Artist Q & A: The Chaos of Creation with Sylvia Tait

Celebrated West Coast painter Sylvia Tait shares new insights into her practice and process in anticipation of her upcoming exhibition Yesterday and Today at Bau-Xi Vancouver.


1) Can you describe the artworks that will be included in “Yesterday and Today” in 2 words?

Time and Space


2) What are the social concerns that fuel your work in both the past and present?

I would say very much the same feelings as in the 60s and 70s with regard to the overwhelming power and disregard  by the rich and powerful in society.

The chaos and changes from technology were affecting everyone somehow.


3) Can you talk about how your creative process differs during the creation of your black and white drawings on paper to your colourful paintings? How do your drawings inform your painted works on canvas and paper?


I was drawing and using mostly black and white media because of convenience when we were travelling a lot.

Those obvious constrictions prevented working on larger surfaces or using oil paint. With a bit more stability finally and with studio space, painting on canvas became dominant again and my colour pallet grew brighter perhaps resulting from time in Mexico and Spain and with other European influences. 

Drawing is more immediate, but not simplified . It is a different language from painting.  Each has unique possibilities for invention. 


4) How does chaos inform your work? I feel like chaos is a dominant theme in many people’s lives right now and am wondering if your recent work has been fueled by the emotions of and experiences of chaotic events.

Many of my artworks have “hard edge centers” which slowly start to disintegrate and fall apart as they extend out to the edges of the surface. Everything falls apart, like life. There is something solid and full of form that is built up over time and then chaos happens. In my artworks, you will notice random words, random pieces, puzzled together kind of like a person’s mental state.


5) Your show is called “Yesterday and Today”. Can you tell me a little bit about what this phrase means to you, and the act of looking backwards and forwards in your art practice?

I only started looking back at my early work after the Burnaby Art Gallery and curators, Robin Laurence and Ellen van Eijnsbergen, invited me for  a retrospective exhibition of my paperworks .

Since then a YESTERDAY, and as a result TODAY, I discovered another way to reinvent and vary my vision. 

Subject matter is everywhere and my reality is non objective with episodes and devices of past and present times manipulating markings, texts, textures, sounds made visual, and personal symbols which altogether sometimes makes for a kind of chaos that is obvious and deliberate. My “subject” concern is still implying a fragmenting of basic forms as a statement of the changes and disruptions while contrasting serenity and sensuality. 




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