Monday, June 6, 2011

Steven Shearer Venice Biennale Q&A out in today's National Post

Following three days of press previews, the Venice Biennale opened to the public on Saturday, including Vancouverite Steven Shearer's installation at the Canada Pavilion. A few weeks ago, Shearer spoke with me on the phone—from a walk on the Vancouver seawall, natch—about his preparations for the world's biggest art event.

A condensed version of our exchange is out in today's National Post. Here's an excerpt:

Q How does it feel to be representing Canada in Venice?

A I don't feel like I'm representing a nation. To make something about being a Canadian person... I don't know how you do that other than just do what I've done, be an artist based in Canada. And at many points, I never even thought I'd be an artist. I had social anxiety and for a long time wanted nothing more than to be left alone in my parents' basement making drawings and playing guitar. The fact that those kinds of activities are what pushed me out into the world... that's about as big of a transition as I can handle.

Q So what are you doing in Venice?

A I wanted to respond to the Canada Pavilion's space, and also to some anxiety that exists about its small scale and lack of prominence. So I decided to create a false front for it and put one of my poem murals on it. This way, at least from one point of view, the Canada Pavilion appears to be as big as the German or British ones. I also liked putting this large thing out in front to point out how intimate the Canada Pavilion is. It's not a great pavilion for big, dominant works. It was made to show paintings, drawings and small sculptures. So inside, I decided to do that. Overall, I was interested in celebrating the space rather than trying to negate it.

You can read the rest in today's print edition of the Post, which has some nice pics of Steven's work. A more fragmentary text version is also online today.

One of the things I learned from this interview was the influence Shearer has realized that his mom and uncle had upon his work. As he discusses in the last A of our Post Q&A, both of these influences introduced freeing ideas about gender and art to him.

One thing that I didn't squeeze into the condensed interview was my exchange with Shearer about whether his mom and uncle would be in Venice. He said his uncle is deceased and his mom unfortunately can't make it, which I find sad, of course. Shearer said he did try to get some works by them into the catalogue, but it didn't work out. In any case, I appreciate Shearer speaking to these early influences. He explained that he did create a small exhibition of their works with some of his works a few years ago at the Apartment, a domestic-home venue in Vancouver. You can read more about that exhibition on the Apartment's blog.

Also, just to be clear, Shearer is also one of those artists who thinks that once you understand where your work is coming from, it loses some of its spark in terms of inspiration. So I'm curious to see where he'll be going in the future with his art.

(Image of Steven Shearer's The Fauves from

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