Alberta Artists From Pop-Culture Portraits to Mixed-Media Narratives

Alberta Artists From Pop-Culture Portraits to Mixed-Media Narratives

Gordie by Robert Lemay

Talking to Alberta Artists for Canada150 – Part 4

From Pop-Culture Portraits to Mixed-Media Narratives, Behind the Art

By Brandy Saturley
AIC Contributing Author
From Pop-Culture inspired portraits to mixed-media narratives, four Alberta Artists to appreciate.

For Part 4 of this series I have chosen an eclectic group of figurative artists. From Robert Lemay’s meticulously grid painted pop culture portraits, to Chris W. Carson’s humorous and skewed multimedia narratives. From the moving portraits of Mark Vazquez-Mackay , to the overt commentary of Shane Golby, these artists share one common theme, narrative, and the stories they tell in their artworks offer layers of discovery for the viewer.

Gordie by Robert Lemay

Robert Lemay – Gordie Showpiece, oil on canvas, 20×16, 2017 – Courtesy Canada House Gallery and the Artist

Robert Lemay is an Alberta artist represented in Alberta by Canada House Gallery, Wallace Galleries, and The Front Gallery.

Lemay creates realist images using the grid technique, which has been explored by many artists over the years including Chuck Close. His ‘pop culture’ focus is Warholian, yet impressionistic in effect.

When asked to reveal an alternate side of his persona, Robert Lemay had this to say;

What is your most marked characteristic?
I refuse to give up.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

What interests me are images from popular culture that I think will make good paintings. If the artist isn’t excited, the viewer isn’t going to be.

Who is your favorite painter?
A contemporary painter I really like is Francois Bard. He does structurally solid paintings of dogs and dictators.

Who is your favorite musician?

I used to listen to a lot of early Baroque music which fit with my paintings at the time. My favorite musician would be David Bowie.

What is your favorite color?
Painters aren’t supposed to have a favourite – all colours are important. That said, red is my favourite colour.

What is your favorite virtue?
Humility, because it’s the rarest, especially in the art world.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My heroes are all the people who work in poorly paid jobs where they’re given little respect or notice. They all work harder than I do and no one asks their opinion on anything.


As a Canadian artist, have you chosen to respond to Canada150 through your art?
I was asked by Canada House Gallery in Banff to do some small, quintessentially Canadian paintings for the 150. I thought of political figures, living and dead, and ended up painting people with first name only recognition. Joni, Leonard, Gordie, Wayne. There are a lot of Canadian supermodels from the 80s and 90s who are better known outside Canada – which seems very Canadian.

What is the best thing about working as a visual artist in Alberta?
You can develop your own themes and subject matter away from a bigger centre. There’s a freedom in that.

http://robertlemay.com/

Shane Golby - Bump - Mixed media collage on board, 2016

Shane Golby – Bump – Mixed media collage on board, 2016

Shane Golby is represented by the Scott Gallery in Edmonton, he creates mutli-media narratives influenced by his experience, and his works are very revealing as to who Golby is as a person and an artist. He is an artist who responds immediately to what is going on in the world and how it affects his life and the lives of those most dear. There is a depth to his stories, that may be missed by those who do not take the time to look deeper.

Golby revealed a little more in his answers to my questions;

What is your most marked characteristic?
I think my most marked characteristic is punctuality. I’ve always been very conscious of ‘time’.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
I am fascinated with ‘life’ in all its manifestations – physically, emotionally, socially and politically – and it is life itself, and these aspects of it, that feed my creativity.

Who is my favorite painter?
I have been a practicing artist for over 40 years. For 20 of those years I concentrated on landscape painting and drawing and was inspired by artists who explored this genre. My favorite painters were Vincent van Gogh – primarily due to his passion – and Lawren Harris.

Over the last 20 years the focus of my work – both in terms of subject and media – has shifted and I’m currently much more interested in the message related by an artist rather than the medium used. At present, I greatly appreciate the contemporary works of Brian Jungen and Kent Monkman.

Who is my favorite musician?
My musical tastes, like my artistic tastes, are quite eclectic and so to say one person is my ‘favorite’ is impossible – who I like changes from song to song and with my needs at the moment.

What is my favorite colour?
If I had to choose, I’d say my favorite colours are burgundy and turquoise. I tend, however, to mostly wear black.

What is my favorite virtue?
My favorite virtue is justice – in the sense that justice is synonymous with equality or fairness.

Who are my heroes in real life?
I have no real heroes, but I do admire people who stand up for justice. Someone like the late Nelson Mandela, then, is someone I respect.

As a Canadian artist, have you chosen to respond to Canada150 through your art?
I have not responded to Canada 150 through my art. The works I create have to be very relevant to me and are based on experiences I have had or things I have witnessed. While I’m thankful to live in Canada, the inspirations for my art practice are much more ‘immediate’ than what I can find in the idea of ‘Canada’.

What is the best thing about working as a visual artist in Alberta?
I have no real answer for this. I create art, and have always done so, because I need to create art. While where I have lived or currently reside (Alberta; Nunavut; Southern Africa) definitely influences what I produce, my work focuses on social/political and emotional states that resonate with. As a result, being a visual artist in Alberta is not of import to my practice: I live in Alberta – I make art – the two facts are not really related.

http://www.scottgallery.com/artists/shane-golby

Mark Vazquez-Mackay, Mistro Jose Ignacio Maldonado, 2017

Mark Vazquez-Mackay, Mistro Jose Ignacio Maldonado, 2017

Mark Vazquez-Mackay is part artist, community-builder, and advocate for the Arts and those struggling to be heard in all walks of life. His portraits tell stories, and are direct in addressing the viewer. Vazquez-Mackay wants you to pay attention, and what is gained is the unique story told by the figures in his work. His work is honest and he requests honesty in return.

A little insight into Mark Vazquez-Mackay…

What is your most marked characteristic?
Honest figurative representations that don’t idealize the body.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Human venerability.

Who is your favorite painter?
Diego Velasquez

Who is your favorite musician?
Louis Armstrong and Nina Simone

What is your favorite color?
Red

What is your favorite virtue?
I love to give and am not comfortable receiving.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My wife Carmen

As a Canadian artist, have you chosen to respond to Canada150 through your art?
Maybe…we have been traveling all over the world for the past several years and this year said we should do more traveling in Canada. Consequently, I have been reflecting on the travels in my painting.

What is the best thing about working as a visual artist in Alberta?
Albertans are not as engaged to art as other regions but they have a strong desire to be. So, it’s a great opportunity to introduce them to our vast world.

http://markvazquezmackay.com/home.html

CWCarson, Sapceship Saint: Holding A Can, acrylic and digital print on paper, 2016

CWCarson, Sapceship Saint: Holding A Can, acrylic and digital print on paper, 2016

Chris W. Carson is a multi media artist (photographer, painter, drawer, sculptor, installation artist) represented by the Scott Gallery. Carson’s art deals with visual ‘over indulgence.’ Inspired by popular culture mixed with a dose of high art. His art reflects his multifaceted life as a twenty first century white urban gay Canadian, with a bit of edge and a lot of compassion. His art is subtly in your face and leads through humour.

What is your most marked characteristic?
A maker of beauty and a teller of confusing stories.


What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

The unique stories that people tell through art.

Who is your favorite painter?
I appreciate artists that follow their own path in life and are not unduly influenced by the artwork of others. Some Canadian artists I admire include William Kurelek, David Milne, and Kent Monkman.

Who is your favorite musician?



Who is your favorite musician?





I tend to favour musicians that can complete their sound on their own without elaborate involvement of other people. I love musicians that play all the instruments that they require. I would rather listen to a pianist playing Satie’s music simply than a whole orchestra.

What is your favorite color?
I like vibrant colours, florescent colours. I love loud colours and dislike “subtle.”

What is your favorite virtue?
Honesty. I like people who are true to themselves and live their lives that way, not harming others but on occasion oblivious to others.


Who are your heroes in real life?
My Mom who is teaching me how to grow old. My Husband who is teaching me about commitment and love.

As a Canadian artist, have you chosen to respond to Canada150 through 
 your art?
I have found myself taking many photographs of Canadian flags this year. Some simply flying in the wind and others that have been beat up by time and a harsh environment. I do not view Canada 150 as a celebration but rather another opportunity to question and evaluate what kind of a country we live in.

What is the best thing about working as a visual artist in Alberta?
Alberta is my home. I do not always like Alberta but I do understand it.

http://www.cwcarson.com

If I were to choose a virtue that resonates with all four artists, it would be humility. Clearly these artists are connected deeply by a passion for the Arts and compassion for humanity and this shows in their art. Whether pop culture figures or everyday life, there is a story to be discovered, if you stare long enough into their artworks.
So, next time you find yourself rushing through daily life, stop and take pause to appreciate and understand the people, places and things that surround.

Sincerely Yours,
Brandy Saturley