Featured Artist January 2017: Louise Bunn
Interview by Mary Bennett
Louise Bunn has a show at the Unitarian Centre, 949 West 49th (at Oak) for the month of January 2017. Her new mixed-media work is titled “Alchemical Visions”. Mary Bennett’s “SignPosts” new work is also on display. Work is in both the Sanctuary and Fireside Room. Call 604-261-7204 to confirm availability if you intend to drop by. Both artists will be available on Sunday, January 15 from 12:15-12:45pm for an “art walkabout” starting in the Fireside Room. An artists’ talk is planned for Wednesday, January 25 from 7-9pm, starting in the Fireside Room.
First of all, tell me about the new work that you’re showing this month
When I was doing my M.A. in Myth Cosmology and the Sacred in Canterbury, England, I did a project on alchemy. Since I was away from home, I had limited materials, so worked smaller than I usually do but created six images and sold four of them. The project piqued my interest in alchemy. There’s such rich imagery associated with the ideas.
At this point, I need to ask what are the key ideas about alchemy?
There are four stages. You start with the nigredo which is Latin for blackening. Then there’s albedo, the whitening or purifying of the material. The third stage is citrinitas or yellowing. It’s when you realize there’s more than the material world and you open up to the realms of the numinous or the spiritual. That leads to rubedo or reddening: the marriage of heaven and earth; masculine and feminine. It’s enlightenment.
Image Title ~ Nigredo: Our Lady of the Soil
If readers are interested in learning more, could you suggest an article or resource?
There’s a blogger who posts about a ton of things, including alchemy, called Sara Annon. Here are links to some of her posts related to alchemy:
How much of a role do accident and control play in your work? Do you have the imagery unified in your mind before you start out, or do you discover it as you go?
Definitely I discover as I go. Chance and accident do play a big part. Even if I have something spring fully formed into my mind, it always changes as I go.
What are some of your artistic challenges at present?
Mainly having enough time. I decided to join Artists in Our Midst again this year and also to do the show with Mary so I’d have a focus to get back to the studio after my year away. Now I am wondering if I should have gone slower. I have all these ideas incubating in my brain from my work in Canterbury and haven’t had time to really process. I’m excited about starting some research on symbolic mapping, for instance, but I have these other things that I have to finish first of all. Also, in my studio in Granville Island, they recently put in new forced air heaters. Dust blows all over the place. You put paint out on your palette and there’s air blowing right over it. Because I work with clay this is particularly challenging. I can’t do anything about that, but I’m sure other artists can relate to challenges in the environment where you work.
Can you share three things you’ve learned as an artist through your own art?
- Colour is luscious. I really do love colour, even in my sculptural work.
- And texture. I love texture.
- My creative process is a lot of mulling while I’m working. I tend to enter dialogue with the art. I ask them what they need in order to be themselves—not to be perfect but to be themselves.
What is it about this artwork (Nigredo: Our Lady of the Soil) that led you to choose it for this feature?
Of the four stages of the alchemical process, I found Nigredo, the blackening, easiest to do. As the first step in the alchemical process, it’s about rotting and decay. Everyone says “ew ick.” As a pagan, I find the process of nigredo a really important stage because you can’t have life without death. I think of stars exploding and that’s where the source of life is: in that decay and destruction. I find that terribly exciting.
Which artistic media do you prefer to work in and why?
I like to work with acrylic paint because of the plethora of media that you can mix with the paint to get different textures and surface qualities. I also do ceramic work. I love the plastic qualities of clay.
What process or technique in art-making interests you right now?
I’m exploring different gels and pastes and adding non-traditional materials, such as white silica sand from ceramics and grog, fired ceramic which is ground up.
What in your artistic training do you value most at this time?
What I most liked from my B.F.A. was colour theory with Nick Roukas. He was uptight but perhaps “precise” would be a better word. I learned so much from that class. He was very demanding but very fair. He treated us like grownups even though we were very young!
Although, like most artists, you work on your own a lot, you also like to collaborate on shows and I know your studio is a shared space. What do you like about your collegial connections with other artists?
I tend to collaborate with people whose work resonates with mine. We might have similar interests; even though our styles may be very different. I enjoy connecting with people who have similar ways of approaching art. It is more about attitude than technique.
What is exciting on your artistic horizon?
I am interested in exploring “imaginal mapping”. This is where people use maps of one place to explore an entirely different place. For instance, someone used a map of Hamburg to explore Bath. It’s about designing ritual walking routes looking for layers of meaning in a place. Similarly “landscape zodiacs” apply a heavenly map to an earthly place. So I might be connecting with “Capricorn” in the zodiac map and I then look for items or images that are “so Capricorn” in the landscape I’m exploring. The idea is to look for deeper meaning using these tools of maps. I have collected some geological surveys of the Vancouver area and the gulf islands as a starting point. Also Mary Bennett and I have had many shows and artists’ talks together but we’ve never worked on art together. And we’ve decided to do that. Our plan is to work on eight panels over the coming year, passing them back and forth, until we decide they’re done. The rule is that you can do anything on the piece when it’s your turn. We expect—and look forward—to some surprises as we work this way. Neither of us have done it before.