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Andrea Kastner

The RBC Canadian Painting Competition interview series

DemolitionPaintings courtesy of Andrea KastnerDemolition, oil on canvas (183 x 152 centimetres).

Andrea Kastner lives in Edmonton. She received a BFA from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, and an MFA in painting from the University of Alberta.

Why did you make painting your chosen medium?

It’s the most magical, delicious medium I can find. I enjoy the process the whole way through, from the underpainting to the end.

Tell us about Demolition, the work selected for the RBC short list this year.

You see this building that was a business and also a home, which is being torn down. It was painted from a photo I took of my old neighbourhood in Montreal. Half of the building is gone, and you can see through it to the sky beyond, and into the different rooms and the staircases. It’s this surreal image, but it’s from everyday life. At the bottom of the painting is a pile of garbage from a garbage excavation series I did. It’s about how you can observe something you would never usually look at in your daily life and see the secrets people have hidden behind the facade of the way they live.

What do you think this year’s RBC Canadian Painting Competition short list says about where painting is in Canada right now?

I was overwhelmed at how good the other work was. I’m happy to live in a country where painting is so varied and where people get so good at it.

Whose works have challenged you?

Greg Curnoe’s. He did all of these detailed paintings of his bicycle and things that were in his drawer. He paid attention to the little things in daily life, and that feels like the sort of artist I am.

FloatFloat, oil on canvas (91 x 122 centimetres).
Urban GleanerUrban Gleaner, oil on canvas (152 x 244 centimetres).

Does theory inform your work?

I compartmentalize that analytical aspect from the painting. The painting is just its own thing.

What are your ideal working conditions?

My ideal space is a place I can bike to and see things that are inspiring on the way there. Then I can park my bike and see other people, but I can still have my own space. I’d have my radio on and people to talk to when I take a coffee break in the lounge.

Is there something one can point to that is distinctive about Canadian art—an outlook or a feeling (or a lack of one)?

Even if you’re in Edmonton, you can show in Hamilton, Ontario, or in St. John’s. So I’ve found that the best art scene is the one that is cross-pollinated from all of those different places. The thing I’ve noticed from the artists presented internationally is this really human scale of the work. I don’t find Canadian art macho or slick. I find it playful and individual and well crafted. It takes things from an angle you wouldn’t expect.

This interview has been condensed and edited for publication. See all fifteen finalists at TheWalrus.ca/cpc.