By Arianna Cannarozzo
When I first came across Erin Loree’s art, I had been reading another article about Toronto-based artists that everyone needed to know. There’s a million of them out there, but there was something about the work she had produced that made me do a double take. They were right, I wanted to know this artist. Diving head first into her world of colour and movement, I was stuck by the sense of emotional familiarity of something so abstract.
This Toronto-based artist has been working professionally in the art scene since her graduation from OCAD U about five years prior. Before that, she was still displaying and developing her style, getting ready for her career as one of the city’s premier artists! This large-scale painter is still continuing to grow as both a human and a creative; using her experiences and imagination to tell a unique story.
If you want to get an inside look at the mind of visual artist, Erin Loree, check out our exclusive interview below!
So you just got back from a big trip a little bit ago. Where did you go and how long were you away?
I was initially supposed to go on a road trip with a close friend of mine through the Southwest American deserts, but three days before we were meant to leave our car broke down! We had spent months and months planning the trip, but it just wasn’t worth it for the amount of money it was going to cost to fix it. We decided to book a flight to Costa Rica and travelled there together for about three weeks.
(My friend) came back to Canada afterwards and I went back to my favorite place in the world; Peru. It was my second time, and I went there alone for about a month. I usually only buy a one-way ticket when going on a trip; you never know where you’ll end up and who you’re going to meet.
How do you think these trips and the way you travel translate into your work?
I definitely think, for me at least, that taking an extended period of time away from the studio is really important. I tend to work really hard for a couple of years at a time and I often forget to take space away from my practice. Once and a while I give myself the gift of not needing to make work, having absolutely no pressure on me. These last two months of travel, I haven’t created one single piece of artwork except for one sketch.
With that being said, near the end of the trip, I couldn’t wait to get back to the studio.
I know that travelling is a chance for me to fall back in love with my process and to open up to new perceptions.
Before I left, I was painting every day in the studio, and I needed to fill up the well. As an artist you need experiences to make work from. If you’re not doing anything outside of the studio then you can run on empty for a little while, but not forever.
What are the top three things that motivate or drive you to create?
Number one comes from the process itself and imagery I’m making; it teaches me about myself and about humanity and our existence and it helps me discover in ways I may not have known with the conscious mind. My process is very intuitive and spontaneous and I am always curious as to what will happen in the process. Definitely the curiosity is what drives me.
Number two would be my sanity… actually that should be number one. I tend to go a bit crazy if I don’t make work!
The third motivating factor is that I’m just really inspired on a daily basis. The people around me and the work I see, in person and online, always remind me that there is so much more to learn and experience inside and outside of the studio. Growth is necessary and constant if you just keep moving. Stagnation is the enemy!
To someone not the most familiar with art, how would you describe your style/vibe?
My paintings are very colourful, bold and in your face. They’re confrontational. I use a lot of materials so they’ll see a lot of texture and movement, and I also tend to work wet-into-wet, which creates a fluidity in the mark making.
I would say that it’s extremely energetic, incorporating a lot of highly saturated colours so that, visually, the entire surface vibrates.
I like for my work to represent both a lightness and a heaviness, which I feel are important parts of the human experience. I try to show those polarities in both my imagery and how I handle the paint.
Your work can be very abstract and could be described as conceptual, so how do you know when a piece is finished?
I come from a figurative background and it was only about five years ago that I moved in the direction of abstraction. In my paintings there is usually a sense of form, either a landscape or the figure. It’s always teetering on the edge between representation and abstraction, which I love. It’s hard to know when a piece is done but there has to be some sort of ambiguity in the imagery. I want have forms that remind the viewer of something from the physical world, but they shouldn’t be too easy to decipher either. The painting should appear to shift and move before the eye, so that each time I look at it, I can see something that I hadn’t seen before. It’s constantly changing and evolving, even though it is just a static image. Basically, I know a painting is finished when I can’t stop staring at it. I’ll look at it every chance I get and feel completely mesmerized by it. Normally when a painting is complete, I don’t even feel like I made it. I usually stand back and wonder, “How did that happen?”
You said you started in figurative, so why did you change in these last five years?
I’ve told this story many times before, but it was a pivotal moment in my life. In my last year of university I broke my foot and it didn’t heal properly, so I was on crutches for the entire first semester of my last year. It’s also the most important year of school because you get to work on an independent body of work and develop a thesis. I had always envisioned myself creating this really epic body of work and experimenting, being super physical and active, but that injury forced me to slow down, stay still, and learn how to just be.
Because I needed assistance with almost everything, I had to open up and receive help from people, which is something I was definitely not familiar with. Needless to say, my year looked a lot different than what I had intended. I started by making a lot of small self-portraits, and over the course of a few months they became looser and more expressive. I was looking at Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Cecily Brown, and a few other artists; trying to loosen up and let go. Until that year, everything I had previously made was created from a reference photo or from looking at a model. The work was very technical and rendered highly realistically. The injury caused in a build up of inner tension and anxiety and I found that what I ultimately needed was a more raw and immediate form of expression.
At that point, I stopped using reference photos and started using my imagination. This was terrifying at first, but quickly became the most exciting experience of my entire life. I fell in love with painting for the first time when I made that decision and I’ve never gone back.
If you could do anything with your art, what would you do?
This is the question I have been asking myself a lot lately. Traveling and making art are the two most nourishing and transformative experiences that I’ve had so far in my life. If I could do anything, it would be to travel for as long as I desired and spend extended periods of time in different cultures around the world. I would really just like to connect and co-create with creative people from all walks of life.
My vision for the future is to continuously push myself out of my comfort zone so that my process stays fresh. That could mean extensive traveling or it could mean staying still, putting down roots in one place. The comfort zone is always shifting to include different types of experiences.
What advice do you have for someone who might want to get into the professional art world?
I can only speak about what’s happened in my experience and it may not work for everyone, but the most important thing to do is make the work that you need to make, from your deepest of hearts.
No one is going to have the same response to or interpretation of your work, so you may as well forget about everybody’s opinion altogether. Take whatever advice you would like, but make your decisions on your own terms. You can’t please everyone, so just be you to the best of your ability. The world needs our unique gifts!
Continue cultivating curiosity and excitement in your practice and you’ll always find a way to reach new levels.
People (gallerists, other artists, curators) will always be watching you, especially if you have an online presence. If you’re visible and making good work, opportunities will come to you. You don’t need to chase them necessarily but I do think it is important to make as many connections as you can, with the type of people you would like to work with.
Lastly, are there any other artists or creatives you think we need to check out?
There are too many to choose from, but I would have to say off the top of my head to look out for: Stella Cade , Sarah Letovsky, Coady Brown, Rosalind Breen, Trina Brammah, Elin Glærum Haugland, Dominique Fung, Laura Dawe Adam Mignanelli , Nick Sweetman, Dayle Mcleod, Krista Louise Smith, Elliott Purse, Lydia Pettit, and Brian Rideout.
*Feature Image by Nadia Guo