Artist Q & A: Nicole Katsuras
1. What inspired the exhibition title "Painter's Paradise"? How do you conceptualize the space of "Painter's Paradise"?
The title for my upcoming exhibition Painter’s Paradise comes from both a feeling and a ‘place’. I would consider the painting of the same name to be the focal piece and starting block for the show. ‘Painter’s Paradise’ is a depiction of the space that propels me emotionally as an artist, where built-up energy, angst, anticipation, and joy collide and are directed onto the canvas. I think these are the key ingredients that create the tension that drives my work. As well, Painter’s Paradise is the ‘ideal’ or ‘utopian’, space where the physical and intangible transcend picture-making. To be able to do something that indulges my passion for colour and texture, which aligns with my personal interests and engages an audience makes for a sort of paradise too.
2. You're well-known for your extruded oil paint technique, when did you first begin developing this approach and how has your process evolved over the years?
My foray into extruded oil technique began upon my return from my masters in England. I had just organized a new studio space and was in the process of setting up a new palette table for my colours (all of my colours are hand mixed — on some days it can take 3-4 hours before I'm able to put paint on canvas). I began to experiment with my colours by putting paint on plastic sheets and then cutting holes in it to extrude the paint for sparse, minimal lines. Over time, my process became more refined, and I started creating piping bags with different tips and other hand-made tools to extrude colour in varied applications of thick and thin. The extrusions have now become an essential aspect of my three-dimensional approach to colour.
3. How do new forms or methods of mark-making enter your visual vocabulary?
The forms and methods of my mark-making are experimentation driven and always unconsciously evolving. This stems from a combination of confidence and comfort, developed over time, which enables me to explore the medium without reservations.
4. In what ways does this upcoming series interact with and act as a continuation of your previous bodies of work?
If I look back at some of my early works, I notice a distinction between the grounds and the abstract imagery, more saturated, solid colour fields with central compositions. With recent paintings, they tend towards gradient, multi-tone surfaces and interacting forms that shift focus on the picture plane, the 'filigree' elements of this series have also become bolder, marbled and more intricate.
5. What is the process of layering involved in your gradually built, high impasto oil paint surfaces?
My paintings are built in the traditional way, coats of chalk and polymer on canvas in 3-5 layers underneath the oil. The oil paint application is also done in a traditional fashion of fat over lean, which seems to be somewhat unusual in my work considering, the depth of the highest impasto is built up under a series of varied layers underneath.
6. How do you begin painting and what considerations (balance, tension, direction, colour) formal or otherwise, inform your choices?
When starting a new painting the formal considerations are all very intuitive, even when I am designing models — drawing rectangles and squares to compose sketches. It isn't part of a formula or decision but is rather about allowing myself to work in the most instinctive way. The tension and balance of colour emerge after some of the first intuitive choices, such as painting the ground and making the initial marks take place. The way each painting is uniquely executed depends on the harmony of proportions, value or texture.
7. Which artistic sources do you draw inspiration from and how has exposure to their work influenced your practice?
I am continually energized and stimulated daily and am forever discovering new sources of visual stimulation. It could be the texture or colour of a textile or an organic shape, or looking at art books, maps and catalogs both historical and contemporary. With regards to artists past and present who influence and inspire my work, of which there are many, my eye gravitated first towards Monet for his depiction of light, Van Gogh and Bonnard for their use of colour and Hofmann for spatial illusion. The historical pedagogical connections of Joan Mitchell and Pia Fries opened my eyes and affirmed my own interests and tastes in art. Then when I found the work of Mary Heilmann and Thomas Nozokowski there was a real ‘ah-ha’ moment of joy that fuelled me to not be confined or restrained with paint. Seeing their work gave me permission to make art on my own terms.