Q&A with Canadian Artist Pax North
In preparation for his first solo show, Canadian artist Pax North has shared a few insights of his creative process and his career as an artist. We at Hayo are excited to present this show together with SAD Mag and curated by Shallom Johnson. Read more about it here and RSVP here.
How long have you been working on this and why did you decide to launch a show now?
My whole life really. About 20 years seriously. It just feels like the right time. I wanted to get my work to the point where I had explored all these different aspects of it, and gotten them to the point where I was comfortable that they might be able to stand the test of time. These works are but one aspect of a larger practice, and I wanted confidence in all of them before I started to seriously present them. I just see that some artist’s get ‘success’ really young, and the problem becomes that they end up churning out this kind of derivate product.
I also feel on a certain level that with Harper gone there is a kind of new energy in Canada, and I felt it was time for me to finally release these new imaginings of the Canadian experience.
How do you know when is a good time to introduce yourself to society?
I’ve suffered from PTSD my whole life, undiagnosed until a few years ago, and with this comes a certain desire to hide oneself away, and a great deal of shame about oneself, and as an artist, then, about one’s work. At least work which feels as personal in its style as this. I’ve been getting help with it, and working on it, and felt there was no point in waiting any longer. Also, Shallom has been amazing in guiding this work and show. I could not have remotely done it without her.
What can attendees expect from this show?
They can expect to see work that has been created in crucibles of literally decades of practice, training, thought, feeling, madness, healing, and wonder. This is not a work of ironic hipster distance or some academic exercise where people get to pat themselves on the back for recognizing some stylistic or art history reference (although the work is full of hopefully fully processed examples of those). This is work for people who think, but also feel and see. There are some jokes of course too.
They can also, I think, expect to meet some amazing people.
And what are you expecting from the attendees?
I’m not sure if I have any expectations. This feels like a first date. I’m hoping that some of the attendees are filled with a sense of wonder, beauty, sorrow, and possibly even the sublime. It would also be wonderful if some of them made the works a permanent part of their lives.
Are you influenced by any particular artist or art movement?
Almost too many to list. In no particular order, Expressionism, Neo-Expressionism, Medieval iconography and illuminated manuscripts, Soon Dynasty ink paintings, West Coast First Nations art, and so many others. Hundreds of artists really. I feel like I’ve forgotten half of my references at his point.
Portraits are definitely a recurring subject, why is that an important part of your work?
I think the face is the truest document of a soul’s journey through this life. So many of our most meaningful moments are looking at a face. Wedding vows, holding a first child, watching a political acceptance speech, having a job or loan or contract awarded, telling someone that you love them, watching a loved one die. All of the human drama is encompassed in a face.
You also have a specific style and color theory. Tell us a bit about your process and how you developed your style.
The larger and smaller works are made differently.
I’ll search out hundreds of images on the internet around one topic, and go through my store of people and faces I’ve taken photos of. When I’ve found the ones I want, I draw from those. For larger works, this sometimes making dozens of drawings, first to capture a ‘realistic’ image, and then to move from there.
At this point, I’m not even sure if I could articulate the processes that are going through my mind. It’s like I’m seeing dozens and even hundreds of combinations and possibilities, and then selecting a path through them, which, of course, leads to other choices. It feels maybe like playing hundreds of very high-speed chess games, all the while sometimes experiencing some very powerful emotions and their connection to different ideas, and historic person’s and events.
In terms of developing the style. Well. Thousands and thousands of awful drawings. Hundreds of terrible paintings. Studying both art history, and the world, especially people. I’m told I can be somewhat intense at times, as I find people at times to be quite miraculous. I mean, each person really is a whole secret universe behind those eyes, and that amazes me. But I’m also aware of how much pain people often have hidden inside, and I also strive to see that too. People seem to often feel comforted by me listening to them. I think they know that because I’m pretty open about being a little (or a lot) nuts, they feel safe to tell me about their own craziness and pain and story. Which of course everyone has unless they are at some kind of Buddha-like level.
Now that you are introducing yourself publicly, what’s next in your career as an artist?
Ha. I’d actually like to develop my writing to the same level of completion I feel from my painting.
But in terms of painting, I’m not sure. I’d like to introduce it to a much greater number of people that it can serve. I’d like to start doing more shows, and introducing other aspects of my work, although my sense is that, like so many Vancouver artists, the greatest appreciation for it will lie in Europe and the US. I’m technically hoping I’m wrong. Regardless, there are many people here who love it, and I hope it will find it’s way into other hearts.