Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Conversation with Audrea DiJulio and Suzanne Nacha

Call it synchronicity, fate or a happy accident, but the random pairing of Suzanne Nacha’s hypnotically subtle paintings (Origin) with Audrea Dijulio’s engaging sculptures (Poste Haste) creates a synergetic impact that is rare in a show that wasn’t orchestrated by a top notch curator. The following interview by Charles Hackbarth was conducted by e-mail over the course of a number of days. It has been reconstructed here as a conversation between him and the two artists.
Charles Hackbarth: Did the two of you know each other before this show?
Audrea: No not before membership at Loop however, we do share a similar background in that she (Suzanne) did her Masters at Guelph about the same time I did my BA and we are also both from Hamilton so I think it is inevitable that some of that is going to inform our work and result in overlaps.
CH: Did the fact that you were showing together shape your art in any way?
Audrea: Both of us, I believe, had completed work and established ideas and methodology for the show before there was any indication of who we were showing with. In fact I didn’t even know that Loop showed artists together like that. Our pairing was random and initially it sparked some panic in me because as a sculptor , especially considering the scale of my work, it is impossible to not be affected by or impact other work and structural elements in the space. Once I found out who I was showing with I wanted to meet her and see her work so that we could discuss the relationship between our works.
Quickly we realized that both of us had an organic sense that emanated from the work but also we had a structured intent that I believe comes from us having undertaken alternate educational directions, geology (Suzanne) and civil engineering technology(Audrea) respectively. Ultimately however, it was the critical art theory part of our art education that began to speak louder then the work itself so installation became quite an arduous task as a result.
Suzanne: For my part all, but one of my paintings was completed well in advance of the show. There is one (the elongated upright ellipse painting entitled 'loaded' ) that was painted around the same time that I saw Audrea's invite image. I definitely noted the similarity with her image and my painting in terms of palette and humour - and I played that up. I thought that it may have a relationship with her sculpture - but I wasn't entirely sure and also I didn't know if Audrea would be interested in showing some overt relationships between our work. I do remember, however, that Audrea (from the very start) suggested that we treat our show more like a two person exhibtion - since we were sharing the space (and this was my preference as well).

CH: Audrea, your media are obviously common, everyday materials along with some basic infrastructure type materials – pipes, etc. Is there a philosophical underpinning to the choice of material? I’m thinking Arte Povera type transformation of basic material. Also, does the notion of alchemy (turning base material into “gold”) factor in?
Audrea: This question has a lot here to address I'll try to keep the ideas organized….
You use the term ‘infrastructure’ type material. You can’t use that when talking about my work because there is no ‘underlying system’ I do not have a system of pipes, for example, that is somehow creating a framework for my sculpture. The pipe has the potential to be part of an infrastructure and that I describe as ‘implied function’ but not infrastructure. More accurately the materials I use are structural in that they are all playing a role in supporting the larger structure.
When you use the word Alchemy you force a conversation about (Marcel) Duchamp…. I am not going to get into that because yes I use found objects but not in that way. If anything I’m just breaking hierarchies in materials.
As for philosophical underpinnings, I favour the phenomenology side of philosophy as opposed to the psychological. I think Suzanne, in my opinion, has a psycho-analytical sense to her work that I definitely don’t have.

Arte Povera is political, this work is not political. I suppose you are making that association because of my use of ‘everyday’ materials (CH: Yes, I’m referring to the use of materials) however, that is not enough because my primary concern is with form; Arte Povera was not so much concerned with form as they were the relationships between the components within their work.
CH: Suzanne, I find it interesting that your paintings are about the subterranean world – sewers, etc. I think of these as dark, chthonic, visceral places, yet your work is very clean and “sanitized”. Do you have any thoughts about that?
Suzanne: As I've continued to work on this series over the past several years the paintings have become darker over time and more connected to their original subterranean reference. One of the more recent works in the show is the small diptych behind the desk entitled 'Limbo: fraternal'. With this particular painting I was trying to push a balance between the water that is painted in a more fluid manner and an overall authoritative structure that is dictated by and in turn supported by the circular edge of the canvas. It's true though that the much cleaner structure does always dominate over chaotic mark making with this series. I would put this down to my preference for paintings that get at the essence of an image or idea. Toward this end, I will often deliberately try to create convincing spatial illusions by using a line or colour in the simplest possible way. In the very cartoonish painting entitled 'the gluttonous' for example, a fat protruding space is defined by (and appears to be held in place by) a belt-like line initiated by the canvas edge.

CH: Suzanne, one can’t help but notice the twinning and mirroring of images. This brings to mind all kinds of concepts, the doppelganger being just one. Stereoscopic vision being another.
Suzanne: Yes, definitely...mirroring, twinning and folding are all there. I've observed this in many of my underground references - especially where there was water involved. But more than a formal or compositional strategy I was interested in the suggestion of altered states, psychedelia and an overall sense of the paintings as psychological rather than actual spaces. I did a series of screenprints during a residency at Open Studio last year and with these works in particular the psychedelic and mirroring aspects became a focus.
CH: Also, if both of you can speak about the overlap you find in each other’s work?
Audrea: Overlap… I think the strongest overlap comes from our compulsion to use elements which are rigid and familiar and change them into something vague so that it can be reconsidered, if you see it like that, then the tendency towards the organic, in this case, comes from a duality that is created.

Suzanne: I believe the crucial overlap in our work comes down to our interests in the structure of materials and how this can be played with and manipulated to affect the viewer's experience of balance and stability. There are also definite overlaps in terms of colour and humour.