Artist Q & A: Sheri Bakes
I think painting for me is a way to process things deeply. To connect to and align with the miracle. Frederick Franck describes this best in speaking about drawing:
"It is in order to really see, to see ever deeper, ever more intensely, hence to be fully aware and alive, that I draw what the Chinese call 'The Ten Thousand Things' around me. Drawing is the discipline by which I constantly rediscover the world. I have learned that what I have not drawn, I have never really seen, and that when I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is, sheer miracle”. – Frederick Franck
2) You’ve mentioned before that you often work from photographs because it helps ground and stabilize your compositions. From this place you described how you can create movement from “a more intuitive place”. Could you describe in more detail what it is that you attempt to capture?
Capture is an interesting word. At the base of all of my work, from the beginning, is wind: Ruwach - Spirit, breath, wind - which are impossible to capture. I think that's the challenge: how to really express this quality in a painting. Being impossible to capture without ending its life, the trick is to somehow become it and express what that feels like. Seemingly impossible, but fun to try.
3) We’re excited to hear that Darlene Cole’s work served as an inspiration for these new paintings. What other artists have informed your recent body of work?
Honestly, Darlene is completely blowing my mind with her work. She's the only one I really follow on Instagram and she's it as far as I'm concerned. She paints with such a great mix of confident vulnerability and in such a masterful loose and free way. Her style is so foreign to me and I'm completely in awe of her skills, intuition and heart.
4) Could you describe your own relationship to gardening, or more broadly, to nature and how it informs your art practice?
When I was a child I spent hours every day in my parents’ gardens. Especially the food garden. When I was young our garden was huge. Peach, pear, plum and cherry trees, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries and a lot of vegetables. I haven't had my own garden for many years and am looking forward to having one again next year. As far as nature goes, I feel best when I'm outside. I always have. As a kid I slept outside as much as I possibly could. This show was all made while painting outside. I feel disconnected when I'm not outside. When I can't experience shifts in light through the day, changes in barometric pressure, birds singing ...
My work needs to stem from a place of alignment (as opposed to competing or being out of tune) with nature so it informs the work a lot. Nature is the tuning fork. It keeps everything in tune.
Sheri Bakes, Feeding Bees, Oil on Canvas, 40 x 40 in.
5) Could you speak more about your plein air painting practice? Do you have specific rituals or routines that help ground you?
My dogs actually ground me the most. On breaks from painting we go for walks, hikes or do some training. Their non-verbal companionship grounds me.
In the studio I sometimes listen to the CBC and sometimes music but often it’s just silent. I do find silence grounding, as are the natural sounds of birds, frogs or crickets. While painting for this show, I was surrounded by mourning doves every morning. I found their sounds very soothing and sympathetic to the process of painting.
6) How important is spontaneity in your art?
I’m drawn to the freedom of spontaneity after conceptualizing an idea. It’s a process of letting go and learning as you go. In my first poetry class in university, the instructor introduced us to Theodore Roethke's poem, 'The Waking'. This poem, and his reading of it, completely transformed my mind with respect to process and taught me to "learn by going where I have to go."
7) You seem to have a great interest in the physical world’s process of transformation and renewal - how would you say you respond to the cyclical nature of seasons through your work?
I appreciate the structure that natural cycles provide, kind of like growth rings in a tree. In the larger picture, natural cycles are stabilizing and grounding.
8) How has your work developed in the past few years and how do you see it evolving in the future?
The work has become increasingly abstract and the movement is now often contained within the piece instead of veering out of the top right of the canvas. I seem to be making less small work now and using photos less and less.
I'm interested in the physicality of the paint, and also in saying more with less and moving into a painting practice that is very minimal. I'd like my paintings to become better listeners. I really need the vastness of space and silence. It seems a bit like the world could use more of that, too.
Wind Songs opens at Bau-Xi Vancouver on September 9
VIEW MORE ARTWORK FROM SHERI BAKES