UNTANGLING LIFE'S KNOTS
In the lead up to her exhibition, Angela Grossmann spoke about the show with the Jewish Independent. Here is the article that Olga Livshin's drafted up after interviewing Grossmann.
Angela Grossmann’s art unfolds organically.
Bright afternoon sunlight, a rare guest in Vancouver, reached through the huge windows of Angela Grossmann’s downtown studio. The beams of light highlighted every drawing and painting on the walls, as if the curious sun wanted to ferret out the artist’s secrets. Inside the studio, Grossmann, a prominent Canadian contemporary artist, talked to the Jewish Independent about her motivation and her artistic process.
She grew up in England, a child of a Holocaust survivor. “My father was 14 when he escaped Europe on the last Kindertransport,” she said. “Later, he joined the British army and, after the war, became a professional artist. So, I come from an artistic background. But, when I was young, I didn’t want to be an artist like my parents – very political, very bohemian. I wanted to be a writer,” she said. “Although I drew all the time, art was a refuge for me, a conversation I had with myself. I’ve always had an inner dialogue, always wanted to learn: what are the codes, the parameters of our lives?... When you untangle all the knots, you start understanding the rules.”
In her early twenties, Grossmann visited Vancouver, and her life changed forever. “I was 21 when I first came to Vancouver to visit my sister who had a baby. This place felt so different from England. I loved Vancouver right away. I knew I could reinvent myself here. I felt free, like a blank canvas. I wanted to stay.”
One serendipitous day, a month after she arrived, she walked past Emily Carr Institute, which had just moved to Granville Island. She liked the building and noticed a sign in a window, an invitation to aspiring artists to submit their portfolios. Although she never planned to study art professionally, she always carried her portfolio of drawings with her.
“I brought my portfolio the next day,” she recalled, “and there was a personal interview right away. Two people talked to me for an hour. They liked my drawings and offered me a place at the school. It wasn’t in my plans, but I thought, I had nothing better to do. I loved the building and the idea of spending the next few years in it, among other artists – [it] sounded terrific. I accepted. Those years became the best five years of my life, extraordinary years.” Her initial success at school and after graduation was encouraging, and the young artist dedicated all her time to her art. “I was possessed by what I did. I had a one track mind…. And it helped that I’m not a worrier,” she said. “I don’t worry about material things, about money…. Art demands obsession, and artists should be a little bit idealistic.”
The themes with which Grossmann spends the most time include displacement, social margins and identity. “I work every day,” she said. “Well, sometimes I take Sundays off. I like being in my studio.”
Grossmann works in different techniques: drawing, painting and collage. “When the sun shines in my studio, I must reach for the color tubes. When it’s grey, as it often is in Vancouver, I draw. Collages are the hardest, but they give me the most satisfaction. I can use paint to make what I want but, when I use old photos for collages, it’s a challenge. I like things to be difficult, handicapped. I think, where to put this piece? Where does it fit? It’s like speaking to an image, asking questions,” she explained.
Grossmann uses old photographs for her collages, images she hunts for at European flea markets, whenever she travels. “I like flea markets. I’m a flea marketer,” she said with a smile.
For Grossmann, the idea of beauty changes with the time and place. “I ask myself, what is beautiful? Is it about age or shape or color? My art is all about questions. I’ve never been interested in statements. I am not didactic; I can’t tell you what to think,” she said. “Photos are not facts, and I always question them too. I play with photographs, so a beard can become a skirt, and someone’s hair can transform into a mink stole. My paintings and collages look different but they are about the same thing, only the materials are different.”
Grossmann never has an image in mind when she starts a new picture and she lets her work unfold organically. “There is always a moment when I know whether I want to commit to this piece or not, when I recognize something real, interesting – a shape, a gesture. Then I pursue the project. The search is exciting, like a hunt, a safari. When you find this elusive thing, you go after it.”
|Angela Grossmann & Jennifer Winsor pose next to two of Angela's stunning collage works|