KN: Are there certain themes or motifs that you always work with?
AW: No, I don’t always work with the same themes or motifs, but I’ve tried to find a common thread throughout the process of looking, or “pay attention to what I’m paying attention to.” I respond to objects and spaces that carry “personality”, emotions or bodily reactions. I like to draw attention to the ways we’re all affected by physical, concrete situations. To drive in this point, I often go for alienating or inviting interiors and make walls or surfaces of the built environment the subject (which seems minimal and abstract but can be evocative nonetheless and so much of my experience with modern built spaces is this way.) Similarly, I pay attention to skin, bodies, animals, decoration, design, hand-made objects, natural objects, and public or private signs.
KN: What informs your work? Does this also have an immediate influence on your daily life?
AW: I’ve been taking lots of digital pictures of objects and surfaces for a while in an attempt to form my own image bank. Also, to form a visual language of forms that articulates (helps me understand) my conceptual concerns- body awareness, concrete experience, an ethics of care, personal expression informing public discourse. Photos are neat because they insist on a context in the everyday world but can also point to the existence of personally meaningful objects or situations found in that “external” world. So I act like a schizophrenic relating things in the world back to my own desires when I do this digital capturing exercise. It’s like finding proof of myself outside of myself, and so proving inter-subjectivity as well. I also have an interest in language and read linguistics, psychoanalysis, cultural theory and phenomenology, which informs how I want to live and interact with others including through art.
KN: Does the work you make now link in any way to what interested you during childhood?
AW: I think I’m always trying to address the sophistication of our desires, needs and obstacles, some of which remain the same throughout life. As a child we experience ourselves as separate from others as well as joined at times through communication, empathy, and shared experience. During childhood, this dissolution between self and world happened so much more often. And I like that experience of immersion and wonder because it can be subversive and desires (big and small) are a large part of everyone’s reality.
Other than that, my interests are pretty different, but sensibilities probably similar.
KN: Is your work autobiographical?
AW: No, I don’t have a story yet to tell that interests me. Plus, that would be too personal for me even though I say I like personal work. I guess I like it to have the sincere individual experience come through, but not the focus on ego, unless this part is self-aware. I don’t mean that autobiographical art is egotistical, because sometimes it tells a story with an audience in mind, or with community in mind. This is almost necessary when someone has lived a story of political or social gravity. Also, I am not an expert with story-telling so I am more inclined to pick up some pieces of the pieces of what happens to myself, or others, in our lives rather than something developed over time requiring a context like an autobiography. It does relate to my own experience, my being in the world, but not my memories, events or narratives, which might not interest anybody or myself enough to be part of my art.
KN: Does your work involve a lot of 'happy accidents' or do you try to plan everything out beforehand?
AW: I just try to start with something that is detailed enough to make me excited about copying it. And I enjoy copying, because it lets me look at things intently. But sometimes I will see some parts of an image as more important or exciting than others and this is one way the piece differs from the plan. I plan some inspirations but it only proceeds in the process, with responses to the materials and what I learn from seeing it.
KN: How does your work relate or differ from painters who work with the photograph or found/manipulated image?
AW: Well I’m not sure how I want to use the photograph. I like it because it has a lot of information. I also like that that information is recognized as being discernible or a social reality because this is where I want to negotiate the ideas of the self. This is similar to Tuymans use of the photograph. I take the photos with the painting and the paint and large scale in mind. I use photography as information like any other image and I don’t do what some photo realist painters do when they are chiefly commenting on the nature of photography and its role in contemporary experience. Photography is very subjective and I am framing my experience for others to later see in a very subjective way. The photograph is only a record of lived time with detail and variety. And you’re free to make variations on the theme of what looks real, changing tones or adding things, etc. I’m working on this part.
KN: Do your painting techniques link to any specific styles, and do you relate or differ from the artists linked to those styles?
AW: I’m still working on feeling out my own best style with paint. In my drawing, you can see similarities to David Hockney’s drawings and those of Elizabeth Peyton. I relate to Peyton’s immediacy of colour and simplifying other things to get at expression. As far as I can tell, my style is washed out, thin application of paint, and sometimes calculated marks, sometimes-confident ones. I’m not going to stay with the calculated marks. I’ve decided they aren’t “me.” I do like the style of Karen Kilimnik whose hand seems quick and efficient and emotional. I know what I’m doing when I’m depicting natural things better than straight lines of course and this is maybe where my natural style shows, but I want to keep experimenting with style because there are lots to choose from.
KN: Do you live within an accessible community of artists who influence your work?
AW: Yes, there are many young and successful painters (including you) in Calgary. This is great to see their path and gusto, determination, and ambition. Although, I don’t feel like I have a community of people here who like my work very much. I kind of have to imagine this. I think its because I didn’t go through school here and that’s where strong relationships and sympathies are formed mostly.
KN: Do you try to control how the viewer reads your work, or do you try to leave readings completely open?
AW: Sometimes I’m only concerned that the meaning is there for me because I’m the one interacting with the paint and asking it where to go next. I trust that this is the strength of painting that it opens up on a world of subjective vision. We can all empathically relate to another person as a pair of eyes and body, and feel for other people all the time. Amelia Jones talks about how the self is constituted through a reversibility of seeing and being seen, and this entails a reciprocity and contingency for the subject(s) in the world. So we can always look at someone else and see him or her as a subject, or at the work and see it as somebody’s own expression. I think people get my meaning if they really look at the painting and try to see what I have seen. But sometimes I have failed because they are confused and don’t know what they’re looking at. This means I assumed too much. At some point you have to use reason to figure if other people will be able to see what you see. When it’s a case of people knowing what they’re looking at, but not knowing what it means, I think the meaning can be in a metaphorical reading of the images, but its also just in the formal choices and how I interacted with the materials and pursued my own aesthetics. I try to make it communicate on a very sensual level so there are as many readings as there are bodies.
KN: Who did you learn the most from during school? Do you find your work presently relates or differs from any dominant themes or techniques that surrounded you during school?
AW: I had about eight teachers at NSCAD that really elaborated on the things I cared about and I know there were other teachers there that I didn’t get a chance to be in a class with but I would have loved. Together, they sparked my interest and familiarized me with the deconstruction of language, the way the self is embodied, the importance of emotion and beauty in work, process, idiosyncratic languages, and social relevance.
KN: Taken from a quote by writer Charles Worth, do you think that painting has "artistic agency in a culture dominated by the mass-produced mediating image"?
AW: Yes, it is the alternative that can overturn this so called cultural domination by images produced with a mass audience (of generalized, simplified public) in mind. I don’t think we are satisfied with technology alone and images removed from imaginations. I think there will always be a fascination for hand made, expressive things, but this may be a cultural thing to say because there is more fascination for this kind of thing when it is not the norm. In my experience everyone values painting because it is made by a human and involves talent. Even the great rap stars like a painting of themselves.
KN: Are there any specific texts or ideas that ultimately define painting for you, or do you approach painting continuously and on your own terms?
AW: No, painting eludes definitions for me. Some ideas are helpful, but I don’t really hold onto any each time I paint.
KN: Do you think that the artist's public persona is an extension of the work? Should the artist's persona be performative or depicted as performative by media coverage, or should the work be the central subject?
AW: It depends on the artist. I value a lot of work that takes place beside or outside of the object itself, because meaning can be found in the process and action. It’s ultimately hard for an artist to hide (the self) behind their work because work that gets attention involves putting oneself in the work. But I don’t really need to know biographical information about an artist once I’ve been struck by their work. I care about what they were trying to say. I think the media will cover personalities when they become a parallel site of art (performance, fashion, conceptual) to the other art works they make.
KN: Have you seen any recent exhibitions that had a strong impact on you?
AW: The Tim Lee exhibition did because I tried to redeem its value for others and myself as some friends weren’t liking it. I got lots of mysterious experiences from looking at the work and I love work that I can’t understand at first!