Artist Q & A: Anne Griffiths

In this new artist Q & A, BC-based artist Anne Griffiths reflects on her anticipated solo exhibition Becoming the Story, and shares her thoughts on empathy, the nature of time, and her current place in her artistic journey. Becoming the Story opens on April 15 and runs through April 29, 2023. 

Anne Griffiths, Navigating New Shores (Diptych). Oil on linen, 48 x 72 inches, 2023.

1. You are known for your incredibly sophisticated colour palette and unexpected colour combinations. Can you tell us about the development of your colour sense, and about your palette curation for your new show Becoming the Story?

As part of my design studies I did four years of colour theory. Through the practice of daily colour-mixing I became pretty obsessed with it and the effects colour can have on how we perceive things. Colour has always been central to my work as an art director, and I carried that forward to my painting practice. Each painting I make begins with the selection of a colour palette, which is either inspired by my reaction to an event in my life or the news, or by
some random combination of colours I have seen in the world. My intention was that each of these new paintings has its own character and is
immersive. I want to engage with the viewer through my work in a very empathetic way. With the palette in this new body of work I hope to project an understanding of the shared struggles, joys and stress consuming our lives.


2. What prompted your brilliant use of the metaphorical creating or composing of a story for your new collection?

I came to realise during the creation of the work for this show that the process of building a composition has parallels to the telling and following along of a story. The painting undergoes a revealing of ‘chapters’ until the discovery of a story subconsciously takes shape. I then work to evolve it to a point that forms a complete narrative. Although most of these paintings are fairly abstract, within each there is a backstory, and I am both the writer of and a character in the story. 

Anne Griffiths, Swimming With Insomniacs. Oil on canvas, 77 x 72 inches, 2023.

3. Your new works have some very intriguing titles, like Swimming With Insomniacs – can you share any particular stories of how these paintings came to earn their titles?

Events from daily life spark my imagination and I try to respond to those with honesty. The particular painting you mentioned refers to a few amazing people I know who seem to pursue life with so much energy and enthusiasm. Their practice of daily ocean swimming (at an unbearably early hour) and their ability to tackle life on so little sleep leaves me in awe, and with deep feelings of inadequacy. I tried to project my sense of wonder at what makes them tick.

The Burden of Joy is a piece that grew from remembering a conversation with a friend about the difficulties of carrying on happily in life while so many people have passed, been displaced and continue to suffer. We know that we need to keep living but we carry with us a certain guilt that is hard to bear at times.


4. You have noted significant inspiration from Canada’s great landscape painters. Which painters do you feel particularly influenced by, regarding their paintings or perhaps even elements of their personas?

I have always admired the work of Frederick Varley and Anne Savage. Their approaches were very confident, but possessed a beautiful tenderness. When standing in front of their paintings, I genuinely feel what they felt and that has had a great impact on me and my work - I attempt to do the same in my paintings.

A contemporary painter whom I admire, but isn't technically Canadian, is Peter Doig. I think his time spent growing up in Canada did give his work a certain Canadian appeal. I love his sensitivity to his subjects, his use of colour to impact the viewer and his approach to storytelling in his paintings.
There is such a timelessness to art that remains so powerful in how it reaches people, long after the artist has placed paint on the canvas.

Anne Griffiths, A Lightness of Being. Oil on canvas, 47 x 44 inches, 2023.

5. In your artist statement, you cite your “deep connection to place in uncertain times”. How has your artistic practice evolved, changed or deepened through the uncertain times that we have collectively faced?

Time seems to have taken a new form over the last few years - it is sometimes suspended, and at other times it slips quickly out of reach. Our place in it and how we are coping is a complicated thing to navigate. I am working to capture my personal response to these times in an open and authentic way. The sense of ease and reprieve that I get from spending time in nature truly feels like a gift, and through my new work I hope that I can project that forward to the viewer.


                     The artist in her Victoria, BC studio. Photo credit: Lia Crowe

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