In Conversation: Resident Artist Charlene Vickers
Charlene Vickers allowed her work to grow intuitively and organically in her BAF Gallery show, ‘Chrysalis’. Coming into the Residency Program from a period of intense creative activity, Vickers chose to approach her time in the program as both a space of much-needed rest, and the chance to sow the seeds of a new body of work – one that clearly sits within the lineage of her vibrant, abstract paintings, but brings them into a looser, less structured mode of production. In this interview, BAF chats with the artist about these new works and her experience creating them.
What was your experience like in the Burrard Arts Foundation Residency program?CV
Positive. The residency time and space was great as I had a completely open and blank canvas to start and work within. It is good to not have too much visual clutter, and this space and time was open and productive.
What was different about these works from paintings and drawings you’ve done in the past?CV
The new work was more loose and open in terms of process, thinking and making. The work grew in a very organic way, changing often from day to day. Making notes about what I was seeing and feeling was important to how the works on canvas would take shape. Overall the work was way less symmetrical, hard edged and structured. I wanted to have elements of what I liked in previous work (looseness) and really run with that. I wanted to push the beautiful ability of what oil paint is capable of doing as painting. So the paintings took off into the gestural and atmospheric spaces of floating, organic plant forms, landscape, vibration,
You wrote an artist statement that included both poetry and prose to accompany the exhibition. Is writing something that often inspires your work?CV
I often write as a form of note taking, or making notes about moments of feeling and memory. Sometimes these forms of writing become artist statements, but often not. I used poetic forms to stoke the fire of creative process and ground the work. So words became a way to open up my thinking and how to free up new spaces of experiencing. It was the first time to reveal this kind of writing and of the thinking process around the work as it was being made.
What other artists are you influenced by?CV
Rebecca Belmore, Maria Hupfield, Krista Belle Stewart, Jeneen Frei Njootli, Arthur Shilling, Norval Morrisseau, Annie Pootoogook, Faye Heavyshield, Robert Chaplin and Neil Eustache.
This work, and much of your previous work, is related to memory and connection to your ancestral lands. Does this work in any way look forward, to the future? Is that something you’d like to eventually explore?CV
Everything now is related to the future. All steps lead somewhere. Memory can be the future.
Have these works given you any new ideas you want to further explore in the future?CV
Yes- I keep my magic and visions for myself at this moment. But the ideas that are most important are how do we find a sense of excitement and energy in what we do as artists. What is most vital to what I am doing and expressing is an ongoing process of laying down my presence and existence as Anishinabe Kwe (Ojibway Woman). My work is about survival and thriving as an artist and First Nations woman. I am part of my ancestors. However disconnected my physical self is from my birth community, my body and my work is still rooted in that place and the spirit of that place.
‘Chrysalis’ will close at BAF Gallery on Saturday, May 25. Join us on the final day of the show at 2pm for an artist talk with Charlene Vickers.