The Block - Interview with Fiona Ackerman

With her work included in this year's upcoming Cheaper Show (the annual art show that levels the playing field by selling everything for $200 a piece!), The Block online magazine has published an exclusive interview with artist Fiona Ackerman.

Below are some highlights from the interview, which can be read in full online:

The Cheaper Show Series: Fiona Ackerman

June 17th, 2011  Interveiw by Darcy Smith

I LOVE YOU (2010), acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 48 x 48″

Vancouver-based Ackerman’s kaleidoscopic abstracts have us hooked; her landscapes, rich fantasy worlds with unusual colour combos and forays into graffiti, promise to rival even the pristine mountain view from our window. She spills about meeting her art-star dad for the first time, how she makes the choice between army green and, say, neon pink, and drawing inspiration from within.

The Block: How did you become an artist?

Fiona Ackerman: I grew up in Montreal and was always drawing, but when I was 13 I met my father for the first time. He’s a well-known German painter, and I went to a workshop he did in Italy, just a two week painting class, and my eyes were completely blown open. It was the most interesting, fascinating thing I’ve ever seen and I went back the next year. I ended up studying painting and drawing at Concordia, graduated from Emily Carr in 2002, and really never looked back.

TB: When did you know you could make it as an artist?

FA: I am always waiting for that moment! Some months it’s my career and other months it’s my passion – if you know what I mean. Painting is part of my life forever, and everything else in my life organizes itself around it.


TB: Was your painting always abstract or did you start out a realist?

FA: I actually started off more abstractly, but a lot of it happens very simultaneously. Right now I’m working on a body of fairly abstract work at the same time as a series of portraits, so I have these two things happening at the studio. Working back and forth with these two ways of painting, I find that they feed each other. It’s sort of like, as a muscle builder (not that I am one!) you don’t want to exercise so that you lean too far in one direction – I’m exercising both sides of my painting brain in order to be able to wander through both worlds with comfort.


TB: You were once quoted as saying: “I’ll never be a landscape painter.” And yet, here you are painting beautiful – if abstract – landscapes.

FA: I should never have said that. That was the first line of a talk I gave at Dianne Farris and I go on to talk about how foolish that is and how I didn’t understand landscape painting – or even painting – at the time, when I was 19 and living in Montreal. I thought I didn’t want to just do more landscape paintings, but I didn’t understand that landscape painting means so many different things and it’s such a basic human thing to represent our environment. Now I’m absolutely a landscape painter, I adore it. My paintings are abstract but they are abstract landscapes, they are environments.


TB: What do you think the Cheaper Show means for Vancouver’s art scene?

FA: Publicity, obviously, for an artist is always so much appreciated, and buzz – people are so excited about so many things, and painting is often a media that is harder to get excited about because it’s such a personal experience. The event itself is fun in a way that artists don’t get to experience as often, but also I think all these artists are getting a closer look.