Next week the show “Hidden” at the Firehall Arts Centre is opening on Thursday, April 3rd.  It has been my honour to be paired with the talented Jamie Smith.  Below is an interview we did for the upcoming show.   (View more of Jamie’s work at www.jamiesmithstudio.com)

Here is what Jamie had to say…

1.     Are you formally trained in art?

Yes, I completed my B.F.A. from the University of Victoria in 2008. I then completed my B.Ed from the University of British Columbia specializing in Art Education.

2.     When did you decide to be an “artist”?

There was a long time in my life where I valued traveling the world over most other things. During this time I took photographs and I went to as many art galleries as I could find. Seeing and experiencing was my art form at the time. Then when I began teaching I found this to be an art form all of its own and I really enjoyed helping young people discover art for themselves. It wasn’t until May last year that I decided to commit to creating my own art and making my living in this way. My work has transformed and changed through all these stages in my life.

3.     Is there a theme to your work or something you are exploring right now?

Right now I am very interested in layers. I use many different layers of materials in my paintings to reveal and conceal, aspects and messages in my work. I think a lot about how, as people, we have layers of experiences that make us who we are today. It is interesting for me to think about the specific experiences that impact us the most and where these layers fit into our everyday lives. I am learning that in many cases these are the layers that we tend to hid the most. 

4.     The Firehall art show is called “Hidden” how does your art address this theme?

 I created this series of paintings for the “Hidden” show and I wanted to try using my materials in different ways. I normally use my stencils as a way to create a pattern and movement in my work but in this series I use stencils as a way of hiding colours and images. I use the stencils as a mask to hid parts of the work.

5.     Do you believe art in general reveals something hidden about the artist or perhaps the world around us?

 Not always but I believe art can challenge our perspective of the world around us. Sometimes this can be by adding beauty into it or rethinking the way we see things.

6.  Is there a message you hope the public will walk away from the show with?

In this series I wanted people to have to step closer to the paintings to try to see all the layers hidden in the work. This “step closer” in a metaphorical way is why I believe we must never judge people on first impressions but take the time to learn about the layers that make people who they are. 

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(Hidden Series)

Here is what I had to say…

1.     Are you formally trained in art?

Yes, I completed my B.F.A. from Emily Carr University in 2010.  My specialization is in photography, however I found by my 4th year that I was more interested in installation and performance so I have continued to learn on my own.  It was great to have laid the foundation in such a conceptually challenging environment though.

2.     When did you decide to be an “artist”?

I would say that I never decided to be an artist, in fact I’ve tried very hard not to at many times, but at the end of the day it is a driving force that is hard to ignore for very long.  I think that I’ve always had the impulse to create, and I have always enjoyed opening up dialogues about the subjects that I am passionate about.  For me the definition of an artist is a bit fluid as I imagine it is for most artists who use their practice to question the art itself and who have to find a way to integrate the non-commercial art realities and with the requirements of regular life.

3.     Is there a theme to your work or something you are exploring right now?

 Most of my body of work is concerned with removing the romance from many subjects that have been overly sentimentalized such as motherhood, childhood, and spirituality.  Right now I am investigating ideas around the experience of community through the use of constructed identity, or how we change who we are to find a place to fit in.

4.     The Firehall art show is called “Hidden” how does your art address this theme?

The piece in the show, 100 Self-Portraits is based on the way that children with autism have to be taught certain things in order to be integrated into society, including in this case, the ‘appropriate’ way to play with toys and the structured and rigorous teachings around emotion.  While ostensibly representing hidden disability, it in fact questions the validity of the kinds of constraints and expectations placed upon all children and speaks to a collective desire to institutionalize, rationalize and control the experience of disability within a larger social structure. 

5.     Do you believe art in general reveals something hidden about the artist or perhaps the world around us?

Not as a rule. For the most part I think that art is more an act of screaming about something that is right in front of us that we don’t bother to look at than the quiet process of unearthing a hidden truth.

6.  Is there a message you hope the public will walk away from the show with?

The discussion I would like to see is around the complicated issue of disability.  In Vancouver we have a crisis of mental illness with few solutions in sight, in large part due to misunderstanding and misinformation.  I believe the first step is to become more comfortable with talking about disability and mental illness before we, as a city, will be able to create meaningful change.

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(Images: 100 Self Portraits, 2014 & Go Splash Some Water On Your Face from the series “…And Apple Pie”, 2009)