HINTS OF PICASSO IN TORONTO ARTIST’S NEW EXHIBIT
Words by Rebecca Poynton-Murray
Images courtesy of Shawn Skeir
Shawn Skeir is no stranger to the ever-growing Toronto art scene. With a new exhibition under way, ‘Life Lines,’ we spoke to Shawn about his work and how the city inspires him.
How long you have you been working as an artist?
I was raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) then moved to Toronto to advance my studies in art and design. I’ve always thought of myself as an artist from an early age; I’ve been painting for 20 years.
In your artist statement, it says that you are inspired by urban expressions. What does this mean?
As an ethnically and culturally diverse mosaic, Toronto influences everything from my colour palette to the sense of movement in my art. Whether it’s something I see in media, advertising or culturally diverse neighbourhoods such as Parkdale, each add elements of urban expressionism to my work.
What is your favourite material to work with?
Acrylic paint is my favourite medium. It dries quickly, unlike oils, allowing me to paint the next layer of a painting. That said, I have a place in my heart for silver and gold leaf, spray paint, and markers.
You describe yourself as a sculptor in two dimensions. What does this mean?
The artistic effect I am referring to is created by thick applications of paint. This tactile and visceral quality is heightened when thick brushstrokes are layered on top of thinner washes of colour creating many layers wherein I build upon using acrylics mixed with resin. I often use rich colour that plays with your eyes, sometimes popping off the canvas for a visual effect.
Each of your collections seems quite different from the one before it. Do you enjoy creating something new each time?
Well, my artistic practice involves three distinct bodies of work, which I alternately explore, leave, and then return to in the future. Together these styles all span the gap between realism and pure abstraction. This fluidity allows me to experiment and evolve. This approach also allows me to look at my work with fresh eyes and give me a whole new perspective. I like to challenge myself to attempt creativity with new elements and try techniques.
What can we expect to see in your new exhibit Life Lines?
I’m really inspired by bold colour and strokes, especially those produced by some of the amazing graffiti you see in Toronto alleys. My recent work is a return to portraiture and figures, and a nod to the artists who inspire me, like Picasso, Basquiat, Keith Haring and Willem de Kooning.
What has been your biggest achievement?
For the last four years, I have managed my own studio-gallery. It has become my flagship gallery of sorts, although I do exhibit my art in other galleries as well.
What do you hope to work on in the next year?
In the coming year, I am looking forward to combining my artistic practice with fashion accessories, clothing, textiles and design. I want to explore all levels of art and design with my specific style. I think it’s important for me at this time to be fearless and play and create whimsical fun design as well as good artwork that I’m proud of. This summer I am producing a line of original screen prints based on my paintings that I will be hand printing myself with added appliqué to fabrics and T’s called P.O.P (Prince Of Parkdale). My studio-gallery will be transformed into a gallery-boutique, with display cases and shelves for P.O.P. shirts and bags, as well as prints of past work and original paintings, making my work accessible to everybody.
Shawn’s recent work can be seen on his website http://www.shawnskeir.net/ or you can visit his studio:
1537a Queen Street west
Wednesday to Sundays