Interview with Sarah Joncas for “Betwixt and Between”

Thinkspace Projects is pleased to present Betwixt and Between featuring new works new works by Canadian artist Sarah Joncas and Southern Californian artist Kelly Vivanco. Both artists are known for their narrative-based works that embrace the imaginative potential of the subconscious and creatively play with elements of the surreal drawings on feelings of nostalgia whether it be hopeful or melancholy.  In anticipation of the exhibition opening, Saturday, January 6th, our interview with Sarah Joncas shares her love for the anti-hero, dream collaboration, and favorite fable.

Opening reception, Saturday, January 6th from 6 pm to 9 pm. 

SH: How long have you been working on this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?
SJ: I started working on the pieces for this show last winter. I like two-person shows because I don’t necessarily focus on one specific theme for the body, but feel out ideas as they come, connecting things here or there, but also just welcoming works to being their own thing entirely. I was exploring more of an aesthetic with this work through – more subtle, dreamy backgrounds that further push the graphic elements I’ve slowly been including in my paintings the last few years. I still have imagery focusing around cityscapes, water, animals, and flowers though, touching on urbanism and environmentalist concerns.

SH: The key to a fable is that it teaches you a lesson. What is one of your favorite fables, and have you been able to master the lesson it taught you or do you still struggle?
SJ: I haven’t thought much about fables since I was a kid, to be honest, but I do like ‘The Tortoise and The Hare’. Not just for the obvious cliché of  ‘slow and steady wins the race’, but for that arrogance was the hare’s true flaw… Never expect the world will work it’s way out for you simply because you think you’re fabulous and deserving. Expect an unfiltered reality, that often things often won’t be optimal, but give it your best anyhow! Despite the anxiety of challenges, my life has been much greater because in the end I went for it, even if I wasn’t the best.

SH: What is your favorite part of the creative process? What is your least favorite part?
SJ: My favorite part is painting the face, haha. Too obvious? I don’t know what it is, I love seeing the features come to life and look back at me. Lately, I’ve been really enjoying painting ears as well, strange folds and turns. Everyone’s ears are so unique, you hardly notice until you start painting them. My least favorite is titling the work. I’m just unconfident with words most of the time!

SH: What inspires the environment that you end up building around your composition? Does the subject come first, or the environment that the subject inhabits?
SJ: It differs, though often the figures come first. With the background, I’m usually inspired by my own surroundings. I like painting suburbia and the city, with animal and plant life creeping in, adding surreal touches. One of the works from the show, ‘Sakura’, was inspired by a trip I recently took to Japan. I ended up using photos of buildings and signs I took in Tokyo as refs for the BG. I’d like to do more paintings inspired by my travels to other places as well.

SH: The women you paint have a heroic and cinematic quality to them, what are the values your ideal heroine would possess?
SJ: Heroes generally have the values of being moral, courageous, determined and selfless. These are all great things anyone would like to see in those they look up to, they’d be qualities I’d want in my heroines too. I think the most inspirational quality for me to see in other real-life women is intelligence and kindness though. And when it comes to cinema, gotta admit I love a great anti-heroine! Someone like Lizbeth Salander or Arya Stark, not the typical crowd pleaser type.

SH: When in the studio are you listening to music or podcasts? Can you share what you’ve been listening too?
SJ: I listen to music most of the time, especially film scores. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Max Richter compositions, kind of dramatic and moving. I love all the scores created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for David Fincher’s films, Alexander Desplat, Clint Mansell, Johan Johansson etc. I recently stumbled into music by bands like ‘Cigarettes after Sex’, ‘Rhye’ and ‘Tame Impala’ and find them really great to paint or chill to as well. But no podcasts actually! I should try them out sometime.

SH: How do you continue to challenge yourself as an artist and remain excited about the work you produce, without alienating your collectors and followers?
SJ: I try to change my work slightly with time, follow my heart without jumping too far from my own style. Something gradual and fluid that feels right to me! I also satisfy other painting vibes for myself by doing side work that I’ll put on my shop from time to time. Usually cute things, sometimes more grotesque, but light-hearted and not as serious in time and theme as my gallery works.

SH: Who would you want to collaborate with, dead or alive? The person can be in any area of the arts; film, dance, music, etc.
SJ: Ugh, I’m just in love with director Denis Villeneuve lately. He’s Canadian to boot, and every Canadian loves to see another doing well and creating genuinely great stuff. I couldn’t even see myself doing anything related to his films, but he’s incredible and all of his movies have been inspiring to me.

SH: When not in the studio, what would an ideal day look like?
SJ: I like getting days alone with just my guy, maybe going somewhere out of town for the day, enjoying nature and some good food/drink! Something peaceful and relaxing.

SH: What do you think the role of art / the artist is in society?
SJ: I’m not sure there is one solid role or objective as an artist. A lot of us are just following our hearts and putting it out there, hoping others might connect with it too. We’re trying to put our thoughts, feelings, and sense of beauty into the world, reflect upon it and find catharsis in the process, I think. But also being apart of the audience and enjoying the art that others make – whether it’s music, films, books or visuals – is one of the greatest parts of life, right?

SH: Kicking off the new year with an exhibition is a great way to start 2018! What are your artistic plans for the rest of the year?
SJ: I have a bunch of group shows I’m contributing to throughout the year, and then a larger, 3 person show at Haven Gallery in the Fall. Will probably have about 8 pieces for that and will start them as soon as I’m home from this show’s opening ~

Beauty in the Breakdown : Interview with Sarah Joncas

Sarah Joncas Painting

Interview with Beauty in the Breakdown artist Sarah Joncas

Warm-Up Questions:
SH: Coffee or Tea?
SJ: coffee @_@
SH: background noise – music or tv show?
SJ: music, clearly!
SH: snacks – savory or sweet?
SJ: Mmm, fruit and pastry sweetness
SH: dogs or cats?
SJ: No need to fight, I love them both <3

SH: When do you get the most painting done? Morning, Noon, Night, Middle of the Night/Morning?
SJ: 10am to 6pm. I work whenever I get the chance, but because my man works during the day, it’s most convenient to paint then. I think I prefer nights though. The day is better light for sure, but the night has better mood!

SH: Have you ever accidentally drank or was about to drink the dirty ‘paint’ water?
SJ: All the time… all the time. I also end up stirring my paint brushes into my coffee rather than the dirty water. So irritating. At least this is only a problem when I work in acrylic though, never with oils.

Sarah Joncas Anybody Out ThereSarah Joncas “Anybody Out There” – Oil on Canvas 18″x 24

SH: What inspired the direction of your work for the upcoming show, Beauty in the Breakdown?
SJ: I was playing with ideas surrounding environmentalism and escapism for this show. Having grown up as a kid with the solace of a forest in my backyard wherever we lived, it was a stark contrast moving to Toronto as an adult and adjusting to the new urban landscape.. These paintings feel like a partial nostalgia and need of return to nature, as well as a critique on the effects of urbanization for both the physical and psychological worlds. Stylistically the show was also about pushing my aesthetics in other realms, enjoying a graphic mix of design alongside my more traditional, oil rendered portraits. What other artists work are you ‘

SH: What other artists work are you ‘fangirling’ over right now?
SJ: A lot of contemporary artists I show with at group exhibitions actually, or at least show at the same galleries! Keita Morimoto, Kelsey Beckett, Erik Jones, Hsiao-Ron Cheng and more. Such wonderful work!

SH: What motivated you to choose the life/career of an artist?
SJ: Always knew, I loved painting and drawing as a very young kid and didn’t want to stop doing it!

Sarah Joncas Something in the Air “Something in the Air” – Graphic & ink on paper 9″x 12

SJ: What brand of paint so you use? What’s your favorite color and brush right now?
SJ: For oils, mostly winsor&newton and liquitex for acrylics. Favourite colour? I tend to mix a lot of my paint colours from a small set of primary, but I really love deep turquoise and the various analogous shades I can make from it. I like cheap synthetic brushes, haha. I love my detailing brushes though, tiny tiny. The most enjoyable work in a painting for me is done with the smallest brush! Sometimes, with all my dry brush and scumbling, I can engineer a pretty sweet nub of a brush too.

SH: How long does it take to complete a single piece? Do you work on multiple pieces at one time?
SJ: Usually 1-4 months, depending on size. And yes, it’s like a one-woman factory in my studio! 8-12 painting at any given time. I work on them in a cycle between layers of drying oil.

SH: What creative person; artist, musician, director, family member etc… has had the most influence or inspired your own artistic voice?
SJ: Man, how can I choose! There’s so many that have had so many different and meaningful influences on me. To settle for sake of the question though, maybe Radiohead is king. Since I was 15 till today, they have been a constant and feverish love. Music is most important to my painting process, I think. It sweeps me into the right mood and mindset for work when I need it.

Sarah Joncas The Wishing WellSarah Joncas “The Wishing Well” – Oil on Canvas 24″ x 30” 

SH: What do you know now, that you wish you would have known when first embarking on your artistic career?
SJ: I was so shy and struggled so much with confidence when I started out. It’s still a battle, to be honest, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to put most of that on the back burner and to go after things with less hesitation. I don’t think these lessons are something you can just know and follow though, you need the progressive experience.

SH: If your could invite 5 people dead or alive to a dinner party, who would be on your guest list and what’s on the menu?
SJ: The decision is crippling, haha. So many possibilities! At the moment, I’m all in the mood for intense and passionate music though… So how about stewing together some awesome musicians and making some sweet, sweet tunes! Let’s throw in some Thom York, a little dash of David Gilmour, some smoky Clint Mansell, a pinch of Danny Carey and some sweet Natasha Khan! I can play the triangle or something stupid… More cowbell? Oh yeah, do they still need food? Alright, let’s make it some crazy ethnic potluck then; Indian, Mexican, Japanese, Thai, Mediterranean etc. I love all of it.

Sarah Joncas AngelSarah Joncas “Angel” – Oil on Wood 8″ x 10″

Beauty in the Breakdown new works by Sarah Joncas & Camilla d’Errico on view February 28th through March 21st.

Opening Reception with artists on hand: Saturday, February 28th 6-9PM