CANADIAN ILLUSTRATOR AND COLLABORATIVE ARTIST KNOWS HOW TO MAKE A PATTERN POP
Story by Erin Lucuik
Kirsten McCrea is the ultimate multi-tasker. A woman of many talents, McCrea makes the most of every waking moment by dividing her time between her own art practice and a variety of collaborative projects. Whether she’s working on an ink drawing for her latest series or coordinating an installment of her art subscription service Papirmasse, she is always open to learning new things and meeting new people. A glance at her extensive CV is likely to exhaust you, but McCrea’s work is proof that she can juggle it all. She possesses a kind of talent that knows no bounds.
Most of your work begins as an ink drawing. Why ink? Have you always been fond of this medium?
No, not at all! I actually swore off drawing completely for a short while. Towards the end of university I was really obsessed with painting. I was taking a drawing class at the time, but it felt so forced. I didn’t feel compelled to draw the way I felt compelled to paint. Ironically, it was in that drawing class that I made my first patterned drawing, a style that has now become central to my practice.
The inspiration for your drawings is far reaching. Your Last Grasp series looks to technology from the pre 1980s era, while mold, fungus, and moss acted as inspiration for your Flora & Fauna drawings. Where do you find inspiration for your work?
It’s easier for me to see where inspiration comes from in retrospect. While I do carefully consider the images I produce and spend a lot of time considering them, it’s not always clear to me in the moment why I’m drawn to particular subject matter. Looking back though, I can see common threads running through all my work.
My main inspirations are cultural mythologies (through the lens of nuclear proliferation in my series Kim Jong Bomb, fame in the painting “Gaga Comme Démon”, and subcultural icons in the series Hot Topic), nostalgia (in itself a form of cultural myth, usually centered in pop icons and select everyday objects, such as rotary phones, cassette tapes, and old cameras), and patterning and repetition.
Right now I’m working on a body of paintings depicting mounted deer heads covered in strange floral growths. Deer heads are classical Canadian imagery, the idea of mounting something harkens to iconography and hints at the twinned ideas of worship and fame, and the patterning both draws attention and conceals the object.
I am also working to expand the series Hot Topic by adding another twenty paintings to it. If you’ve got a feminist icon to suggest, head to www.hottopicproject.com
You’re the founder of Papirmasse, an art subscription service. What prompted you to create this service?
Papirmasse is an affordable art subscription that sends a monthly print, with art on one side and writing on the other, to people around the world for $5 a month. It’s about getting to engage with contemporary art and writing wherever and whoever you are.
I was at a crossroads in my life when I started Papirmasse (pronounced Pah-purr-mass, if you’re wondering). I had graduated from Concordia University in Montreal and accidentally moved back to Edmonton (En route to somewhere else I stopped for a few weeks at home and through a series of events ended up staying 8 months before returning to Montreal.). I spent that year working non-stop, saving up money so that I could go back to Montreal and be an artist full-time (It worked! 3 years and counting…).
I didn’t have a studio practice and was yearning to be creative. I saw how much my friends all loved art, but realized that few, if any of us, were in a position to buy original, contemporary works. We’re all busy and broke. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could get a subscription for art and it would just show up at your house, and be affordable?”. So I started Papirmasse to do just that, and 4 years later we’re going strong with subscribers in 6 continents. We’ve featured over 70 contributors so far and are gearing up for an amazing 2013. Our call for submissions is up until October 15 for all you creative types.
In addition to your own practice, you’ve made collaborative art with the collective Cease and the drawing initiative En Masse. Can you tell us about each of these projects?
Cease is a Montreal-based art collective that does collaborative wheat paste murals in a variety of public spaces (parties, festivals, concerts, etc.). I haven’t made anything with them in a while, but I was around back when the collaborative murals started and they were insanely fun. They’re kind of like giant collages and look so vibrant at the end. Cease also throws great art parties, puts on shows, and holds a yearly Christmas art sale.
En Masse is the most beautiful, inspiring project that an artist could ever hope to be a part of. I feel really lucky to have been working closely with them for two years now. En Masse creates huge collaborative black and white murals with a constantly evolving roster of artists. It’s not a collective because the members always change – we call it a drawing initiative.
As an artist you get to stand alongside some seriously inspiring people and create art with them (A far cry from the usually solitary studio!), and as a member of the public you get to see incredible art being made right in front of you (a rare treat). En Masse tours the world now, working with new artists in each city.
Do you have any upcoming projects in the works?
Oh yes! I am designing a new line of notebooks and stationary with Paper Pusher. I also have an upcoming solo show of works on paper in the town of Vankleek Hill in November (works from that show will continue on to an art fair in Montreal in April). Papirmasse is hosting an hour of zine making at Nuit Blanche in Toronto as part of Zine Machine at the Gladstone Hotel.