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Apple Island, tiled digital printout and hockey gear on plywood, 96" x 96", 2006.

 

Pankey's Garage, oil paint and recycled hockey gear on board, 28" x 28", 2011.

 

Artist: Liz Pead, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Interview 32

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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.

 

Biography

Liz Pead is a Toronto artist. The landscape, hockey and the environment play large roles in Pead's work combining high and low culture as ways of expressing and constructing Canadian Identities.

"I wanted to find a Canadian material (broken hockey gear) to use in my paintings that would address this mediated landscape that Canada is becoming. Gone are the days of the pristine wilds that the Group of Seven painted, if they only ever existed in our collective cultural memory. I'm haunted by the images of Ed Burtynsky, Douglas Coupland and others depicting the changing landscapes of industrial encroachment and urban sprawl".

Pead has an exhibition of her large-scale installation paintings and digital works upcoming at A.K.A. Gallery in Saskatoon in the spring of 2012. The landscape depicted in this series of ink drawings was inspired by visiting Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the Spring / Summer of 2010.

Pead has an exhibition of her large-scale installation paintings and digital works upcoming at A.K.A. Gallery in Saskatoon in the spring of 2012. Her technique draws on her experiences loom-weaving rugs and tapestries, screen-printing, set construction, performance and installation painting. Recycling old, broken hockey gear keeps her inner environmentalist happy as well as satisfying her love of material art.  

Pead graduated in 2007 from OCAD as the Medal Winner in Drawing and Painting. She lives in the Annex (Toronto) with her husband and is a hockey mom, twice.   Her studio is located in the Queen St. West Art & Design district.
Liz's Website

 

Artist Liz Pead

 

Tell us about your work?

I was originally drawn to textiles and surface design as being the closest thing to painting I could find in the school I (thankfully!) found myself in - the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. I loved the pictorial nature of tapestry, batik and silk painting.  I pushed the boundaries of those media as hard as I was able.  When I returned to school to pursue a painting degree at OCAD, I had several years of painting and textile practice behind me.

In my thesis year, I read the work of Gaston Bachelard, the phenomenologist concerned with the Poetics of Space.  He devoted a whole chapter to the nest. I started there.

Having just had my first child and finding myself questioning my own childhood experience, I began making nests out of everything I could find. My old clothes, branches, copper wire. One night while playing hockey, I found myself on the bench and I spied a pile of hockey sticks in the garbage.  A hockey stick nest! One that I could sit in! The rest of the work hatched out of that nest.  

 

MacLaren Installation Dec 2008, Maple LEAF Tree, recycled hockey sticks and hockey cards on wooden armature, height is 14 feet tall, 2008.

 

Bayside Field: A View to St. Croix Island, recycled hockey gear and oil paint on plywood, 120" x 60" x 60", 2008.

Bayside Field: A View to St. Croix Island, recycled hockey gear and oil paint on plywood, 120" x 60" x 60", 2008.

 

I grew up under the brilliant Maritime sky, looking at the rug hookers from Cheticamp, trees, Acadian folk art, the Cottage Craft weavers from Charlotte County, the Bay of Fundy and the paintings of Maud Lewis. Today I live in downtown Toronto, a block from the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) and the Rat Race of life in the Big City.

Girls didn't play hockey in New Brunswick.  Discovering a whole group of women that play recreational hockey here in Toronto has been fantastic.  A couple of years ago, I filled in as goalie after someone's maternity leave and a couple of injuries left our league a little short. I haven't looked back.  Playing hockey is very much like making art - a perfect concert of mind and body working together. Drawing the perfect line or weaving the perfect selvedge is like saving the puck - they all take years of practice to achieve proficiency.

Textile as a medium choice considers intimacy.  It is my opinion that a recent resurgence in textile interest comes as a reaction to the impersonal modern existence on-screen. We can order groceries, socialize and work all from our little screen portals.  Physical contact is not a necessity in modern life. 

Art that has a textile component must be experienced - it demands presence and witness - for me, getting very personal with people I do not even know in the form of their old, broken hockey gear. Recycling all those pants, socks and jocks, which would otherwise be landfill, satisfies the environmentalist in me.  

Hockey gear has a whole vocabulary of textures, patterns, colours, and even logos - perfect for a 'get personal' conversation about our national identities that doesn't get too heavy.  I am able to pursue many questions of Canadian identity, the idea of a hierarchy of cultures (i.e. high culture vs. low culture, art vs. craft) and at the same time make creative work that satisfies both my material and academic concerns.

 

Grand Lake, recycled hockey gear and oil paint on plywood, 48" x 144", 2007.

 

From where do you get your inspiration?

While the Group of Seven and their portrayal of the Canadian Landscape interested me at the beginning, my practice encompasses interests of environmentalism and youth engagement as strategies. The places I have chosen to portray are loaded scenes in the way that they have some underlying meaning. For example, I chose to make "Barilko: Lost and Found" last year, showing the airplane crash site of hockey player Bill Barilko. In the mythology of hockey, Barilko stands as a sort of talisman, and showing his plane crash in 2011 takes on another layer of meaning. The first image in the Canadian Landscape Series I ever did came from a remembered landscape of my youth - right outside the front window of our camp - Apple Island - from which point I nearly drowned when I was five years old.

 

Pankey's Garage, oil paint and recycled hockey gear on board, 28" x 28", 2011.

 

 

Why did you choose to go into fibre art?

It chose me.  I've known since March 23rd, 1987 that I wanted to be an artist.  I had been involved in the theatre as an actor and some time set painter and usher with Theatre New Brunswick (TNB) and other local theatre groups from a very young age. After I graduated high school in 1990, I really wanted to go to Mount Allison or NSCAD and pursue painting. My parents had their hearts set on UNB Business or an Arts degree.  I applied and got into the New Brunswick Craft School (now the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design) Tuition was $250.00 and my parents were horrified. Their straight-A student running off to the arts... I ended up doing two diplomas, one in Fabric Surface Design and the other in Textiles. Scholarships and hard work got me through. So did being WAY too young for the bars when I started (I was 16 when I finished high school) so after dinner, I would come back to the studio, crank up the tunes and crank out the work.

I love the colour of fibre, and the texture.  I'm not really surprized that my paintings have taken on fibre as "loaded paint", literally being hockey gear. The textile has so much more history and weight that pushes a new kind of conversation.

And I have finally resolved that art vs. craft dilemma in case you are interested - moot point!!! In the post- (post-post?) modern era I can make art out of anything I want. Now my fight seems more to be high art vs. low art e.g. - justifying my subject - art vs. hockey:)

 

Hareth C. Bate, recycled hockey gear, 21"x 14" x12", 2010.

 

Which is your favourite fibre medium?

I still love print, and though I don't get to do it much, I have set up a full screen-printing shop in every studio I have ever had. No, scratch that - I have a whole room in my house full of my weaving notes, books, samples, five looms and two sewing machines. I never had the patience for tapestry - so I invented a way to make tapestries out of anything. Which just so happens to take A LOT longer than any loom-woven tapestry I've ever done! 

 

Beav, recycled hockey gear, 4.5" x 7" x 11", 2011.

Kitt B.V. Erring III and his mother, Bea V. Erring, recycled hockey gear, 4.5"x 6" x 9" &  7" x 9" x 17", 2010.

Kitt B.V. Erring III, recycled hockey gear, 4.5"x 6" x 9" &  7" x 9" x 17", 2010.

Loon, recycled hockey gear, 12" x 11" x 23", 2011.

 

What other mediums do you work in, and how does this inform your fibre work?

Okay, so this is a fun question - being a goalie. And no, I'm not being obtuse. I have a painting practice, a textile practice, a yoga practice and a goalie practice - all involve a lot of, well, practice.  They are education of the body and mind working in concert. 

I think in painting, stretching other technical media to be specific and precise. I'd like to say I've read Gerhard Richter's "On the Daily Practice of Painting" cover to cover and loved it, but I tend to dip in and out of books like his. I did find comfort in knowing that other people across disciplines also need the daily practice of making.

 

MacLaren Installation Dec 2008 left to right, Grand Lake,  recycled hockey gear and oil paint on plywood, 48" x 144", 2007.

 

Maple LEAF Tree, recycled hockey sticks and hockey cards on wooden armature, height is 14 feet tall, 2008. Bayside Field: A View to St. Croix Island, recycled hockey gear and oil paint on plywood, 120" x 60" x 60", 2008.

 

What specific historic artists have influenced your work? 

Whoa! Vincent Van Gogh, he could draw like a sonofabitch. I see his success in painting directly related to his observed drawings, which took into account and respected his own distinct hand. Try as he might to get away from that pesky line - be it in reed pen carved himself in a root cellar during his days as a lay pastor, or the finest pigment from Amsterdam sent along by Theo - it was his and he OWNED it. His colour and form were built up like needlepoint or tapestry, line-by-line – thread-by-thread.

Kurt Schwitters and many others from the Bauhaus movement in pre-war Germany also influenced my work.  Anni Albers' development of a language of material, that could create intellectual dialogue in a rug. The sense of material without prejudice is something that is intrinsically important to the work I do now. The hierarchy of materials and the successful understanding and specific use of each material "voice", I want to push off from that point, question material value.

I saw an exhibition in Montreal in the early 90's about the 1920's in Europe and they had partially reconstructed a replica of Schwitters' "Merzbau", which was his apartment in Waldenhaussenstrasse 5, Hannover, Germany (since destroyed by bombs...thanks World War II). He found bits of wood from which he constructed a rabbit-warren art-installation of sorts.  I had read about it in books and seen photos, but being in that even reconstructed space had a profound effect on me. I have a long history of theatre involvement, but at that moment, the theatre set evolved into a living art object sculpture worth of intellectual inquiry for me. Schwitters' principle of "openness towards everything" hit home.

Lastly, Maud Lewis, a folk painter from Digby, Nova Scotia. Life gave her lemons and she made a lemonade stand. Her paintings attest to the indomitable human spirit and our unlimited capacity to create beauty.

 

Apple Island, tiled digital printout and hockey gear on plywood, 96" x 96", 2006.

 

What specific contemporary artists have influenced your work? 

I really owe a big hug of awesome to British Columbian artist, Brian Jungen and his work with Nike Air sneakers remade into Haida masks.  My work is often compared to his, which I take as a serious complement. Our approach is very different though - he uses high-end fetish objects, the Nike shoes, which he gleans from E-Bay and other "specialty-collector's" places.  I use the garbage I find in hockey arena garbage cans and from my friends' basements and hockey bags. I do all my work by hand; staple, cut and screw down everything myself.

I have an exhibition coming up with P. Roch Smith, who re-purposes hockey stuff in a way completely different from what I do - he creates implements of work out of them.

 

Barilko: Lost and Found, installation at the Gladstone Hotel, September 2010, 80" x 200" x 8", 2010.

 

What other fibre artists are you interested in?

My friend and studio mate - Keith Bentley has some interesting work. He made this sculpture over about 10 years where he individually knotted 1.8 million horsehairs onto a life-sized horse mannequin. We all said he couldn't finish it. It ended up in the exhibition "Dead or Alive" at the Museum of Art and Design in New York City and in the pages of the New Yorker. (This piece that Liz refers to was exhibited as part of the Common Thread 2009 and displayed at the b42 gallery in Oakville – see previous festival artwork)

 

Ericsson, MB, recycled hockey gear, 12" x 24", 2010.

Liz Pead's studio in Toronto.

 

Tell us about your studio and how you work:

When it comes to the major hockey pieces, I start with the idea of where and why.  The next one is of Tom Thomson's canoe on Canoe Lake where he drowned.  Executing this in hockey gear for an exhibition where it will be shown with Barilko: Lost and Found, might raise a few questions.

How I work - well, with two small kids, I am a 9-5 kind of artist right now. I am lucky enough to have a studio in the Queen West neighbourhood (in Toronto) where I go everyday. But that is a little piece of what I do in the arts.  I read as much as I can, as I have said before, I practice hockey and yoga. I draw a lot too.  I look at everything I am able to and try to give it some thought.

 

Tree Family Installation, Dec 2008, MacLaren Art Centre,  dimensions variable, 2007-2008.

 

What role do you think fibre art plays in contemporary art?

I sort of 'bristle' as the label of fibre art as defining anything other than a medium choice. The ART vs. CRAFT fight is over for me. Is a pickled shark by Damian Hirst REALLY worth more than one of my grandmother's knitted Afghans?

As a conscious choice, I think fibre denotes a strong commitment to technique and design of an art object.  If there is something technical to think about rather than the bare image devoid of anything but the time to cogitate it. I find myself spending more intellectual time with it.  Now this is just me - but when I sense that the artist has respected my time in looking, enough to invest their time in making - it adds a richness to the experience.

 

 

Maple LEAF Tree, recycled hockey sticks and hockey cards on wooden armature, height is 14 feet tall, 2008.

Maple LEAF Tree (detail #1), recycled hockey sticks and hockey cards on wooden armature, height is 14 feet tall, 2008.

Maple LEAF Tree (detail #2), recycled hockey sticks and hockey cards on wooden armature, height is 14 feet tall, 2008.

 

Where do you imagine your work in five years? 

Through hockey, I am exploring Iceland later this year, and would really like to explore some Scandinavian countries for the richness of their material textile history.  Still loving that historical irony of the Group of Seven going to the Albright Knox in Buffalo, seeing Scandinavian depictions of their own Northern landscapes and then setting out to find Canada's own 'national landscape' in painting.  I would love to have a conversation in art between our two nationalities in art about our 'national landscape self-image'.

So in no particular order, The Hockey Hall of Fame, The National Gallery of Canada and somewhere in Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland or any other place they make art, textiles and play hockey. And, every corner of this amazing country we call home. WINNIPEG, I'M ON MY WAY!!!!

 

Rusagonis, NB, recycled hockey gear on board, 12" x 12" x 3", 2011.

Rusagonis NB, detail shot, 2011.

 

What interests you about the World of Threads Festival?

A confluence of textile ideas! Though there are a few exhibitions dedicated to critical textiles in the city - my work is often too large for consideration. A festival will expand the dialogue over an entire city.  

 

 

Brandon Triptych, hockey gear on board, each panel 16" x 20" (20" x 48" total), 2010.

 

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you or your art, which has not yet been covered?

It seems I haven't really got away from my theatre roots.  The wonders of YouTube and some great friends helped me to make a couple of these pieces into longer digital art pieces. I have a channel on YouTube. The latest is Canoe Lake, with more bubbling up to the surface all the time...

 

Barrie Shelter, hockey gear on board, 16" x 20", 2011.

 

 

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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.

 

Red Spruce, recycled hockey gear on board, 14" x 28", 2011.