In anticipation of her upcoming show Paintings Without Words, artist Sylvia Tait shares her compelling thoughts on the purpose of colour, her usage of the four-sided form, and the act of painting itself. Paintings Without Words opens on March 4 and runs through March 18, 2023.

1. Artists often have their own unique processes when it comes to the creation of their art - can you describe your own process of creation?


I paint-talk with the idea that each entity has a life, a story, that is either in contrast to the others or sympathetic to the vigour of the space around it. I’ve often been told that my paintings are “happy” because they seem to be colourful; I use colour and colour-field tonality not to indicate joyfulness, but rather to express intensity of feelings and emotions – passion, anger, love, or contemplativeness - with visual excitement. 

Since covid and isolation, I’ve taken up writing haiku-like short poems – that is how I’ve been focusing my thoughts, contrary to painting. The whole process of painting is an act of love, especially in these times of great change.

Sylvia Tait, Roots to Sky, 40 x 30 inches.

2. Can you share your thoughts behind the title of your new series Paintings Without Words?

Painting Without Words” indicates the absence of concepts, theses, political or lofty ideas – these works are almost entirely about the act of painting, and about the medium itself. This collection is a continuation of a format that is based on structure and boundary - areas that fragment into space, or speed outward and metamorphose into energy, a renewed state of colour and texture.

3. Music is a recurring point of reference in your work, be it in the title or in the visual structure of your paintings. Does music carry particular importance for you?

I often reference music in my titles and paintings. Like music, painting is its own language. Within both music and painting, there can be forms and structures that feel compatible and comparable. I know it sounds corny, but for me each form has a voice in conversation with another, and so the relationships in space/time become “subjects”.

Sylvia Tait, Suite Canlanda, oil on canvas, 34 x 60 inches.

4. Squares and long, linear forms are compelling and often recurring elements of your paintings. What continues to draw you to these forms?

The four-sided forms in the paintings are cool, uncluttered areas that can either house symbols or graphics, or stand alone; they can be sensual, free-floating or firmly grounded. The breakups, or slashes, are the changes and interruptions. They are the shifts in energy. Nothing is permanent. 

Sylvia Tait, September and October, 40 x 52 inches.

5. What significant aspects do you recall of your birth city of Montreal and the beginning of your career in painting, and what was the transition like over your subsequent years in Vancouver?

Growing up in Montreal in the late1950s-60s with all its diversity was intense during politically charged times, and this led to poets, painters, dancers, musicians, and architects with similar values coming together with particularly strong bonds.

Looking back, it was almost like Paris in the 1920s. Non-objective art was born there, and that was the new religion. I left figurative painting (though I kept drawing), since photography can reveal exquisite details, which leaves the painter free to explore abstract dimensions. The unconscious, the undetermined thoughts and feelings, became the new and positive focus of reality.

In 1968 my family left Quebec to experience the whole of Canada, and for all that this wonderful country offered, Vancouver turned out to be the city that suited us perfectly. It is my home forever.

6. What three words would you say ultimately describe your work?

Painterly, personal, positive.


Pathways to Sky and Terra, 53.5 x 71.25 inches 2023.

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