The New Vanguard III: Interview with Alex Garant for ‘Deconstructing Identities’

Thinkspace is proud to present new work by Toronto-based artist Alex Garant for her latest exhibition ‘Deconstructing Identities’ as a part of ‘The New Vanguard III’ showing at The Lancaster Museum of Art.

Garant is known for her hyper-realistic rendering of op art portraits where her subjects’ faces and eyes seem to skip their registers through image redoubling and superimposition. Not unlike the fugitive flicker of a screen or the spectral layering of multiple film exposures.

In anticipation of her first museum exhibition, our interview with Alex Garant discusses what this show means to her, how she pushes through moments of overwhelm, and her creative rituals.

SH: How long have you been showing your work in galleries and various exhibitions? Do you remember the first time you showed your work to the public? What was the exhibition?

AG: When I was 7 years old, my parents enrolled me in an oil painting class at the local community center, and at the end of the program, we got to show our work at an art show for the neighborhood. I was so so proud and even sold my painting to strangers, which to me was such a strange concept. Then in my late teens,  I had a few amateur showings with Art School/ College.

After that I was working a lot, marketing jobs, travel jobs, all kind of stuff and I lost my creative focus. In 2012 I suffered from a heart attack, it really changed everything and got me to focus on my true passion again.

My first exhibit in a professional gallery happened in 2013 at a local gallery in Toronto.

SH: When painting, what are you listening to in the background?

AG: Honestly, once I get deep into the creation zone, I mostly block out all external noises or distractions. I get so focused that everything else is white noise. That said, I often play some mid-century retro jams and blues to get me in a happy place.

SH: What was the inspiration behind the body of work that you will be showing for New Vanguard III?

AG: “ Deconstructing Identities”  was created while self-isolating and navigating the ups and downs of the pandemic. This surreal setting gave birth to pieces inspired by self reflection and specifically the role of self-inflicted appearances. People’s constructed nature fighting with their instinctive core and trying to visually translate a complete persona. This collection  also introduces more contextual elements to my work. Featured are little pieces of nostalgia riding the line between kitsch and whimsy contrasting with the expression of the characters sometimes melancholic or naive.

SH: When viewing other artists’ work, what elements get you really excited or inspire you?

AG: I always get excited to see works my own imagination could never come up with. Sometimes, it amazes me to see the simplest color combination and I start thinking: wow, how can they make those 3 colors work so well together. I am truly an art fan and I am always overwhelmed by technique and imagination. I’m fascinated by any creative minds different than my own.

SH: Does having an exhibition at a museum feel different than showing work at a gallery?

AG: First, I feel very honored and humbled to be part of this amazing Art statement that is The New Vanguard III. When it comes to process, I do think a museum exhibit was a bit more pressure, I am absolutely one of those artists who try to push themselves a lot and is never satisfied with anything coming out of the studio. Every piece is always a learning experience, therefore each painting is a puzzle piece of my creative journey. So I would say, there is a different feel to it, but it’s mostly self-inflicted… Oh, and my mother is extra proud.

SH: Every person experiences that moment, when they are in the middle or even at the start of something, where it feels overwhelming or isn’t going as planned – how do you personally push through those difficult moments? 

AG: For me usually, during the creation of a painting I go through several phases: confidence, excitement, struggle, hate, hate, hate, overwhelming desperation, satisfaction, 2 minutes of pride and then happiness fading into an almost disappointment, until I start a new piece and the cycle starts again. It’s a roller coaster, but at the end of the day, once you start seeing art as your daily work, you understand that this exact process is part of the job description. You will create 100 “okay” pieces for 1 piece you might end up being fully satisfied with. Eventually, you accept this reality and also understand it is what the entire experience is. The ups and downs are part of the Art. It becomes an integral fragment of how you move your brushes, which colors you chose, how much detail you add.  And if a final piece is so wrong to my eye, I usually put it aside and start another one. The key is to keep creating.

SH: If you could show your work beside any artist, in the entire history of art, who would you want to share wall space with?

AG: That is a hard question, mainly because I would have to arrogance to think I deserve to be shown next to the artists I admire the most. But one of my biggest inspirations is the Pope Series by Francis Bacon which I saw for the first time when I was a child, and those images have been inspiring to me ever since.

SH: What piece challenged you most in this body of work and why?

AG: U wish was the most challenging because it was my first full body piece and I truly put all my energy into rendering every section to the absolute best of my abilities. And I am now very excited to work on bigger full-body pieces in the future.

SH: Do you have any pre-studio rituals that get the creative juices flowing?

AG: I will answer candidly: it is silly but this is how I get started, I gesso my canvas, and while it dries in the sun, I drink a Redbull, set up my palette ( always the same way) & pre-mix a few skin tones ( always the same method). I feel like a clear set-up routine really gets me started properly until the chaos of creation overwhelms me.

SH: We declare The New Vanguard III a milestone in your artistic journey, what are three other milestones that mark your path and life as an artist?

AG: I feel like every painting could be a milestone, every art show, every time someone sends me a DM to support me, every time I sell a print, all those moments are so so so important to me. I cherish and truly, deeply appreciate every single step of this amazing journey I am on.

From the outside, objective observers would most likely consider my biggest markers to be: Graduating from Art School over 20 years ago, my heart attack & realizing I NEEDED to be an artist, my first solo exhibit & my first museum exhibit.

Curated by Thinkspace Projects

September 12 through December 27, 2020

Lancaster Museum of Art and History
665 W. Lancaster Blvd.
Lancaster, California 93534

Featuring Solo Exhibitions From:
ALEX GARANT “Deconstructing Identities”
KATHY AGER “Fool’s Gold”

Interview with Alex Garant for “Voyage of The Insomniac”

Thinkspace is pleased to present Voyage of The Insomniac, featuring new works by Toronto-based, Canadian, Québéquois artist Alex Garant. A painter known for her hyper-realistically rendered portraits in which the faces and eyes of her subjects seem to skip their registers through image redoubling and superimposition. In anticipation of Voyage of The Insomniac, our interview with Alex Garant discusses the exhibitions challenging work, an explanation for the compositions movement, and the catalyst for her artistic journey.

Join us Saturday, August 4th for the opening reception of Voyage of The Insomniac, from 6 pm to 9 pm at Thinkspace in Culver City.

SH: How do you approach developing a new body of work? Were there specific themes or techniques you wanted to explore in “Voyage of the Insomniac”?
AG: Voyage of the Insomniac was a very personal series. For the past couple of years, I have been experiencing bouts of insomnia, and I have been struggling with sleeping well. Unfortunately, I am the kind of individual who needs a lot of sleep. The lack of Z’s ended up putting me through quite a few days of hazy wakefulness, in a sort of automated trance. This collection is inspired by those days; the awaken hours passing by, lost between overstimulation and mental confusion. Trying to find beauty in overthinking and attempting to embrace the haze.
The collection is a total of 13 new paintings, 12 of them representing each hour between midnight and noon and a 13th painting (The 13th Hour) representing the eternity of a sleepless moment.

SH: Is there a symbolic significance to the double vision aspect of your work?
AG: Many people say it’s hard to look at yet is what draws the viewer to the piece. For me, the vibrancy is a visual representation of breathing, living, experiencing one’s self. In regards to this specific collection, I would compare this to a mirror reflection experience. When you are so sleep deprived and walk in front of a mirror, you look at yourself and wonder: Is this me? Is this what I look like? Is this how people see me? Then you smile, thinking, I can look decent, and then you stare into your own soul, witnessing your own struggles. That duality is what I am trying to represent in my imagery.

SH: Is there a particular piece in this exhibition you feel really challenged you? If so, why and what makes you proud of this piece?
AG: My favorite piece for this show is “The 13th Hour”. Strangely enough, this is the last piece I worked on for the show; I find I was able to capture the emotion from which this entire series started. Whenever I produce a larger body of work in a condensed period, I find myself learning a lot, on a technical level but also how to translate the intangible ideas into something others can see. This painting is the most direct visual translation of what was on my mind at that moment.

SH: Where do you source inspiration?
AG: It depends, sometimes, I have ideas of colors or patterns I want to try, most of the time, it is more of an emotion I am trying to render. I strive to get all my inspirations from within myself and avoid getting influenced by external sources like social media or anything of that nature.

SH: How do you capture ideas for pieces; do you have a sketchbook on hand or is it just a note to yourself in your phone?
AG: I do a lot of little doodles. My first ideas are often little stick figures and some simple lines just to help me remember the idea. I will grab anything close to me, napkin, notebook or sketchpad. I also have a few very silly notes on my phone such as “Boy with red lines,” or “snooze roosters,” I don’t think it would make sense for anyone but me hahaha.

SH: How do you plan out your compositions?
AG: I am very attracted to symmetry and balance, resulting in my compositions being very simple and slightly stiff. I don’t like to add elements for the sake of adding stuff. I prefer a minimalist approach to my pieces. I want the viewer to have a one-on-one encounter with the character painted, without distraction. I want the viewer to relate to the subject, projecting his/her own experience.

SH: What excites you about your work / creative process?
AG: I love sketching, I love the early steps of the process, refining the idea, drawing the preliminary composition, etc. I am also learning to love the detailing process at the end. Adding texture and mini glazes.

SH: What frustrates you about your work / creative process?
AG: Sometimes, an idea is so great in your mind, but then you just can’t put it down on paper, or you start painting it, and the whole thing turns muddy. It happens a lot, and over the years, I still struggle to let go of a piece once I start working on it; eventually, some pieces don’t make the cut and will be destroyed. I want to stay humble and always keep learning. For that to happen, it is important to push yourself and experiment while producing new works. This improvement process sometimes results in not-so-great art. Instead of getting frustrated, I need to learn to accept the lesson, absorb the learning and move on with the new skills (hopefully) acquired.

SH: What is an aspect of other’s artwork that really excites you, what are you drawn too?
AG: I am a huge art fan girl. I worship anyone one who comes up with ideas, concepts, and images I could never think of. I love colors and bold lines, I am a huge fan of Michael Reeder, Benjamin Cook, David Cook, Ryan Heshka, Travis Louie, Dan Lam, Richard Ahnert, Jeremy Okai Davis, Tina Lugo, 1010, Double Parlour, Caitlin T. McCormack and I could just keep on going and going… I love new ideas and people who master their own craft.

SH: Who is an artist; musician, director, any art form – who would be a dream collaboration for you and what would you create?
AG: Sooooo many ideas. I really want to do more collaborative projects this year. Indie movies and musicians. Weirdly, I would love to do some kind of painting/ collab with Gucci. I have been loving their social media editorial content lately.
Also, I am currently working on a print collab with artist Paul Jackson I am super excited about.

SH: Has there been someone or some event that has made a significant impact on you that lead you to where you are now? An artistic catalyst of sorts?
AG: When I turned 30, I suffered a massive heart attack, and it truly changed my life. I felt reborn and refocused on what is important. I suddenly knew I needed to direct my energy towards art and that it was my true calling. I also understood that living passionately was key. Time is the only currency we are all running out of. So, this sense of urgency started translating into everything I do. No time to wait or to be hesitant. You must commit and keep fighting.