what inspires her work, her favourite project to date and what her art means to her.
JC: What is your artistic background? Are you self-taught or did you go to art school/do courses?
SB: In my vault of childhood memories, of which most are inaccessible or irrelevant to the needs of everyday life, I see vividly in my mind’s eye two large posters that were pinned to the wall beside my bed and recall clearly the curiosity they evoked. They were images of artworks by Vincent Van Gogh and Edgar Degas.
Great tutors and courses did indeed pave the way, from the art classroom at Erne Integrated College with the brilliant Johnny McKee who in turn encouraged me to do the foundation diploma in Art and Design at Fermanagh College. Then on to art school in Bristol where I completed a BA and MA in Fine Art under the stellar guidance of Roy Voss, great artist and advocate of all things facetious.
I spent a few years living and working in Moscow where the people, atmosphere and energy were certainly determining. In recent years I have spent much time in NYC learning the trade so to speak. Possibly one of the most important habits an artist can have is to visit shows of other artists in galleries or museums, and if this isn’t feasible then acquire books and use the internet. Artist residencies in various places have also been a fundamental part of my development, and criticism from peers, curators, gallerists, friends, and collectors have been key throughout the years.
JC: What inspires your art?
SB: The want and will to paint stems from an innate compulsion that is perplexing, to say the least. Nevertheless, visually reflecting the obscurity of life, its mysticism and its mundanity brings satisfaction and revelations, both subtly and overtly. I draw inspiration from the complexity and simplicity of lived experience. I paint people within environments – people are fascinating, as is context. Life is an amalgamation of highs and lows, trauma and successes across vast spectrums of differences. Holding up a mirror to moments in time helps me live in the world. The depictions of settings within which my figures exist presents an opportunity to reflect and investigate our contemporary situation, and explore perceived reality. Painterly language allows me great freedom in the observing of psychology, emotion and circumstance. In the attempt to make decent paintings, I think the trick is to pose everlasting questions. My favourite works of art and literature are filled with ambiguity and wonder.
JC: Who/what are your biggest influences?
SB: In no particular order, a few of the greats; Gorgio Morandi, Nano Reid, Philip Guston, Kerry James Marshall, Alice Neel, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Elizabeth Peyton, Alex Katz, Peter Doig, Hope Gangloff, Chantal Joffe, Kara Walker, John Baldessari, Angus Fairhurst, Martin Creed, Leon Spilliaert and Mark Lecky.
JC: Is there a specific place that you do your work? Do you have a studio?
SB: Currently I have a studio in London and a small space in Fermanagh. I move around a lot to make bodies of paintings in different locations, this has been an integral part of my practise. I’ve just returned from Mexico City where I shared a studio with an incredible artist, Alvaro Ugarte, in the downtown region close to the historical district. I made a body of work in response to the city and those who dwell in her.
JC: What has been your most ambitious piece to date?
SB: The recent paintings I made in Mexico were for Latin America’s leading art fair Zona Maco in February. A couple of these pieces could be viewed as more ambitious, although I feel most pieces were ambitious at the moment of execution. My practice is continually evolving and transforming – as it should – but I do feel that each new successful piece is as relevant as the last. Although of course, it’s not important for audiences to take this position.
JC: What different artistic mediums do you use and which is your favourite?
SB: I paint primarily using oil on canvas or linen. I tend to paint on a larger scale. I’m interested in collage, as my works are collages of sorts, and photography, but I mainly use photography as source material. There are a range of methods I use when constructing a painting, but the process will always unveil the most glorious surprises.
JC: What are you currently working on?
SB: Real time context plays a major role when choosing focus and subject matter. I’m currently in Fermanagh and I’m working on small portraits depicting individuals within rural landscapes.
JC: Do you exhibit your work anywhere?
SB: Recent major exhibitions have taken place in NYC and Mexico City. I’ve also had important shows over the years in various galleries in the UK, Russia and Italy. I have been focused on the US for a while and I am currently represented by Marc Straus Gallery in NYC. Now I am keen to have a stronger presence in the UK and Europe.
JC: Any new artistic ventures planned for 2020?
SB: Make decent work and exhibit decent work, hope for works to find adoring homes.
JC: What has been your favourite project to date?
SB: I was selected to do a residency in Brescia, Northern Italy at Palazzo Monti at the end of 2018. I spent a few months living and working in this incredible palazzo that dates back to the 1200s. I had an exhibition in the most gorgeous space with frescoes on the ceiling and original features – this juxtaposition with my works was beautiful. The general atmosphere of the palazzo was incredibly stimulating due to the range of other artists from different countries that participated, the intrigue from the surrounding community and audience, and the gallerists, dealers, collectors and art lovers who dropped by.
JC: What are you up to when you aren’t creating art?
SB: I love good food in unique settings. Intense exercise is an effective form of meditation for me and for a few years I have been an extremely inconsistent yet committed crossfitter. I attend a lot of exhibitions, openings and art fairs, which has also been an integral part of my progression in the art world.
JC: How would you describe your artistic style?
SB: I contextualise my work in terms of established contemporary painters who tend to employ a language that is a meld of what’s gone before. Painting carries a lot of historical weight and when we talk about contemporary styles we sort of naturally reference moments and movements of the near and distant past. I’ve heard it said that it’s possible to be innovative but not original. My particular meld is essentially Figuration that alludes to magical realism, they are at once representational and obscure. I follow in an Irish tradition of imbuing works with a sense of the unreal where magic, fable, allegory is explored. There is a strong sense of expressionism in terms of line, colour, and psychological discernment, and a salute to Primitivism in terms of the works being instinctive and sometimes unreasonable. There are moments of controlled paint application alongside movement and gesture. Perspectives are flattened, colours are exaggerated and settings are charged with symbolism.
JC: What does your art mean to you?
SB: It’s a bittersweet process and a bittersweet career choice, but making art and living with art settles my mind and makes me feel connected to the past, present and future.
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Visit the city's tiniest art gallery: Five things to do in Saskatoon this weekend – Saskatoon StarPhoenix
In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E.
Whether you’re interested in art, a virtual party, some outdoor activities or cleaning up around the house, there’s a little bit of something for everyone this weekend in Saskatoon.
1. Visit the Free Little Art Gallery
In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E. Designed in the style of community libraries and kitchen boxes, visitors to the gallery can take a piece of art, leave a piece of art, or do both. You can check out some of the artwork on Instagram @Freelittleartgalleryyxe.
2. Hit up The Bassment’s virtual party
Featuring the music and talents of eight Saskatoon bands, The Bassment presents InTune 2021 — a free online party playing from 2 to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The shows will be streamed live through the Bassment’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
3. Check out local performers
Watch as some of Saskatoon’s performing artists share their work in Episode 1 of Persephone Theatre’s Open Stage, which was published earlier this month. The episode is available to watch whenever you want at persephonetheatre.org and features Peace Akintade, Kathie Cram, Amanda Trapp, Sketchy Bandits, Carla Orosz and Ellen Froese.
4. Have some family fun
The Fuddruckers Family Fun Centre (2910 8th St. E) is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Sunday, weather permitting. Families can practice their skills on the 18-hole Putt N’ Bounce miniature golf course, reach new heights on The Rock climbing wall or take a swing at the Grand Slam batting cages. More information is available at fudds.ca or by calling 306-477-0808.
5. Drop off your hazardous waste
The City of Saskatoon is holding its first Hazardous Household Waste Drop Off of the year on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Civic Operations Centre (57 Valley Rd.). The drop off is open to Saskatoon residents from residential properties only. Products eligible for drop off include aerosols, automotive fluids, batteries, cleaners, light bulbs, yard chemicals and more. Learn more at saskatoon.ca/hazardouswaste.
The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.
YK ARCC celebrates 10 years by pushing for NWT art gallery – Cabin Radio
Its trailer doubles as one of the NWT’s only art galleries. Now, the Yellowknife Artist-Run Community Centre is turning 10 years old.
The group, YK ARCC for short, formed in 2011 in a downtown Yellowknife church scheduled for demolition. “There was always something going on,” recalled Métis artist Rosalind Mercredi, owner of the city’s Down to Earth Gallery, who was YK ARCC’s first president.
“I think it was so good to be able to have a space where people wanted to work on stuff and, if they had bigger projects they wanted to do, there was a space to do it. It was pretty vibrant times, I would say, for art.”
Though the organization stayed in the church for less than a year, it has brought art and shows to Yellowknife since. Temporary homes have included an apartment above a Vietnamese restaurant and empty spaces in the Centre Square Mall.
Casey Koyczan, a Tłı̨chǫ artist from Yellowknife pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Manitoba, held some of his first shows with YK ARCC’s help.
“It really helped to be able to show work within an environment that was conducive to more of a fine arts aesthetic as opposed to … a coffee shop, or a pub, or something like that,” said Koyczan, who was on YK ARCC’s board.
“YK ARCC felt like it was getting to more of a formal-exhibit kind of feel.”
‘We need a territorial gallery’
The group made headlines shortly after opening a mobile art gallery in a trailer. At the beginning of the pandemic, the team took art to residents by accepting reservations through Facebook then driving the gallery to make house calls in different neighbourhoods.
“Because it’s so small, we might be the only gallery in Canada that didn’t have to close,” said longtime board member Sarah Swan. “It has a limited capacity. We knew we could still operate it safely.”
Yet the trailer’s success simultaneously illuminated what YK ARCC’s members believe is a glaring deficiency in the NWT: the absence of a territorial gallery.
The cost of rent makes it difficult for the non-profit to hold on to one space for any length of time. Many of the spaces that are available in Yellowknife don’t work well for art shows.
“We need a territorial gallery,” former board member Dan Korver said.
That doesn’t mean a commercial gallery geared toward profit, he clarified. Instead, Korver wants a space where artists can show their work and engage with an audience “for art’s sake.”
The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is the only large-scale, non-commercial, gallery fitting that bill in the NWT. It hosts two fine art exhibits a year.
“It’s just simply not enough,” said Swan. “There are so many more artists and so much more work out there to show, so many more ideas.”
“We created the mobile gallery in the first place to feel that exhibition gap, but also, we created it to be a piece of agitation in itself. That’s why we called it the Art Gallery of the Northwest Territories.
“It’s really pathetic that our territorial gallery is a trailer. We all joke that if there ever is a real gallery of the Northwest Territories that’s not in a trailer, we’ll happily give the name back.”
Koyczan described obstacles in establishing his career that stemmed directly from the lack of a territorial art gallery.
“Back when I was showing at YK ARCC, it wasn’t recognized by the Canada Arts Council,” he said. “Therefore, when you go to apply for grants and funding … and you provide your CV saying that you showed work at YK ARCC, they check their records and say the show basically didn’t exist because they don’t recognize it as a legitimate gallery.
“I’ve had to work really hard on exporting myself and making artwork that is impactful so that, regardless of where I was located, it would be recognized by people in the south, or around North America, or internationally.
“The NWT needs a contemporary gallery. It’s just holding us back, not having that space.”
‘No GNWT mandate’ for a gallery
In a written statement to Cabin Radio, the territorial Department of Education, Culture, and Employment said it has no plan to create a territorial gallery.
The department said it “does not have a mandate to create physical infrastructure for the arts.”
“However,” the response continued, “the GNWT would be happy to work with regional organizations to see how the GNWT can support their plans.”
Korver believes government involvement in creating an artist-run centre or non-commercial gallery should be limited to provision of funding, so any gallery can remain community-driven and independent.
“We need that physical space, but how do you run it?” he wondered. “Is it better to just provide a grassroots organization – or organizations, maybe there shouldn’t just be one – with stable funding so they can provide those spaces and run those spaces?”
More spaces that can host art are on the way.
Makerspace YK moved into the old After 8 pub this January and is planning workshops and exhibits. The City of Yellowknife expects to open a visitor centre in the Centre Square Mall that would include art displays.
Meanwhile, the territorial government is set to release its updated NWT Arts Strategy this June. The previous territorial arts strategy, released in 2004, had identified a need for more arts spaces.
As a gallery owner, Mercredi said she is curious to see how the strategy is implemented.
“You can make a strategy but if the plan doesn’t have an implementation idea behind it, then really just sits,” she said. “How do you implement it when most of the arts organizations don’t have enough infrastructure or people to put those things together?”
Swan said YK ARCC will continue to run its mobile gallery while celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Members have applied for funding to run a series of “emerging curator workshops.”
“Art is our passion,” Swan said. “I think there’s just this drive to share.
“Because we know how good art can be, or how amazing and fully developed it can be, we want to fight for that. We want to try to grow the art community in Yellowknife.”
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