Artist Q&A: Toronto artist Vicki Smith

Vicki Smith painting presented by Bau-Xi Gallery
Vicki Smith, Quietude, 48x60 inches, oil on canvas. Click image for more information about this painting.   
July 2016 conversation between Toronto-artist Vicki Smith and Bau-Xi Gallery Toronto Co-Director Alissa Sexton
1. At the moment, your work centres on female figures who are swimming. What lead to this development?                                                                      
The female figure has always been central to my work. Water became the solution for where to place the figures. Watching my daughter swim in a northern lake was an “aha” moment. Slipping in and out of the surface of the water was pure poetry, no gravity, no boundaries, just a lovely fluid movement. It gave my figures a recognizable place to exist, without confining them to a specific statement. Also, because water and swimming are universal, it allows the viewer to bring their own story to the painting. I’d been searching for this solution for a long time.


2. Is this a conscious choice to paint only women?

The work is a journey of trying to express something that is abstract, and that expression takes the shape that is most familiar to me.

3. What do you want viewers to feel when they look at one of your paintings?

Peace. The swimmers are a meditation. An invitation to peace; a space to enter into and leave the busyness of the day behind. As the body stills so too does the mind, surrendering to the real-time flow of moment to moment. I think that initially the viewer relates to the remembered experience of swimming, but I hope that ultimately it’s a deeper sense of peace that resonates.

4. How do your compositions begin?

I start with a photo shoot for reference.  I scatter the prints on the studio floor, and live with them for some time. Eventually a few images will resonate with me.

I begin a painting with a pencil drawing. I use the photo for some initial colour and detail reference, but eventually I put it aside, try to get out of my own way, and just let the painting develop. A lot of the work is sheer chance. I try to clear my mind and just let it happen.

5. What part of the process is most enjoyable to you?

The start of something new, the beginnings! There is such excitement and potential in the initial inspiration, that wordless concept that I can’t quite put my finger on because it’s just emerging. The most joy comes from the drawing. That’s the part where I start to coax a feeling into reality. I love that the drawing will ultimately be a secret hidden under layers of paint. The rest of the process is an all-consuming, ebb and flow of frustrations and hallelujahs.

6. How do you feel when a completed painting leaves your studio?

When a painting leaves the studio it stops being about me, and becomes a space for other people to enter into. If the work allows another person to connect to a familiar feeling, a sense of time or place, a wordless moment, then I am very grateful.

 View this 30 second video to hear more about her practice


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Artist Q&A: Joshua Jensen-Nagle talks with Vitamin Daily

Artist Joshua Jensen-Nagle in his Toronto Studio.

In anticipation of Bau-Xi Gallery's upcoming exhibition ‘Simple Days’, opening July 9 in Vancouver, Laura Busby of Vitamin Daily interviewed Toronto-based photographer Joshua Jensen-Nagle to learn more about his latest dreamy beach scenes.


How would you describe your visual art practice?

I approach photography with a means to create rather than document. Throughout the years, I have used many different techniques to achieve the final image including the use of expired Polaroid film in my early works, painting on photography and re-photographing the images, to most recently dangling out of helicopters and using the highest-end digital camera available.

A consistent theme in your work is beaches and bathers. Why is this subject such a rich possibility for you?

I reflect on my life experiences when I create, and this particular theme stems from my childhood spent at the beach. Each summer, we would stay at my grandfather’s shore house in Mantoloking, New Jersey. It was a simpler, more carefree time that has remained one of my fondest memories from my youth. Since then, I have spent the last 16 years photographing beaches and each time I am able to capture it in a new way.

How would you describe your new series of images and where did you travel to photograph these scenes?

Most recently, I have travelled to Australia, Rio de Janeiro, Hawaii and Miami to capture images of the beach from a helicopter. An aerial perspective produces an almost abstract view of the beaches and ocean. You recognize the subject but in a very different way, so what you are mostly left with is an overall sense of joy in the moment.

What can the perspective from high above reveal about the beach for the viewer?

It’s interesting that usually people like privacy and would like their own personal space. However you notice that in these scenes people seem to flock together. There is something about it that is unusual and very interesting. It says something about our culture when we are out of our daily routines and we find comfort in crowds.

Your new series shows a distinct divide between water and sand, punctuated with people. What inspired this composition?

That is just the vantage point. Photography is all about finding the right vantage to take the image from and then finding the right visual composition. I have been photographing this subject from the ground for so many years, that it is natural for me to move on. You have to keep yourself excited about a subject or the work will suffer.

You must have the best vacation advice, which location was your favourite? 

I get asked this question often. Each place is such a unique experience with its own challenges. People often say how much fun it must be to travel to these destinations, and while it is exciting, it is also work. So much effort goes into the planning and scheduling of these trips. I am mostly thinking about making images and don’t spend a lot of time relaxing on the beach. With that said, I love Italy! It has so many different dynamic landscapes to work with and the food is great!

Joshua Jensen-Nagle’s exhibition Simple Days is available July 9 to 23, 2016 at Bau-Xi Gallery Vancouver




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Artist Q&A: Kathryn Macnaughton

Kathryn Macnaughton artist represented at Bau-Xi Gallery

Photo by Nathalia Allen

June 30th, 2016: Q&A with Toronto artist Kathryn MacNaughton, by Bau-Xi Toronto Co-Director Alissa Sexton

1. Where do you draw inspiration for your paintings?

Everyday experiences. I can be inspired by the colour of a brick wall next to a lamp post or the roof of a building next to a blue sky. I find myself getting inspired in the most obvious, yet obscure places.   

2. How do you begin a painting, with colour or composition?

 I like to change it up. It’s nice to start with a colour palette because it’s usually the component that creates a certain feeling/mood, but sometimes I have a compositional idea first so I’ll try to rough out the idea in black and white and then add colour.

3. Which do you feel is most important in your paintings, colour or composition?

Both are just as important, but if I had to choose one, colour. It’s the part that creates the connection between myself and the art. It conjures up feelings, memories, emotions and I think the composition helps support that.

4. How much time do you devote to planning the painting versus actually painting it?

I do like to spend some time experimenting in between producing the work. It always inspires me and gets me motivated to try out some new ideas. Then I’ll mockup something up and try to stick to it, but it’s always a journey that can become a completely different vision then I expected. 

5. Do you prefer the composition planning stage, or the painting stage?

I like both for different reasons. The planning stage is where the initial ideas start to take form. It feels like a puzzle you’re trying to solve. The painting stage is where things become unpredictable and you start discovering new ideas. I love both. Organized thoughts, then unpredictable chaos. 

6. How does it feel when a completed piece leaves your studio?

Really great. I never let anything leave my studio that I’m not happy with.  

7. You’ve recently collaborated with Style Garage to create a chair – how did that experience inform your practice?

 It was amazing. I’ve been wanting to work on different surfaces and this was the perfect opportunity. It was just an experiment that will hopefully lead to me working on more furniture. I’m very inspired by interior design. I think it’s a really important part of my work. I always think about the environment in which my paintings can live in.  

8. What would you like people to feel (experience, visualize, etc) when they look at your work?

I hope something romantic. There is a lot of lust and sexual tension in the paintings.



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