Interview with Olexander Wlasenko

Line Gallery:  Why do you think you came to focus on drawing as opposed to another medium?

Olexander Wlasenko:  Drawing is eternal. It’s ancient. When one thinks of the earliest forms of visual communication, thoughts turn to lines drawn in the sand or other kinds of mark-making. When I participate in drawing, I feel as though I’m in touch with something primordial. I feel I’m in commune with the infinite. It’s a contemporary feeling.

LG:  Are there any artists or experiences that have shaped/influenced your practice?

OW:  I’ve been fully immersed in art and artists’ experience my entire life. My earliest memories of visual art were at home. My father was an untrained artist and many of his pictures were on the walls at home. It was sort of “do-it-yourself” decor for my immigrant parents. I suppose that had a profound impact from an early age.

Galleries, museums, art history classes followed for decades… My instructors at the post-secondary schools had a big impact. Teachers like Natalka Husar and Cathy Daly at the Ontario College of Art still resonate with me. Margaret Priest at the University of Guelph and Sheila Butler at the University of Western Ontario had a conceptual influence on my studio practice. Then there’s the vast numbers of artists that one is exposed to at school ranging from Gerhard Richter, Jan Fabre, Joseph Beuys and Vija Celmins to Titian and Degas. There’s a world of art.


Olexander Wlasenko Artist Talk & Reception

On November 11th, 2011  Olexander Wlasenko gave an artist talk at Nipissing University.  The talk was presented by the Department for Fine and Performing Arts at Nipissing University in partnership with Line Gallery.

Olexander Wlasenko speaking at Nipissing University


Line Gallery

The moment when I really understood drawing’s capacity to be compelling and powerful was at the Betty Goodwin Retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1998.  I was awestruck by the scale of her work and how visceral and honest her mark-making was. Even now, it is difficult to put into words how significantly these drawings impacted me and how grateful I am to have experienced seeing such moving and beautiful drawings in person. To this day, her drawing still hold this magic for me, as does the experience of seeing drawings first hand.

When my partner, Paul, and I began to envision Line Gallery two years ago, we were motivated first by our love of drawing, but also by the lack of galleries in Canada dedicated to drawing. We also perceived a need for greater documentation of what is happening in contemporary drawing in Canada. Certainly larger institutions exhibit, document, and collect drawings, but often it is only the established artists who receive this attention. Line Gallery will provide an opportunity to showcase the work of emerging and mid-career artists, as well as established artists, who are making a significant contribution to the contemporary practice of drawing.  There are a remarkable number of outstanding and innovative drawing artists in our country and there is considerable potential for dialogue and research. We look forward to presenting the work of these artists and creating a space for discourse about drawing.

Although drawing has traditionally taken a back seat to painting and other art forms, it has proven itself over recent years to be a significant and vital practice.  Drawing today no longer remains solely in the realm of the preparatory or private study, it has become an autonomous practice, valued for its adaptability, accessibility, and diversity.

I would argue that drawing, or “mark-making” has always been a facet of human life – an instinct to touch a surface, to make a gesture, to leave a trace.  We are all mark-makers and in this way we are all connected to the practice of drawing.

Amanda Burk