I had the opportunity to sit down with Russna Kaur, who is an amazingly talented artist with a beautiful personality. Her energy is so inspiring and definitely comes out in her work. She will be at the Artist Project, A Contemporary art fair in Toronto (Feb 23th -26th, 2017).
Be sure to attend and support her work. Her Booth# is 219
How did you get started?
I’ve been painting since I was a little kid. I had no interest in Barbie dolls so my mom used to buy me arts and crafts sets and everyone knew I was obsessed with art. I went to the University of Waterloo and I was accepted at the university for sciences so I went as a biology major. I did that for two years before I switched out of the program into Fine Arts and just continued from there. It just felt right. I’ve always been interested in sciences but to pursue it as a career and go into medicine wasn’t really for me. If you’re going to go through that much schooling you have to be really passionate about it. No matter how smart you are it will seem impossible if your heart is not there and you will be miserable. So that’s when I decided to make the switch into Fine Arts and I’ve had a great support system.
How would you describe your style of work?
I was into a couple different styles a few years ago. I used to paint florals but I’m really drawn to abstraction. So I specialize in mix media abstract painting. I love using lots of different materials. I feel like using paint alone does not accurately represent my vision. I need different textured with paper, oil pastel and markers and so on to make my vision come to life. Sometimes I use found-objects like pieces of metal or rope. With abstract work if you were to show the same piece to 100 people everyone will see something different in it depending on how their day is going or their up bringing. Even if the same person looked at the same piece a week later they might discover something different. In my opinion, flowers or landscapes takes great skills to master but it will always be a flower or a tree. Abstract work is always dynamic its always changing, which I love. I feel like abstract art is a different way of thinks of how to work. It uses a certain part of your brain and for me florals was just a little break something fun to do and a change from thinking in abstraction
Is your work influenced by someone or something?
I am inspired by over stimulating spaces like arcades, amusement parks or large cities where there just so much going on. When there seems to be layers of lights people and sound and it becomes so overwhelming because there’ so much to look at and take in. In a really weird way I find it peaceful. Especially when there’s lots and lots of people around because you get lost in the mix but I’m an observer so I love to people watching. I’m fascinated that everyone gathers at these places for a similar reason. So as a mass you form an identity but if you look at the individual people they all have their own stories. I love when you get lost in the mix and when you go home you are yourself again. You are by yourself with your own thoughts and that’s your true identity
What inspires you to keep going?
I feel like its not something I even have to think about. Paining and being creative is just something that comes naturally even when I was in school doing sciences. It was a crazy schedule but I would still be creating art. So I feel like no matter what I end up doing in life I’ll always be making art. I also like to push myself so if I find that I’m getting comfortable with a certain style I would try to throw in something totally random even if it doesn’t necessarily work the first time at least I’m testing and challenging myself. The last thing I want to do is keep making the same kind of work and get stuck. So that what keeps me going. Thinking and asking what else I can do, how can I push myself, is my vision being represented the ways I want it to be, if not then what’s missing
How have you grown as an artist?
When I was in school taking art the professor really pushed us to play around with different materials and that was my first abstract class. Although I don’t really think you can teach abstraction it comes from within but I think that class was really important for me to be in because it got me thinking in tars of abstraction. Since then my work has changed quite a bit. I’ve gone from using geometric shapes to learning how to loosen up my brush strokes to too lose that I needed to say ok how can it be contained to a happy medium . Then I started introducing mixed media and in the past couple months ive been working on wood panels instead of just canvas. Now I use canvas that has been primed, raw canvas, paper. Most recently I started blackout poetry, which ive started to integrate into my pieces so text and poetry is making its way in
Tell me a bit more about black out poetry
That was inspired by one of my friends from waterloo who went on to study art therapy in British Columbia. She would post these black out poems on Instagram, where she would cross out words from pamphlets and other things and post them. The words that ended up being left behind were seemingly random and don’t always make sense to most people but they make so much sense to me and they are word at that really resonate with me. So then ive started doing that to title my pieces
What are some challenges you have faced and what advise would you give?
I would say the biggest challenge is getting your work out there and seen by the right people, especially if you want to make a living off of your art. It can be difficult to find out who you market is. I’ve spoken to artists that have been in the business for about 50+ years and everyone says the same thing. There is no formula. Its important to stay active within your local art community to start. You can do this by going to local shows, apply and get your work into galleries. Galleries will really help you in establishing a career. They have the clientele and it will give you visibility. They will represent you if they think they can sell your work. But with that being said its not impossible to sell work on your own as an independent artist. For example doing shows like The Artist Project or the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition. Having an online presense is also important as well. sachi art or etsy for smaller pieces are good places to check out.
Persistence, being procative and keep on making work are so important. I totally get it if youre an artist and your pieces aren’t selling like you want it too and they start piling up in your studio and it gets to the point where youre like I don’t even have enough room so why should I keep painting if these ones haven’t sold. Then if that your thinking then you aren’t developing as an artist. You constantly have to be making work
What does your creative process look like?
The inspiration starts from over stimulating crazy experiences and then I will take some time for things to go through my mind. I’ll think of how I want my composition to be, what I want me color pallet to look like.
I could look at a canvas for like half an hr before I make 1 make and then im like ok that’s what I was missing. But most recently I start with paper cut outs. There is this really great place down town called The Paper Place and they have evey type of paper you can imagine. That alone is inspiring to me. Sometimes I will start with a color and block an area out
It’s a lot of back and forth from the canvas and its just mark after mark and what feels right. Very rearly do I have a sketch ahead of time. If I do a lot of the time it always ends up looking different from the sketch but sometimes it ends up looking exactly the same. Sometimes I would stand back from a piece and look at it through my phone camera. I don’t know what it is but just that point of view helps me figure out a lot. Sometimes I would take a picture of my paingitng in grogress and ill mess around on photoshop with different ideas.
This was the first piece that I decided to do on raw canvas. When something is primed the paint sits a little differently than when its not primed. This piece I let the paint drip a little and absorb into the the canvas. It has a lot of layers. The last layer was the white marks. Before the circles were even in it, it was just the brown piece of paper and grey paper. I love the trxture of in this grey paper. Then I added a bit of color and a little bit of paint and then I went into photoshop and played around with the position and size of the circles to figure out what I was happy with and once I figured that our I went and painted it. Then I have this Motif thing going, which is these black likes on white background. I don’t know where that came fro but I really how It looks and its in a lot of my pieces, especially my most recent ones. I tries to keep the color pallet slightly more neutral which didn’t really work because there was so much color in it. I needed to add some color because it was way too muted and not enough contrast. Then there are these small marks all over the piece. A lot of people have said that t reminds them of a crowd of people.