Interview with Zachari Logan

Line Gallery: There have been periods of time in your career where you have pursued painting, but it seems that you’ve always drawn and in recent years have focused your practice in drawing. What do you think interests you about the practice of drawing?

Zachari Logan: I find drawing to be a more natural way for me to express ideas directly, it’s a mixture of physicality, and patience; I have less for the process of painting, and for drawing, I have seemingly endless patience. Recalling a recent conversation with Rhiannon Vogl about the physicality of drawing and its relation to one’s body, we came to the consensus that for viewers there is a relatablity in drawing that’s not always present in other media, a naturally interactive element, because everyone’s had some experience with it, therefore to some small degree, it elicits an empathic response. I’ve gravitated to drawing as a main focus, in part, because I am naturally better at it, so expressing ideas becomes clearer visually, when one’s able to access a certain facility. When it came to my studies, I actually had more instruction in painting. This makes sense in retrospect, as at the time I felt a sort of anxiety about the references I was (and continue) to make that are predominantly from the language of painting. I realize now it was a silly concern, all visual language is obviously linked. I’ve also recently moved into ceramics, mostly hand-building construction, it’s another process with a sense of immediacy that I appreciate.

 

LG: That is interesting that you feel that sculpture has an immediacy that is similar to your experience drawing. Your exhibition Hanging Garden at Line Gallery had an almost sculptural presence; in particular your large Eunuch Tapestry drawings wrapped around the corners of the walls and hung floor to ceiling with one set spilling out onto the floor.  I suspect these drawings were created to be shown in a much larger gallery space, so what did you think about how they showed in our smaller space?  It seems to me that they became more like an installation, creating an environment for the viewer.

ZL: Absolutely, and that was one of the earlier conversations Rhiannon and I had when considering the exhibition… the idea of an installation, as opposed to simply hanging them directly, flatly on the wall – at first it was to be more like wallpaper, but maybe peeling at the bottom, but then we discussed the idea of it more as an environment that was encroaching on the floor itself, making it more sculptural, having it straddle both being a drawing and a having a sense of it as an object… referencing of course, its citation as a ‘tapestry’. The lovely intimacy of Line Gallery gave it the feeling of an alter piece or sacred space.


 

LG: Your drawings demonstrate a considerable amount of skill in their execution. Would you say that your skill came quite naturally, or was it something that you had to learn?

ZL: I would say equal parts of both… I do think my ability to draw well, even when I was fairly young was from a strong visual acuity that was naturally there to begin with, yes. I think this is true for many artists. However, I did hone it. From an early age, I received praise for my drawing skills. I had a tremendous amount of support from family and educators pushing me to continue, and with a supportive base I took what was already present and continued to build upon it. I was dyslexic and had many troubles with math and science, reading and writing were also a big struggle, so drawing was a definite respite from those frustrations as well. I feel learning never really ends, if you are open to it… and my constant fascination with the visual world simply adds fuel.

 

LG: Could you speak a bit about your working process?  How do you approach working in the studio? How do you approach a drawing (or develop a series)?

ZL: Well, I am quite monastic. I’m in my studio usually between 8am and 6pm daily. In Saskatchewan during the winter there are few distractions (unless one loves extremely cold winters.) In terms of my bodies of work though, I tend to evolve series that vary with slight shifts in narrative or medium, and so, although from different suites, most of my drawings are linked. My body is presently a catalyst for my ideas, but is no longer a sole focus. Context is important; I’m fascinated with shifting the connotation of art-historical references and stylistic characteristics, and often make work specifically based on the museums of the cities where I am showing. For example, I have an upcoming project in London, and a series I’m currently working on titled “Cut Flowers” combine elements of my body along with botanical studies, referencing the works of 17th Century paper artist, Lady Mary Delaney, whose works are mostly found in the British Museum’s collection. The drawing, ‘Eunuch Tapestry 3’, included in my recent Line Gallery exhibition, is from a series of pastel drawings that infuse landscape genre with aspects of disparate places and elements of personal experience, all anchored together within a single visual reference, that of the famous, Flemish ‘Unicorn Tapestries’.

 

LG: The drawings that you showed in Hanging Garden (the Eunuch Tapestry drawings and drawing from your Wild Man and Pollination series) are quite different in terms of scale, materials and approach.  Could you speak to how you see these differences? Why do you choose to work on such different scales?

ZL: Well, I felt for the Line Gallery space, showcasing both monumental work and tiny or smaller scaled work was appropriate narratively to the space itself… on one hand the tapestry functions to transform the space, while the small blue drawings (which reference delftware objects, or other small ceramic wall-hangings) – engage the space in a entirely other way, alluding to its previous function as a domestic setting, as Line Gallery was originally a home (the upstairs/behind the gallery still is) so playing with extremes in scale and material really interested me. More generally, I feel the smaller blue works involve the viewer in a completely different experience, isolating a figure or plant or animal in blue as opposed to monochrome in black, elevates the image from simply being a still-life, portrait or out-cut of landscape- transforming it, to reference ceramics yes, but also giving the image a certain melancholic mood, releasing it from strict associations to naturalistic or botanical drawings in a similar style. While the monumental tapestry works, because of their scale, engage the viewer’s body in a more theatrical way. Combining distinct visual languages; the dramatic, contrasting light and highly naturalistic imagery of baroque painting with the flattened patterning of tapestry, allows the Eunuch Tapestry works to straddle an in-between space that is metaphorical, expressing a liminality that alludes to queer space.

 

LG: Have there been any influential individuals or experiences that have contributed to the development of your practice?

ZL: As for individual formative influences, yes – most notably would be the incredible Alison Norlen, an amazingly gifted artist and educator. I studied under Alison for several years during both my masters and my undergraduate degree at the University of Saskatchewan; we also participated in the Mendel Art Gallery’s Artist-by-Artist mentorship program together. Alison was the first artist whose work had a direct influence on me. The scale and craft of her work left a lasting impression on my desire work with drawing in the manner that I do. Travel is a big stimulation; experiences of travel for both residencies and projects influence my studio practice on an ongoing basis.

 

LG: Saskatchewan seems to be a hotbed for drawing. There are a number of really great drawers who have come from, or are based out there. Seeing as you are from Saskatoon, do you have any insight into this phenomenon?

ZL: I think the pragmatism of a fairly low cost of living (however fleeting that is now) has definitely been a catalyst for why Saskatoon has always had a high number of working artists. I know, speaking for myself that the long winters with few distractions, there is considerable time for real monasticism. There is also a lot of space, both physical space and mental quietude. Simply put there are an incredible group of artists in Saskatchewan, both drawers and otherwise. Drawers specifically though, it may be that this place relates to the immediacy of the medium… the light, the extremes in weather, the stark visuals, the quiet – all immediate.

 

LG: Are there any drawing artists whose work interests you? Are there any Canadian drawing artists we should check out?

ZL: Yes, so many drawers whose work interests me… too many in fact to name, and any of the artists I would mention you’ve already shown!! However, contemporary Canadian artists you should look at, if you have not already, in no given order:  Alison Norlen, Tristram Landsdowne, Humboldt Magnussen, Rosemary Scanlon, Osvaldo Ramirez-Castillo, Aurel Schmidt, Melanie Colosimo, Joseph Anderson, Luke Siemens, Srdjan Segan, Pia Linz, I’m also loving the light-box drawings of ceramic-based sculptor Clint Neufeld… I know there are so many more, I’ve not thought of at the moment!

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