Artist Interview: Michelle Zacharias

Michelle is a Canadian painter and printmaker. In this interview Michelle talks about her quest to make handmade, natural pigments from dust. Be sure to read to the end where Michelle makes requests for more dust!

How long have you been working in the medium used for
your work for In The Details?

A little more than a year in my spare time while I also
work in other media, such as coloured pencil.

What do you like about this medium and what are its
challenges?

What do I like about dust? Or should I say, what do I
like about working with natural pigments? Since it is an
easily obtained natural pigment, it is free. The other
things I need to work with it are also affordable. I also
like that each sample is different. Every location has
variations in the factors that affect the colour, and that is
intriguing.

The processing and the concept are not necessarily
something I like. Why not? I started using filtered dust
as a natural pigment because of my personal
connection to it. I seem to have a sensitivity, a kind of
allergy for an easily understood comparison, to aeolian
dust from China and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) in
our polluted air. And, yes, working with loose dust is
probably not good for my health.

Other challenges? I make something that looks like
paint, but it does not act like paint or ink. It does not
dissolve or flow like you think it should. Particles are not
always the same size, and tiny wool or acrylic fibres are
almost impossible to filter out. It clumps. Layers?
Possible but also likely to erase the underlying layers
despite extra sizing on the paper. The colour is pale
and delicate, and that frustrates my love of bold line
and colour. It is tricky. On top of that, it might be free but
getting it from other locations can be difficult. Some
people are disgusted by the idea; some are intrigued.

You never know which group a person will fall in. I have
learned that the housekeeping department at a hotel
can be an asset.

Could you talk about your creative process for responding to
the theme of In The Details? Did your idea come to you
right away? Did you have to experiment a lot?

Since I was a printmaker, I tend to do detailed work
regardless of a show’s theme. I have been working on
these studies or experiments for a while. I wanted to
show the wind flows all over the world and indicate how
the aeolian (yellow) dust from China arrives in Japan. In
some seasons, the winds that deliver the dust are much
stronger and larger, resembling a monster in shape and
in character. I have been doing lots of experiments with
medium and with design. I still am.

Sometimes inspiration strikes and everything comes
together just as imagined and other times inspiration is just
a starting place. How close is your finished piece to what
you first imagined?

Usually quite different. An idea is exactly that. It is an
idea for where I can start. After that, each piece
organically moves in its own direction. If I try too hard to
stick with my original idea, I end up forcing it and the
result will be stiff, drained of energy.

What would you like people to know about your work?
* A common, organic energy is in all my work regardless of the medium I use be it etching, coloured pencil, pastel, or powdered pigments (natural or artificial) and regardless of the genre. This should hopefully identify the work as being made by Michelle Zacharias.
* Yes, it really is dust. I filtered out the hair, fibres, popcorn, staples, and so on. I probably lose lots to the environment since I do not work in a lab but I still get quite a lot. After that, I zap it in the microwave to kill any germs and so on.
* I do not usually work on such small pieces of art!
* I am still exploring. I have ideas for both abstract and figurative work.
Yes, I accept bags of dust. I would prefer if it came with a snapshot of the donor(s) wearing surgical masks for a project I have started in which I want to do portraits of people with paint made from the dust or natural pigments from their house. No, I do not want lint from your dryer. That is not dust!
* I am hoping to do a solo show of anti-pollution work in various styles and media in the future. If anyone know the owner of Duskin, let me know. Maybe we can arrange a sponsorship. If anyone knows of someone who works in a lab where they analyze air or dirt for pollutants, please let me know.

 

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Artist Interview: Misako Oba

Misako Oba creates encaustic collages. Encaustic is created by adding pigments hot beeswax. Find out more about Misako on her bio page. In this interview, Misako talks about her theme and hidden text in her work.

Do you have a favourite color or color palette?
My signature color is blue and blue shade (and brown). However, I almost used green colors for the first time as the dominant color in the work that you will see at the exhibition. Yet, you may still see the trace of blue.

Is there a book or a film that influenced you?
For this particular works and the series, yes. The series title and pieces “L.I.P.Y.L‘essentiel est Invisible pour les Yeux” (=what is essential is invisible to the eye) were inspired by the book The Little Prince (by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). The verses in the Bible also provided a vision (for example, The Book of 2 Corinthians 4:18 and others). For other series, current events and social issues sometimes influence my work.

However, the biggest influence regarding imagery has been my personal experience and deep thoughts in life.

Explain your work in up to 40 words.
The body of my work reflects my interest in human life as a journey. It examines our soul and explores universal experiences, such as emotions. It also depicts its transient nature, sadness, hope, and perspective. 

Do you pursue any themes? If so what?
I have been developing and working on the series related to stars, desert, and our lives for quite some time. Although scientists and professionals continually research the details, patterns and more, there is still something beyond human knowledge or understanding. I have been exploring the mystery with a conceptual and psychological approach.      

Describe your studio practice? Do you have any habits or rituals when producing art?
I remind myself of the following “7 Creative Affirmations”* that are on the wall in my studio and pray to God. I then draw for five minutes (circle, oval, straight lines) to relax my muscles before starting each session.

◆ As I create and listen, I will be lead.
◆ Creativity is the Creator’s Will for me.
◆ I am willing to be of service through my creativity.
◆ My creativity heals others.
◆ There is a divine plan of goodness for my work.
◆ Through the use of my creativities, I serve God.
◆ My creativity leads me to truth and love.

(* I selected seven of the original 20 sentences from the Creative Affirmations in The Artist’s Way, and a couple are customized for myself.)

Do you do any research and what kind if you do?
I do a tremendous amount of research and preparation, which ultimately translates to the physical artwork. Or it becomes reference material with no use. For this series, I researched stars, constellations, maps, and charts. My art includes layers of memories, thoughts, dreams, paths, imaginations, illusions, and disillusions. I recollect my thoughts and sometimes past photographs and ponder the concepts to create my vision.

I also research words, Bible verses, other materials, and modern computer-programming languages (codes: Python, C-language). With the help of an assistant who is a software engineer, I finally found the available codes that are astronomical calculation algorithms, which correlate with the stars, universe/planets for this series. I try not to illustrate my findings in a literal sense. I probably use more of my emotions or right brain than left brain once I start creating. Subsequently, you can see the results of my research in an abstract way in my artwork.

What do you like about this medium and what are its challenges?
It is challenging to apply this medium (encaustic) during the hot summer and cold winter months while using a heating palette, heat gun and torch with ventilation. Therefore, the working location matters. Temperature control is critical with encaustic. When using pigment ink transfer technique onto encaustic, I try not to melt or blow away the image.

Another challenge is that encaustic and its overall value are not yet well known unlike oil paint or watercolor, especially in Japan.

Did your idea come to you right away? Did you have to experiment a lot?
Yes. I get so many ideas flowing, but organizing, combining and executing those ideas is a different story. 🙂  

Could you talk about your creative process for responding to the theme of In The Details?
Yes. I am describing in the artist page here. Stars in the sky: Some stars are possible to see and others cannot be seen by our eyes…..(continue reading)

What would you like people to know about your work?
There is a solid concept behind the series, which you (audience) can discover by visiting my blog Behind the Scene. However, when visiting the gallery and viewing the works, I recommend viewing without logic or theory. It’s okay if you don’t “understand” the work. Focus on them with your heart, go closer to the work, or take one step back. You can just stand and feel it with your heart instead of your head.If you look closely, in art and life, the details and patterns may emerge.  However, sometimes, “L‘essentiel est Invisible pour les Yeux” (= What is essential is invisible to the eye).

My work is ‘semi-abstract.’ In the last eight years, I have used encaustic as a primary medium to create mixed-media work…often by incorporating text. I also do image transfer onto encaustic work because I feel applying real contemporary elements from our time provides meaning.

(Encaustic is made of beeswax, damar resin, and pigment. I started to make my own medium since 2013. The work you see is encaustic mixed media using oil, water color, Japanese paper, gold and pure silver flecks simultaneously.) 


Artist Interview: Arthur Huang

Arthur Huang is a conceptual artist from the United States. For almost ten years, he’s called Tokyo home. He founded Art Byte Critique in 2012. You can read more about Arthur here. In this interview Arthur talks about his work, inspiration and studio practice.

Do you have a favourite color or color palette? 
I tend towards monochrome in my work.  This is usually black on white, but I also like other single colors on white.  I like the simplicity of one color in my work which allows me and the viewer to focus on the line, shape and forms in the work.

Is there a book or a film that influenced you?
I am currently reading Alexander Chee’s How To Write An Autobiographical Novel which has been really interesting in terms of understanding how the creative process is used to explore personal issues and relationships.

What music/album are you currently listening to?
I currently have Perfume’s Future Pop and Hoshino Gen’s Pop Virus on heavy rotation. 

Do you have a favourite artist?
It is hard to narrow down the list to one artist, so I will give you a list in no particular order.  On Kawara, Alison Knowles, Tom Friedman, Sarah Sze, Tim Hawkinson, Julie Mehretu, Chiharu Shiota, Yoko Ono, and Matthew Ritchie. 

Explain your work in up to 40 words.
Working in the gap between science and art, I am making work that explores the notion of mundane everyday memories and activities by using my body and behaviors as the basis for that exploration.

Do you pursue any themes? If so what?
Memory, the everyday, remnants, and place are among the themes that have resonated in my studio practice over the years.

Describe your studio practice? Do you have any habits or rituals when producing art?
My studio practice has two components.  The first is based in the everyday.  Drawing, collages, and photography have been part of my daily studio practice over the last couple years.  I do not see them as an endpoint, but rather a way to keep myself engaged in my studio practice on a daily basis.  The collective work from my everyday practice helps to spur internal and external dialogues about my work.  It has been interesting to see this everyday studio practice lead to larger ideas and projects even though the intention of these practices has just been to engaged my eye and hand.

Describe your studio practice? Do you have any habits or rituals when producing art?
My studio practice has two components.  The first is based in the everyday.  Drawing, collages, and photography have been part of my daily studio practice over the last couple years.  I do not see them as an endpoint, but rather a way to keep myself engaged in my studio practice on a daily basis.  The collective work from my everyday practice helps to spur internal and external dialogues about my work.  It has been interesting to see this everyday studio practice lead to larger ideas and projects even though the intention of these practices has just been to engaged my eye and hand.

The other component of my studio practice is project and site-specific based which allows me to work on larger ideas that stem from my everyday studio practice as well as integrate the space that is being used for exhibition.  These projects tend to be dialogues between myself and the space, myself and the curator, and ultimately myself and the work.

How long have you been working in the medium used for your work for In The Details?
I have been using photography as medium off and on for the last six or seven years.  I usually pursue photographic projects with a defined endpoint just as a given time period, a particular space, or a certain behavior.

What do you like about this medium and what are its challenges?
The portability and immediacy of digital photography are the main drawn for me.  I do not think that I am a particularly good photographer in the traditional or contemporary sense and do not to call myself a photographer.  Rather, I use photography as a tool to capture of my way of seeing which feeds into other aspects of my studio practice.

Could you talk about your creative process for responding to the theme of In The Details? Did your idea come to you right away? Did you have to experiment a lot?
I originally thought of making some new work based on either the Memory Walks Project or the Daily Drawings Project to respond to the theme.  However, I had forgotten about this series of works which I completed for my “Everyday Circuits” exhibition at Gallery Camellia in 2016.  I realized that this work resonates with the theme of “In the Details” and thought it would be a great opportunity to share this series of work again in lieu of my other more exhibited projects.

One of the things I would like the viewers of my work in the exhibition to take away is to take note of the spaces that we occupy. The photographs I am exhibiting are located in the unnoticed spaces of Gallery Camellia, but I hope that visitors to our exhibition will take note of the unnoticed spaces of Gallery LeDeco and make discoveries on their own. Who knows, you may find me taking photographs in the gallery when I am in the space to start a new series of works.