Editorial: The World of Hailey Guzik
Photography and Styling: Emily Saab & KC Wilcox
Tell us, working as an artist, how do you approach deconstructing landscape painting?
The artwork in Everything Out of Place comes from a reclaimed process of play. I experimented with combining aspects of my representational painting practice with object-based explorations. The result is a fragmented re-examination of my memories of the Bay of Fundy, which can be seen scattered throughout the work, in both two and three dimensions. In this exhibition, I repeatedly incorporated commonly found beach debris, like rocks, ropes, netting, seaweed, crustaceans, shells, and driftwood, thinking of them as symbols that describe the specifics of a place. I’m interested in these objects for their integral relationships to Maritime landscape and industry.
I'm constantly recording observations and memories of the natural and built landscape through various methods, like small painted studies, pencil sketches, film photography, and sometimes video or images on my phone, whichever is most accessible at the time. I think about how perception and my ability to record these instances in different mediums changes the authenticity of my memories, which in turn affects the representation in question.
It’s almost impossible to remember every detail about a place, but by transcribing my recollections, I can figure out what’s missing. The parts I can’t remember are opportunities for invention and reimagining. When I use found objects, for me, they don’t have to be found at the particular place I’m depicting, it’s more important for them to evoke or attempt to portray my associations to that particular place. I hope to unmask the artifice that tends to define the way landscapes are represented in art by approaching it with a cumulative process open to play and experimentation.
WASTED EFFORT Calla earrings - vintage Descente anorak - 70s psychedelic smock dress - 90s stacked heel boot
Everything Out of Place, oil on canvas, 20 x 24 inches, 2019
Walk us through your process, we’re curious about the steps you've taken in creating your artwork.
My process is cyclical. Ideas are reused, reanalyzed, reinterpreted. My completed works come from different stages of my practice. My representational landscape paintings, which I call “memory paintings”, are rather straightforward and are often the starting point for other work. Painting acts as a tool for reflecting on and discovering my environment, while installation allows me to pursue more elaborate, imagined and researched concepts, rooted in my perceived spaces. I often switch between painting and three-dimensional making, taking periods to focus on one or the other, in a continual flow. I start with a small study which I then use to produce larger paintings. If the painting is not working, I cut it up for an assemblage. I collect discarded objects and materials, sometimes from the spaces I observe, which in turn influence my understanding of the environment. I'm interested in materials that are easily recognizable which tend to have strong associative qualities with a particular location. I believe they can be used as tools to reorganize the structure of traditional landscape imagery because they are effective as symbols or icons.
WASTED EFFORT Charlie hoops - 80s belted blazer dress - Madewell turtleneck
In creating art about landscapes, what do you think about when you consider your role on the land?
I acknowledge the privileges that come with my role as an explorer, observer and visitor to these spaces. I ask myself, how will the way I navigate these spaces and represent them in an artwork contribute to an ongoing history of colonization and land exploitation? How will I engage in a productive conversation about these topics within my community?
In your perspective, what’s the role of artists and landscape painting today?
I’m critical of the role of artists and landscape painting. A painting can never be a true, accurate representation of a place. It’s based on an individualized experience of observing, and on the artist’s own abilities and stylistic preferences. Landscape painting has a predominantly Western, colonial, and paternal history, where notions of wilderness are steeped in illusions of grandeur, power, accomplishment, and land ownership. Generally I appreciate landscape painting as a historical genre, and especially the context this provides within Canada (e.g. the Group of Seven), but I'm more interested in artwork that deconstructs formal illusions of landscape painting such as “the rule of thirds”, atmospheric and linear perspective, and other compositional rules. For me, this type of artwork envisions a feminist, environmental, and decolonized perspective for landscape painting.
Detail, Searching for the Perfect Pebble, 2020, acrylic and oil on birch panel, 10 x 10 inches
What defines being an active observer versus a passive observer?
To me, active observation is a process of repeated looking, examining, and reflecting. I liken it to the way I physically interact with my environment, and with actions such as walking, collecting, and noticing. It’s an intentional way of moving through the world and relating to place.
Passive observation is an act of indirect observing, like viewing a landscape second-hand through a photograph or painting, for example. As a passive observer, you imagine yourself there, or looking at that space. It pertains to the viewer when they experience an artwork, while active observation pertains more to the creation of artwork.
Who has influenced your art practice?
Peter Doig and Kim Dorland have played integral roles in my development as a painter. I love the way they apply paint to the canvas – thin layered washes, thick paint, vibrant and imagined use of colour, bold shape, line, etc. Their work seems dream-like to me, which is something I try to emulate in my painting when working from memory. For me, they achieve a balance between abstract and representational, and I greatly admire that. Other painting inspirations (among the million I could list) : Edouard Manet, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Emily Carr.
Regarding sculpture, installation, and new media, I'm interested in work that subverts the conventions of art through the use of space, material, colour, shape, atmosphere, etc. More specifically, artists who create synthesized environments within the gallery space, as a place for exploration, reflection, immersion, and interaction, such as Pipilotti Rist, Rachel Rossin, Joan Jonas, Bruce Nauman, Olafur Eliasson, Rita McCough. I also admire Jessica Stockholder, Liz Magor, Valerie Blass for their innovative use of materials and interventions.
Memory Theatre, oil on canvas, 20 x 24 inches, 2019
Your work often references rural space, specifically rural New Brunswick landscapes. Has moving to Montreal changed how you perceive, and then depict, these landscapes?
Moving to Montreal has played a substantial role in my growth as an artist. In a lot of ways, it has created a sense of longing and a feeling of nostalgia for the rural landscape that I no longer have access to. Nature has had a big influence on me from a young age. Growing up in the Saint John region, near the Bay of Fundy and Kennebecasis River, I often went camping, hiking, fishing, boating and beachcombing with my family.
In 2017, after completing my BFA at Mount Allison University, I started a project called Translocations. I was focusing on the dichotomies between rural and urban spaces, based on my recent experiences in New Brunswick and my move to Montreal. I still consider the artwork for this project to be unfinished, but it laid the foundations for my work now.
Military snow parka - black lace jumpsuit - vintage Dunham hiking boot
In an urban environment like Montreal, I'm surrounded by artificial, constructed spaces. The urban landscape, including natural spaces like parks, are fabricated. This is what got me thinking about the perception of landscapes.
While many of my landscape paintings depict rural environments, the trace of human presence is always visible. Roads, walking paths, and other infrastructure indicate points of access to rural spaces. It provides a reference point for rural environments to exist within constructed spaces and vice versa.
Weeds Spread Like Wildfire, 2019, acrylic, oil and spray paint on canvas, 20 x 24 inches
What Turns Up When the Tide Runs Out, 2019, cut-out paintings, raw canvas, india ink, thread, elastic, bands, tinsel, artificial flowers, metal fan blade, aluminum, tape, electrical tape, grommets, tarp, netting, 18 x 30 x 2.5 inches
I’m interested in the dichotomy between naturalistic and constructed representations. The lexicon of symbols that exist in my work refer to the objects and scenes that I’ve come across and collected over time. By repeating these symbols in my work, I’m hoping that it will create a highly aestheticized, and yet simplified, representation of our personal associations to landscapes. Living in an increasingly virtual and manufactured society, I find that our relationship to nature is either glossed over or hyper-commercialized, leaving little room for genuine connections to the environment.
I think this is especially relevant in Saint John, and the province of New Brunswick, as the economy is reliant on natural resource industries. I hope that this exhibition encourages viewers to consider their own relationship to the environment, as well as the effects of industry, sparking a renewed sense of curiosity and empathy for the world around us.
Hailey Guzik — Everything Out of Place opens at Visitors (145 Union Street, Saint John, New Brunswick) on February 7th, 2020 at 5:00 pm. View event details.