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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