by Susie Pentelow
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A conversation with artist Trevor Kiernander.
What are the main threads running through your practice?
The main concerns in my practice are exploring relationships of space and the problematisation of the figure/ground relationship in painting. I have always been interested in relationship and detachment. How people interact and engage with one another, how relationships are formed, how we deal with separation, and as a painter, these concerns have carried over into my work. My interest in “painting as painting”, with a strong focusing on material and process, helps to create a tension on the surface through the juxtaposition of different elements, but also with regards to the viewer and their relationship to the painting and the space they are situated in.
Your paintings seem to reference landscapes, scenes or structures that you have seen or experienced. What kind of material does this personal language stem from?
My personal language in painting has been developing for a number of years. This is informed by many things, as I take my references from pretty much anywhere. The paintings reference landscapes, as they are interpretations of my surroundings. Source material is gathered from both actual and virtual environments and put into a painting, often times quite simply because I think “hey, that would be great in a painting”. (It’s obviously more complex than that, with certain characteristics of objects and their relationships to others are what peak my curiosity, but on a quick surface level, it is an immediate attraction that inspires me). I always have a phone, camera, or some paper on me, taking and making photos and sketches of things I see, and how they might come to be a part of a painting. The internet and my computer play a big part of my creative process because I can visit anywhere and take pictures, editing them to suit.
Your work both plays with depth and flatness in subject matter and places strong emphasis on physical texture and surface. What is the relationship between these two different but connected approaches to three dimensionally?
The relationship between this is one of tension that I hope helps to fulfill and question the problems of expressing your surroundings on a two-dimensional surface. I think that so long as knowledge and technology keeps advancing, there will always be new ways of exploring painting, and translating the three-dimensional world onto a two-dimensional surface. In my paintings specifically, the strong emphasis on physical texture and surface, and the relationships of the elements, help to maintain a tension that keeps everything flat on the surface. There may often be an illusion of three-dimensionality, but ultimately, I try to maintain flatness as much as possible through tension and by containing everything within the confines of the frame.
Trevor Kiernander, Lost Dog (After Goya), 2013. Oil and acrylic on canvas; 73.5 x 115 cm.
There is an ambiguity to your paintings that allows the viewer to enjoy a very personal interpretation of each piece. How does this affect your own relationship with your works?
I like to think that the way in which I construct my paintings, taking bits and pieces from my surroundings and interpreting them in one way or another onto the canvas, is what allows people to have a personal relationship with the paintings. Maybe these bits and pieces are something they have seen as well, or it reminds them of something else. As clean and crisp as some of the lines and juxtapositions of areas of paint can be, there can still be something you can’t quite put your finger on, and so the viewer can see something of their own. I think this is similar to my own relationship with my work. I am quite prolific when I work, and each painting helps to inform the next. It’s like a silent dialogue between myself and the paintings, and I often have to spend more time with some paintings than others, perhaps ‘getting to know them better’ before I consider them ready to be shown.
Where can we see your work in the coming months?
The closest event I am taking part in is with Art Lacuna at their Pop Up Print Shop from 5-8 December 2013. I have recently had a busy period taking part in group exhibitions at the Musée des beaux-arts de Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Maria Stenfors Gallery in London, the Peer Residency programme at Enclave, along with a show I curated called Post Post, that brought together a large group of early-career artists, in the St James Hatcham Church at Goldsmiths. In January, I will be taking part in a new residency programme (along with my partner, folk musician Nancy Wallace put on by the MINT collective in Marrakech. Working alongside many great and diverse young artists, the project is currently establishing itself and working on some interesting partnership including the Marrakech Biennelle. And finally, though it is a long way off, I am preparing for a solo exhibition at Art Mûr in Montreal for September 2014.
Interview by Susie Pentelow.