Monday, October 3, 2011

Prize Pick: Q&A with RBC Painting Competition Winner Rebecca Brewer out in Today's Post

Who says art doesn’t pay? Vancouverite Rebecca Brewer, announced as the $25,000 winner of the RBC Canadian Painting Competition last Tuesday, may need to ponder that question sooner rather than later. But first, she answered a few queries from me over the phone about Canadian guilt, palette psychology and the best canvas ever. The condensed Q&A is out in today's National Post. An excerpt:

Q Some say that in art school, there’s the painters… and then there’s everybody else. What do you think?

A My experiences have confirmed that many times. When I did my undergrad, I studied with two teachers; one was a sculptor and one was a painter. I’d always secretly be doing painting behind my sculpture class’ back, and vice versa. Now I’m doing my MFA at Bard College, and the painting department is definitely its own beast.

Q Bard has strong ties to the New York City art world. How important is it to be connected to New York when building a painting career?

A I think painting never died in New York, in a way. I feel really affirmed there compared to what my experience was in Vancouver. I think that Vancouver has started to blossom in terms of painting, but it’s only been over the past 5 years that I’ve noticed that happening. I feel I’m part of something much bigger since being at Bard. I really appreciate Canadian painting culture, but I’m pretty awestruck right now by the scope that there is in New York.

Q What are the differences between Canadian and American painting?

A I think it’s difficult to qualify statements about that! In Vancouver, for a while, there was the shadow of photoconceptualism and conceptual art practices. So conceptual painting seemed the natural fit, but somehow that created a bit of a backlash. I just feel it’s a lot less tortured in the States. When I interviewed at Bard, they asked me what the deal was with this big chip on my shoulder, and then the chair of the department said, “Everyone, remember, Rebecca’s from Vancouver!”—meaning, I’m going to have a chip on my shoulder from my experiences of coming up among the sort of naysayers who believe that painting is irrelevant and outmoded.

I should say that Brewer is currently working in both Vancouver and New York, and did clarify later that she feels lucky to enjoy support in both communities.

To find out more about the inspiration for Brewer's winning work, Beuys painting, and learn about her favourite painting of all time, you can read on in the print edition of today's National Post or online at the Post's website.

And many thanks to my fellow NSCAD alumnus Marco D'Andrea for his observations about painters and art school and prompting my own reflections on this matter. He's currently doing a degree at the University of Guelph if you'd like to track him down.

(Image of Rebecca Brewer's Beuys painting from


Amy said...

Great piece Leah. I totally agree with Rebecca - there *is* a gesture about Beuys and she totally captured it. It's funny... I started using Beuys as a blanket descriptor for all kinds of things in the last few years. Some things are just so Joseph Beuys... brown and ochre things, natural things, furry things, dead things. Beuys is an aesthetic and it's super interesting to see it captured in 2 dimensions by a contemporary female artist.

Leah Sandals said...

Hi Amy,

That's funny! Beuys as a blanket descriptor. And yes, I appreciate your observation on the fact that he's captured here by a contemporary female artist. I hadn't thought about that but it's also something to consider in the work. Glad you enjoyed the piece!

pixo said...

To your question about web site, I have tried to find more of her paintings online, and find only 2 more. It is a bit frustrating.

I don't care about Beuys. But I do like what I have come across.

Good choice for the winner. I feel happy.

Leah Sandals said...

Thanks Pixo! I do get the impression Rebecca wants a website, but wants to take the time to do it right. I agree these types of situations can be frustrating when you want to learn more about an artist's work.