Studio Visit

As artists and friends, we spend a lot of time talking about and making recommendations to each other in terms of artists, gallery and museum shows, tv shows, movies, music, podcasts, blogs, social media, articles, politics, etc. After exchanging recent studio visits, we thought it would be fun to have a visual response and make "mood boards" for each other, like the kind you'd find on a design blog, only tailored to our studio practices.  - Saira McLaren and Janine Polak

Janine Polak

Saira's Mood Board Based on Janine's Work

Janine's Work

Saira on Janine's Work, Captions for Mood Board

1. Lucio Fontana – Janine's work shares the language of Lucio Fontana: the beautiful seductive surfaces, the poignant simplicity that references the body. Like Fontana, Janine's work is quiet in its sexual references, which makes it all the more powerful and resonating.

2. Jerry Seinfeld – There is an underlying comedic element in Janine's work, an observational humour based on mundane human interactions. For example, the “close talker” or “pat hugger”, someone who hugs you with back pats rather than an embrace.  Polak's work illuminates those uncomfortable social moments that  came of age in the '90s with the growing popularity of Larry David's Seinfeld show .

3. Laura Owens – I thought about Owens’s soft sculpture in relation to Janine's work. It is funny, uncanny, seductive, and repulsive at the same time. Like Owens, Janine also manages that beautiful balance between them. I think they share the quality of a found object. Their work seems so effortless and natural.

4. Rosemarie Trockel – I love her work and am always mentioning her to Janine, and she always responds, “yes of course I know her work and you have mentioned her like 100 times!” But seriously, she is a queen. I think they both use subtle disruption of beautiful surfaces and breaks in the fabric in really powerful ways. The tear in this work and the faint smear of grease or a pucker is evocative in both of their work.

5. Camel toe cup – What is there to say about a plastic vagina with a camel toe? Look at Janine's doesn't take long to see the funny sexual references.

6. Persona, Ingmar Bergman – Janine's work always reminds me of his films, specifically his most famous, Persona. The stark B&W cinematography, the relationship between the two women, and their physical resemblance to one another, it is uncanny,  It is not a specific relationship to Janine's work but somehow I am reminded of that film, and Bergman's exploration of relationships reminds me of Janine's work.

7. Maurice (stand-in) – Maurice the magnificent. Monsieur Maurice is one spectacular cat. Janine has a live/work space, and therefore her cat is always in the studio, working with her and is present at studio visits. Though he is not specifically part of her work, he is so wonderful, he had to be part of this board.

8. Wild horses of Assateague – This, like the camel toe cup is seemingly a wild card. However Janine's work is so evocative of the beach. She grew up in Virginia Beach and her undergraduate work was made using images and objects found at the beach.

9. Elizabethan Ruff – Janine works with fabric manipulation and I was thinking about the fabric sculptures and kept coming back to the Ruff. It was such an odd expression in fashion. It must have been so uncomfortable for the wearer, however I can't think of more enjoyable piece of neck gear for a viewer to experience. There is something so naughty and vaginal in the folds, yet they are such an austere expression of Tudor England.

10. AMSR Video clip/Jewelry Haul | Autonomous sensory meridian response – “(ASMR)  is usually precipitated by stimuli referred to as 'triggers'. ASMR triggers, which are most commonly acoustic and visual, may be encountered through the interpersonal interactions of daily life. Additionally, ASMR is often triggered by exposure to specific audio and video. Such media may be especially made with the specific purpose of triggering ASMR, or originally created for other purposes and later discovered to be effective as a trigger of the experience.” (Wikipedia) Triggers include: listening to a softly spoken or whispering voice, listening to quiet, repetitive sounds resulting from someone engaging in a mundane task such as turning the pages of a book, or watching somebody attentively execute a mundane task such as folding towels

11. Bill Walton – His work also dealt with the fetishizing of mundane task and everyday objects, like folded towels. Walton, like Polak, is able to create a poetry out of an intimate relationship between objects.

12. Marie Kondo/ KonMari – In the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo instructs the reader on the art of organizing. In the later advanced stages Kondo lays out how to fold your clothes according to type. Janine using this method of folding in her sock sculptures. I think this fetish folding has a direct relation to ASMR.

13. Nike of Samothrace – I am always reminded of this sculpture when I look at her work. The movement and folds of the fabric, soft and hard at the same time. A lot of Janine's work is like a moment frozen in time. A moment like brushing a strangers shoulder when you are exiting a crowded train.

14. Ana Mendieta – I don't think there is a woman artist working today who has not been influenced by Ana Mendieta. The rawness achieved by using her body as the medium. Her vulnerability is her strength. It is telling that making work about the body, as a woman, is still political in 2016. Folds, mounds, roundness and sharp angles could be confrontational and uncomfortable for the viewer. The subtle confrontation Janine is so beautifully and poetically able to confront her audience with. 

Saira McLaren

Janine's Mood Board Based on Saira's Work

Saira's Work

Janine on Saira's Work, Captions for Mood Board

1. The very first thing I notice about Saira McLaren’s work is the color. It is rich and saturated, and looks to me like sun-bleached tie-dye, weathered or aged CMYK (minus the K), and soaked or stained into raw canvas.

2. Saira’s marks have always reminded me of graffiti, particularly the kind that is found high up on buildings, the result of fire extinguishers turned into paint cans. The impulsive, immediate, and intuitive mark contains an immediacy that is deeply gratifying.

3. The marks and gestures in her work are also reminiscent of Charles Burchfield, with his swirling, twisted, and peaking landscapes.

4. Much like Georgia O’Keefe, Saira distills abstractions from the natural world, all the while maintaining a purposeful and watchful feminine eye.

5.  Although Saira has returned to working with oil paint for the past few months, the majority of her recent paintings are made by dyeing their surfaces. Although the paintings appear to have been made quickly, the process is slow, as she soaks the canvas and partially dries it before each and every layer is added via staining, spilling, pouring, and painting. They are evocative of the translucency and saturation of Morris Louis’s paintings.

6.  It was Helen Frankenthaler who inspired Morris Louis to make his stain paintings, with her own work of diluted pigment flooding the canvas.

7.  Saira’s use of negative space and abstracted environments also bring to mind the work of fellow Canadian painter David Milne.

8.  Saira spends most of her time on a beautiful property in upstate New York in the Western Catskills. She has spoken of the clarity she has when she is there. I have visited and can attest to the beauty, space, and openness of the place. Working in this environment has changed her approach to landscape. She is constantly outside working on the property, and most of her recent work is made by looking out her studio window onto this vista of rich vegetation and clear sky.

9.  Atmosphere comes to mind when thinking about Saira’s work. Her translucent layers elicit a breathiness and her forms are cloud-like, both in weight and in terms of their ability to shape-shift, conjuring near recognitions to the material world.

10.  There is an ever-present comic gesture in Saira’s work. Although serious and deliberate, her work is decidedly joyful. Although they are still paintings, there is movement reminiscent of early animation, like that of Stan Brakhage, or even Disney’s Fanstasia.

11. & 12. As much as Saira and I talk about art and artists when we get together, we spend a lot of time discussing television. We are both solid fans of good tv. As the good British Canadian she is, she introduced me to the Great British Bake Off. The luscious visuals of their cakes, biscuits, tarts, pies, and pastries remain sophisticated and reserved, despite the technical challenge. The Baked Alaska (11) and meringues (12) pictured here remind me of Burchfield’s brush strokes, defy gravity, have the same weightlessness as Saira’s compositions, and the rocky surfaces bring to mind her craggy ceramic sculptures.