Interview with Luke Siemens

Line Gallery: For your MFA you focused in drawing. At what point did you realize that drawing was something that you would pursue and why drawing as opposed to another way of working?

Luke Siemens: Post high school I studied classical animation, where the focus was specifically on drawing and line. I was one of the least skilled students and had to work really hard to catch up. That challenge and output of energy invested me heavily in drawing as a medium. The program also reinforced activities I had done since childhood, creating characters and worlds, which further solidified drawing as something viable to me.

I eventually left animation to do a BFA, where I thought I’d tackle painting. I painted for three years until it was time for my BFA show. I realized I didn’t have an affinity for paint and pulled a hard switch back to drawing. When I look back at that switch and where I am now, it is apparent that my drawings don’t take much advantage of the spontaneity of the medium, so perhaps it’s the preparatory association, the structural focus of drawing that continues to make it work for me.

Since then I’ve dabbled in other media. The laser cut building in “You Could Live Here Too” for example. I have yet to build up the same affinity for it as drawing. While the laser cut building is reliant on drawing as much as my works on paper, it was a slog to get through. I am a digital person, I spend a LOT of time online, but making that piece in Adobe Illustrator doubled the time I spend in front of my laptop. It changed the speed of the project and the type of focus. It was a different kind of thinking. It didn’t give my physical meat the same workout. For that reason drawing will likely remain a key focus in my practice.


LG: In your recent series You Could Live Here Soon, you have allowed activities from your daily life to infiltrate the work. Can you speak a little about how you’ve done this and why embedding these activities was important?

LS: The works in “You Could Live Here Too” come from my investigations into Toronto’s numerous condo developments (there are two condo construction sites a block away from my house).I became interested in condo presentation centres, the showrooms where you go to buy a condo in a future development. They are generally small spaces that look a lot like art galleries – white cubes that fit themselves into the urban landscape, but seek to project you beyond the everyday through an aesthetic experience.

Every presentation centre has at least these three things in common:

1) A model of the proposed building

2) Lifestyle images of the neighbourhood and the condos.

3) Floor Plans

*( a bigger presentation centre might have a fake room, representing the average unit)

In my trips to condo presentation centres, the consistency of the floor plan image was striking. No matter what type of condo presentation centre, glamourous or run-of-the-mill, the architectural drawing style is there. It weirdly connects all of the different developments into one single proposition. It is the “fact” of the building’s intent, mixing with whatever loose branding the development has constructed. This drew the majority of my focus.

In working with this imagery, it was humorous to me to “accept” the condo’s proposal in a literal way, by bringing the floor plans themselves into my life in much the same way a teenager will take a discarded coke-a-cola poster or street sign and use it as bedroom decoration. The act has some veneration to it, but it also becomes a hybrid of the individual and the product; a push and pull of identity creation and destruction.

I printed out condo floor plans and put them everywhere. They were on my bed, in my studio, on my dog, in my fridge, bending and folding, taking the stresses of my daily life. I drew the results, putting the crumpled plans forward as things to build from. The idea was that anything built off these plans would accommodate my life, instead of me passively submitting to someone else’s future plans.

As I progressed, the plans themselves became less inactive and more tool-like. I used one for packing material, I folded another into a fan on a day with no AC, another plan served as a pencil holder. The final plan drawing was a mask made out of a floor plan. In that drawing the plan started to become a cultural object, part of an identity. The gesture in that drawing is small, I’m not sure if it’s more condo or more me. Something to explore in future drawings perhaps.


Luke Siemens Artist Talk and Reception

On November 21, 2014 Line Gallery hosted Luke Siemens’ reception. He also gave an artist talk on November 22, 2014 at Line Gallery.

Luke Siemens' reception with Layered Building, Instructions: Brick and Instructions: Girders in the background

Luke Siemens' artist talk at Line Gallery

Wanderer of Yawnder (Revisited) – Jay Dart

The following images are of Jay Dart’s exhibition Wanderer of Yawnder (Revisited) which ran from September 20 to October 24, 2014.

View of the Wanderer of Yawnder and Granduncle Jiggs' work

View of Image 1 in Wanderer of Yawnder


Interview with Jay Dart

Line Gallery: Your art practice is very firmly situated in drawing, but you didn’t focus on drawing during your studies at University, so what would you say drawing offers you that other practices don’t?  

Jay Dart: In art school, I was doing a lot of photo and video work that played on the conventions of filmmaking. When I graduated, I was sure that I wanted to get into filmmaking. I wrote scripts and made a couple of short films. I got a certain distance down that path before it just didn’t seem quite right. Then I rekindled my love with drawing, which I did a lot growing up, and there I found an outlet for my stories. I’ve always had a story in the works in my head. For some time now, it’s been the Wanderer of Yawnder tale, which keeps on going and going, providing me with endless material to draw from. I enjoy hunkering down to my sketchbook or sheet of paper and drawing whatever I want, as opposed to filmmaking where there’s a team involved in the creation of the film and more butt’s on the line, as they say. Drawing has also worked for me as a medium since I’ve had small workspaces and small amounts of time to work, whereas painting wouldn’t have been so convenient. Recently, however, I’ve found a desire to paint and I have a bigger workspace…


LG:  Your drawings are quite playful. Can you tell us about your working process? How do you develop your drawings? How spontaneously do you work?

JD: If you’ve read my book, Wanderer of Yawnder, it’s all explained in there… sort of.

In the real world, I live about an hour outside of Toronto but I have to commute to and fro for my job there three days a week, so that leaves me with lots of time to think. Some days, I’m too preoccupied thinking about whoknowswhat. Other days, my mind just wanders over Yawnder and ideas come my way in flocks. It’s a challenge remembering them when I arrive; sometimes I have to scribble words down in my Field Notes or on a sticky note while I’m driving, but very, very carefully (always keepin’ m’eyes on the road). At some point, I’ll do a sketch from that idea that I jotted down. Oftentimes, I’ll apply that idea to an old photo that I had previously found online or in a book. While some of my drawings are made directly from an existing photo that I will alter to suit my needs, others have no reference material because, well, there is no reference material for, say, someone standing at the top of a 30-storey ladder using a stick with a string tied to a light bulb to fish for magical lights in the sky.

I’m not a bigger sketcher. I’ve never really liked my sketches; I prefer to get right to the final drawing where I can spend the time to hone the lines and work on the fine details. I like to work on a few drawings at a time, going back and forth to each one during the process of completion, which is always the same: first the 2H pencil to get the composition just the way I like it; then maybe a 3H or an H pencil to darken the lines up; then I’ll draw with the watercolour pencils to fill in the coloured areas before going over it with a brush and water; then I’ll finish it off with my mechanical pencil to do the fine details and usually a B pencil to make the lines pop.

I don’t get a lot of time to draw between my day job, doing freelance illustration or design gigs, and being a father/husband. Artmaking time is precious so I have to make the most of it. I have a backlog of ideas for drawings thus, when it’s time to make a new piece, I get right down to business.


Jay Dart Artist Talk and Reception

On September 19, 2014 Jay Dart gave an artist talk titled, The Who’s, What’s, When’s, Where’s, Why’s and How’s of Wandering at Nipissing University and later that evening his exhibition Wanderer of Yawnder (Revisited) opened at Line.

Jay Dart's artist talk at Nipissing University

Jay Dart's reception with the Wanderer of Yawnder series in the background


Migrating Colony: Flood – Erin Schwab

The following images are of Erin Schwab’s exhibition Migrating Colony: Flood which ran from March 1 to March 29, 2014.

View of Flood

View of Flood


Interview with Erin Schwab

Line Gallery: The drawings in your Migrating Colony series in terms of subject matter focus on tree fungi. Can you speak about what attracted you to this subject matter?

Erin Schwab: After I had finished my thesis work in Edmonton I was hired to teach at a College in Fort McMurray. Because my work revolves around natural forms found in the landscape the vocabulary around the work I was previously doing no longer seemed relevant in my new home. I had gone from flat farm land to Boreal forest, so it was like learning a new language in this alien environment. It took me a few years of wandering around in the woods before I found a form that spoke of the place. I’ve always been interested in creating icons out of natural forms that speak to the transitory aspects of nature, the mushrooms relationship to their environment satisfied my desire to capture the quite passing of something almost immeasurable. A relationship between forms that I feel privileged to witness.


LG: When we were installing your exhibition you told me about how the fungi are actually a sign that the tree is unwell. I found that interesting because it is as if these “specimens” are omens of what is to come, which is of course the death of the tree. This got me thinking about how your most recent drawing Flood, which is a definite shift from the fungi drawings, is equally dark and foreboding. Flood captures the aftermath of a flood, but I also think it highlights the potential for reoccurring destruction in our lives, as floods often happen again in the same locations. Have you been thinking of your work in this way and how are you thinking about the transition that has occurred in your work moving you towards Flood?

ES: It’s not that the tree is unwell; the tree is in a decline, getting older and dying. I guess I don’t see that as foreboding. I see that as renewal in a natural system. A healthy system is not one of endless bounty and uninterrupted life. There is no Eden. People tend to see signs of evil doing in natural processes like a tree dying, forest fires, hurricanes and floods. They look for the sin that caused the biblical plague. A flood or fire allows a forest to clear away waste, refresh the soil. We see ourselves so apart from nature, but maybe we are just another way of cleansing the system. Maybe we are a flood.


Erin Schwab Reception

On February 28, 2014 Line Gallery hosted Erin Schwab’s reception. She also gave an artist talk at Nipissing University on February 27, 2014.

Erin Schwab's reception with Flood in the background

Erin Schwab's reception with Birch Remnant in the background


Hanging Garden – Zachari Logan

The following images are of Zachari Logan’s exhibition Hanging Garden which ran from January 18 to February 15, 2014. Hanging Garden was curated by guest curator Rhiannon Vogl.

View of Eunuch Tapestry 3

View of Perch, Eunuch Tapestry 3 and Pansy


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.