Artist Q & A : Sylvia Tait

1) The Bau-Xi Gallery feels a great sense of pride and gratitude in having the privilege of representing your work for forty years. 
Are there any touchstones in your practice or philosophy that have remained a constant theme or preoccupation over this period of time ?

Because the camera can reproduce almost any subject, place or incident in exquisite detail, it leaves the painter free to invent and insinuate oneself into a world of one’s own. This is both an advantage and a problem. People still insist the artist should try to become the camera. The inventor-painter can open other aspects of reality. That is challenging and one has to newly invent the world each time when starting a new work.


2) Double Entendres is an intriguing and heavily weighted title for your solo exhibition. Please explain the genesis behind it. 

Double Entendres have different interpretations or meanings which allow for poetics and insights, plus in this particular situation, my two exhibitions ( at Bau-Xi Vancouver and my retrospective at the Burnaby Art Gallery ) are running simultaneously but with different approaches and media and time sequences.


3) One immediately equates the word COLOUR in bold letters to your work in general. What role does colour play in your work ? 


Colour: That is hard because colour use is such a personal expression, possibly even cultural with those choices of values that become recognizable in place and context.

Emotions and deep or fragile feelings can be remembered through colour as well as the other prime senses. A coloured stroke put beside another hue or tone evokes a dialogue of its own for me.

Colour is love. 


4) The sense of sound is often strongly evoked in many of your titles such as Arpeggios, Diminuendo, Mumbo Jumbo, Clashes and Bangs, Sun Song with either their musical references, use of sound poetry, or references to human speech or sounds from the natural world.
How does music or sound inform or inspire your work ? Do you have any favourite composers or musicians or genres of music or a radio program or station that you often listen to while you paint or do you paint in silence ?

Music and soundscape is vital to me. In a time of great grief and trauma, I feel it was music that saved me from total despair. The abstract language of music speaks to the visual artist in the same way. The approach to the form and vitality of expression and feeling is similar. There is enormous happiness, excitement and humility in recognizing that unique understanding that is humanity at its best. 

I am from another era in today’s mass media hype. Classical music in most of its forms as well as contemporary composers and performers keep my CDs flourishing as well as the CBC ( when it behaves itself.)

Today I prefer chamber music, more intimate noting, although opera excites and thrills me with the marvellous voices that flourish today all over the world. The combination of theatre, sound and drama can’t be beat !

5) Another consistent theme in your titles seem to be about the journey or the transcending of boundaries or the reference to this particular place or geography that you call home for example: Coming from Away, Out of Bounds, Crossing-Ways, Pathways and Partings , Vancouver Sound-scape , West Coast Suite . 

Titles are a way of adding poetry, linking the message/subject and giving some insight to the art, with the necessity for naming. Often it can be more difficult than painting . 

The “Journey“ is a metaphor for a traveler in time and idea space. Every experience brings new questions and revelations not always digested at the same time , so pathways just lead the way as boundaries eventually get fragmented and blown away.

6) Please explain the difference and/or similarity between painting on paper and painting on canvas in your works as you typically include both media in your solo exhibitions.

Painting on canvas or wood or paper is quite different. Each surface has different qualities and different pigments seem to require special techniques. I love the sensuality and depth of colour of painting with oils for the canvases, but the racy fast drying acrylics work best for me on paper.

7) Congratulations on your upcoming solo retrospective at the Burnaby Art Gallery opening Nov 16th, 2017. What can we look forward to there that would be different from this upcoming exhibition at Bau-Xi Vancouver ?

A few years ago art critic, writer, and art historian Robin Laurence suggested a “look back” for a possible retrospective of my work. So I revisited old drawings and paintings from the very beginning. Things stored away not seen for years brought back new feelings that I could enlarge upon and add new vigour to my palette and confidence. The retrospective that the Burnaby Art Gallery has most generously offered to mount will consist of multiple paperworks done almost from the beginning of my Art Journey up to the present day.  I understand there will be a published catalogue as well.  

The upcoming Vancouver Bau-Xi exhibition consists primarily of new works on canvas as well as some new large mixed media paperworks. I am grateful for the tenderness and generosity of both galleries and curators.

8) And do you have any advice for young artists just beginning their artistic journey ?

Words for young artists …. .. keep the passion alive and trust your instincts.


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