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Colin Muir Dorward

The RBC Canadian Painting Competition interview series

Painting by Colin Muir DorwardPainting and photography courtesy of Colin Muir DorwardGrievance Calculator, oil on canvas (180 x 163 centimetres).

Colin Muir Dorward is an Ottawa-based artist; he was born in Edmonton in 1979. He holds a BFA from Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and is currently an MFA student at the University of Ottawa.

Why did you choose painting as your medium?

Painting offers a chance for a slow-burning career. Many painters do their best work late in life, and that seems like a nice carrot at the end of a stick to chase after. I’m better at endurance-based activities, and painting is a bit like that.

What are the recurring themes in your work?

The work I’m doing now is similar to what I was doing badly during my undergrad, which is trying to tell life stories. Then, I was attempting the biggest stories, like love and death, but I stopped because I was terrible. Recently I’ve been doing that again, but focusing on smaller, more mundane stories—simple ideas like getting hungry, or wanting to go for a run, or the frustration of not doing something properly. You can’t necessarily see that articulated in the picture, but it comes through in the work’s sensibility.

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

Maybe we don’t have to reference the Group of Seven any more, or address what they’ve done. I think that Canadian painting has always been a lot about the land, and now some very good art comes out of approaching the land in different ways.

Photograph courtesy of Colin Muir DorwardThe artist in his studio.

Who or what are your influences?

Harold Klunder opened up a lot of possibilities for me, a lot of things I didn’t realize one could do with paint. Music is also an influence for me. I try to cultivate a certain aesthetic in different pictures by listening to different kinds of music. It affects me the same way the colour of light affects me. I can see it.

Does theory inform your work?

Theory is something that happens beside my painting. It’s a buddy that my painting can hang out with. It’s something I can read when things aren’t going well.

What do you like about being an artist in Ottawa?

It’s a small community with a lot of serious artists. That’s a nice change from Montreal, which is full of young artists, many of whom are not serious, right? That’s good for getting energy and ideas, but here I take comfort in being around artists who have been painting for longer than I have been alive. It makes being an artist seem like a realistic goal, compared to Montreal where it felt more like a fantasy.

Does Canadian art have a distinctive an outlook or a feeling?

Canadian art is too big to package up into dominant flavours. I think Canada’s a great place to be because there are no overbearing forces indicating how or what people should be painting.

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