Is painting dead? Curators Lukus Toane and Spencer J. Harrison don’t think so. For the Gladstone Hotel’s 5th annual Why the @#&! Do You Paint? (WTFDYP) exhibition, Lukus, and Spencer reviewed submissions from more than 200 artists and selected 22 painted works to display on the Gladstone Hotel’s 2nd Floor Gallery this fall.
We spoke to three artists in this year’s WTFDYP exhibition, asking them about their experience in the show, their own practice and where they think the future of painting is heading. Meet Diego De La Rosa, Megan Ellen MacDonald, and Bianca Roco.
Diego De La Rosa is an emerging artist from Caracas, Venezuela who is currently based in Toronto. His work explores the cultural impact caused by the social crisis in his homeland while dealing with ideas that universalize issues of oppression, resilience, crime and the search for social and individual betterment.
Megan Ellen MacDonald is a Toronto-based artist whose work explores themes of gender and power dynamics through the lens of genre painting. MacDonald graduated from OCAD University with a BFA in Drawing and Painting and has exhibited work in Canada and the US.
Bianca Roco is an artist living in Toronto, Canada. After moving from the Philippines to study illustration, she shifted focus to painting. Exploring her Filipino heritage, Roco’s life-size figurative work of women explores themes of intimacy, isolation, displacement, and sexuality.
What was your experience working in a group show like Why The @#&! Do You Paint?
Diego: I think the most special aspect of participating in WTFDYP is getting the chance to exhibit in a beautiful space with art that has actually been curated while also keeping a 100% of any sales made through it. Having the opportunity to participate in such a well-organized event that focuses on the quality of work, regardless of the stage of one’s career, and that actually seeks to help and promote artistic talent, rather than taking advantage of it, has been incredibly reassuring and motivational for my own practice.
Megan: It’s a bit of a surprise to walk into the show and see how the curators have presented the work, and how particular artists are working within similar themes. I was excited to see the final roster of artists for the exhibition – there are a lot of really amazing artists in this show who I have worked with or connected with over the years and it’s always a pleasure to share space with them.
Bianca: It was a great experience to be in the WTFDYP show. I think the Gladstone is a great environment for artists and art-lovers to meet in a relaxed setting. I think the Gladstone also does a great job of promoting the event and hosting a fun opening night.
How do you deal with creative roadblocks in your painting practice?
Diego: Whenever I feel like I am getting stuck, I often find that the best way to get out of it is by painting something completely different and new, even if the idea itself seems a little strange at first. This allows me to take risks and take my art into unforeseen areas, even if it comes with the possibility of creating an odd and unappealing piece. But, even in that instance, I find something new to learn about myself and where to take my art. I am also constantly looking at multiple sources for inspiration, whether it is at other paintings, movies, concept art, animation or even a text that creates an interesting image in my head.
Megan: I try something new and expand my practice outside of painting. If I have a creative roadblock with my paintings, I’ll go learn to sculpt for a few months or teach myself 3D modeling. I always come back with a new perspective towards my painting practice and something to add or expand upon.
Bianca: ‘Creative roadblocks’ I have are mostly due to feelings of personal anxiety – in my case it’s just a matter of either stepping back from the work for a while, working on another painting, or getting outside feedback if it’s a case of feeling unable to continue or a painting going south, or to just force myself to start painting if it’s a case of not making work for a prolonged period of time.
By ‘forcing’ myself to work it just reminds me of how much I actually just enjoy the simple act of painting or drawing, regardless of how uninspired I might have felt. This for me is usually enough. It’s not really about running out of ideas, but this could just be because I haven’t been doing my practice for very long.
Can you answer the title of the exhibition? Why the @#&! do you paint?
Diego: When it comes to communicating and exploring the ideas that I am interested in, I see painting as my natural vehicle. My lifelong interest in learning to paint has made this practice into an essential part of my everyday life. Because of this, my inclination to tackle Venezuelan politics and society through painting was, if anything, an inevitable outcome.
In the case of my own art, in which I talk about the problem that my home country is facing, many people who connect with my paintings, most of whom aren’t even Venezuelan, have approached me with a sparked interest to know about the piece and the stories it contains about my motherland.
It is this desire to reach out and connect with my audience, alongside my love for painting, why I still #@$%ing paint.
Megan: Painting is a visual language and one I am fluent in. It’s like asking me why I don’t speak Spanish instead of English, or why I even speak at all. The need to communicate ideas creatively existed long before art became a commodity. I paint because I have stories to tell, and while the themes and narratives in my work could be expressed in a multitude of ways, I chose painting because it’s the medium I am most expressive in.
Bianca: I paint because I enjoy the freedom it can allow me, since I’m often working from my own photography or found references, and I can manipulate them how I want in order to convey ideas or stories, and I enjoy the challenge of conveying these in a singular canvas/still images. I’m very interested in the history of painting, the way a movement or practice of an artist can say so much about society in a certain period in time. I’ll take any chance I get to spend hours staring at work at galleries and museums., or to read about artists of the past. But also I just really enjoy the physicality of painting, and how anything can be created through color and light and form, as simple as that sounds.
What do you think the future of painting holds in the contemporary art world?
Diego: This might sound corny, but I truly believe that painting, like every other art form, will perdure as long as humanity exists. It will evolve and start exploring new techniques and ideas, and it might even become less popular overtime (especially with the constant surge of new digital technologies for art-making). But every art form has its own unique history, strengths, and limitations, and it is this distinction that will allow painting to continue to exist and transform over time. The physicality of painting, its “hand-made essence”, is what makes it special and timeless, rather than old and pointless. New styles and theories will surge, but painting will inevitably remain.
Megan: Social media has really changed the landscape of how artists are able to communicate and share their images with the world. It’s a blessing and a curse, but I’m excited by anything that can diversify and level the playing field of contemporary art.
Bianca: I think painting has a pretty exciting future in the art world, especially since in an increasingly digital age, there’s something very special about seeing physical work, particularly in person.
Why the @#&! Do You Paint? is on until November 24th in our 2nd Floor Gallery. Admission is free.