We spoke with Nova Scotia-based visual artist Andrew Maize about his collaborative residency and show with BAF and Back Gallery.
GM: Could you start by giving us some backstory on the projects you’ve been working on during your residency with us and Malaspina Printmakers?
AM: During my residencies at the Burrard Arts Foundation and Malaspina Printmakers co-op, I was working on several different projects – some which made it into the show and others that are just in the beginning stages. At BAF I was working on a couple series of Marker Drawings, which involve stacking layers of paper, then allowing markers to bleed through the layers, so that the chemicals and pigments are drawn through the fibres of the paper. The materials interact while being guided by the fibres of the paper and gravity.
Once the markers are empty and dry, I have been reusing the colourful nibs to create other sculptural pieces such as spheres and rings. Using the shape of the nib to inform the structure, the sum of the pieces together creates near perfect spherical or circular shapes.
At Malaspina, I was printing out a series of photographs taken on my train trip across the country. Using my iPhone, I documented each freight train that we passed along the route. Since the rails are owned by CP + CN rail, the VIA passenger service is consistently disrupted by freight train traffic. I held the camera to the window, and simultaneously shot video and photos of the train as it passed. Each photo is a tally of the number and types of freight being moved across the country. The photos also reflect the time of day, time, weather, geography, location and speed of the oncoming train.
I also did some screen printing at Malaspina, which is a new medium to me. The piece that I am most happy with is called FRASER. I have stacked the word FRASER on top of one another – which changes the appearance to ERASER on every line except the last. I thought this was interesting.
GM: Although you’re from Ontario, you’ve spent the last few years in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and I get the impression it’s a large part of your artistic identity. You came to Lunenburg for a residency and ended up staying – what can you tell us about the allure this town holds for you?
AM: Well, I moved to Lunenburg to participate in the NSCAD Community Studio Residency Program, a one-year residency with subsidized accommodation – and an incredible studio/apartment to share with two other artists. Lunenburg is an incredibly beautiful town. Over two hundred sixty three years of architectural hybridity, boat building and working the sea. Lots of artists in the program, and other like-minded individuals, are moving down to the south shore of Nova Scotia. Like Peter Dykhuis [curator/director at Dalhousie Art Gallery] says: “Nova Scotia is the Right Size Province”. I’d like to extend that to the Lunenburg being the right size town. With the density of the old town, with its British colonial grid, you enable a relatively small town to have a lot going on – everything is walkable within town. So I really took to this idea and explored it through my art practice. I also became involved in projects such as the Lunenburg School of the Arts – which looks to build on the momentum of the NSCAD Residency + tourism + arts culture in the town. Also, I was lucky to have very affordable rent and studio opportunities, which allowed me to fully invest in my practice over the years.
GM: Describe your artistic background and the evolution of your practice.
AM: Conceptualism and my time at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design were definitely a big influence on my practice. NSCAD is a fantastic school, and the politics of the faculty and student body have played a big part in my development. Not being limited to one medium is incredibly important to me – and although I often feel like I’m not putting in my ten thousand hours in on any particular way of working, being adaptable and open to new possibilities is really exciting. There are so many conversations happening across disciplines – I’m keen to always be a student and keep learning and exploring.
Even though I work in a wide variety of mediums, there are definitely some common threads that reappear as I continue to develop artistically. With this awareness, I’m learning about myself, and the work that I make – and continuing to ask important questions of myself.
I am looking to collaborate more with other artists and professionals, to see where this process can take an idea. Whenever I am having trouble with something, I realize it is because I’m working in a silo and need to break outside of it and start cross pollinating.
My practice is also very responsive to site/locale/institution/medium/situation and the politics of all of the aforementioned. I’m looking to further this – to continue to understand how we process stimulus in the world, and as artists, how we respond to this.
GM: You’ve cited Jackson Pollock many times as your first, or most important, artistic inspiration. Your fascination with time, movement, chance and material are certainly reminiscent of Pollock, but of course, there is much in your work, such as your interested in environmentalism, that is not present is his. Does he remain your artistic hero or has your perspective changed?
AM: The Pollock reference is a funny one – and I’ve bitten my tongue a few times after saying it. Pollock was definitely my gateway into painting. At 17 I was being homeschooled while recovering from a serious car accident. Instead of doing my math homework I turned on the TV to stumble across the movie Pollock, and witnessed the scene when he first ‘discovered’ the drip method. I was super inspired and went downstairs to start tossing paint around. Something about the marks being made as an extension of the body, like a dance was what really caught me. The element of chance really excited me.
I wouldn’t say that he is still a hero [I stopped painting when I when to NSCAD and discovered the wide variety of ways of approaching art practice] but I still am a fan of his paintings. However, I started working with paint again in the during the Lunenburg House Paint Project, and projects like Paint Descending a Staircase definitely have their roots in my early explorations, as well as my fascination with cymatics and the visualization of sound waves.
GM: To me, there are parallels between your interests in movements and human systems and your environmentalism. Do you also see them as interconnected?
AM: I do see them as interconnected. The environmental impact of our species has reached an unprecedented level – and the scientific information about our effect, this period that we are calling the anthropocene, is impossible to ignore. It is so interwoven with our history [colonialism, resources extraction, capitalism, notions of progress]. I haven’t totally unpacked this relationship in my work – but I know it must play an increasing role in future projects.
While our species does not have a track record of being able to change the habits of it’s societies before they self-destruct, there is still great potential for change. Art, like all disciplines, has an important role to play if this leap is to be made towards a more holistic existence in this wonderfully fragile biosphere.
GM: Tell us a little bit about your role as an art educator.
AM: I have done lots of teaching in Lunenburg and Nova Scotia. I really enjoy working with small groups of adults and kids – and mixed ages is best – to do some experiential learning.
I have done a lot of projects working with kites – specifically afghan fighter kites. Recently I did a project funded by veterans affairs – working with veterans and grade nine students to build fighter kites and engage in a dialogue about the role of the kite in Afghan culture and Canada’s occupation in the country. This work has stemmed out of my project Kites – which I did as part of Eyelevel galleries Public Performance Series in 2O11 – where I led workshops to build 163 kites, one for every fallen soldier and civilian killed in Afghanistan during our occupation. The kites act as a temporary memorial that can be experienced through participation, both physically and experientially, instead of the typical passive role of the monolith static memorial.
GM: What kinds of community initiatives are you involved in back in Lunenburg?
AM: I am involved in a couple of initiatives back in Lunenburg. Three years ago, myself and some other citizens started the Lunenburg Community Garden. It has a great location at the site of the Lunenburg Academy Building. I am also a board member of the Lunenburg School of the Arts.
GM: What kind of exciting projects do you have planned over the upcoming year?
AM: I am really excited to be participating in the RBC Painting Competition again. I am also applying for a residency in Yellowknife. My next step is participating in Common Opulence #2 – a residency and sustainable building initiative in Demmit Alberta on the home of artist Peter Von Tiesenhausen. After that I am moving to Toronto for a residency at Artscape Gibraltar point – producing some work to be exhibited at Art Toronto. After that , I’m not sure – but I would love to come back to Vancouver to develop some of the fledgling ideas that have been incubating during my time here.
Andrew Maize’s solo show, Nova Curve, will be displaying the results of his residency at Back Gallery until July 25th.