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David Hucal

The RBC Canadian Painting Competition interview series

Painting by David Hucal
Painting and photography courtesy of David HucalUntitled, oil on canvas (91 x 89 centimetres).

David Hucal lives in Hamilton, Ontario. He majored in painting during his BFA at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. He is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Guelph.

Why did you choose painting as a medium?

Painting has the ability to confound us as viewers. It is a confounding medium; it can be elusive and slippery, hard to pin down and unpredictable. For me as a viewer and maker of paintings, traditional oil paint on canvas remains interesting.

Whose work interests you?

Michael Conrads in Germany, and Sam Windett and Gabriel Hartley in Britain, who incorporate figuration, abstraction, and representation in interesting ways. They border on the quotidian but are still very inventive in the way they use imagery.

What about work outside of visual art?

I read a lot of fiction. It’s a wonderful way to view the world. Fiction is an escape from what I do. But in a roundabout way, it’s also connected to what I’m doing as an artist—creating an account that’s half true.

What are you reading right now?

Slaughterhouse Five. Someone left it in the studio at school. I put it in my satchel, and I’ve been reading it on the bus.

Does theory inform your work?

I’m interested in writers like W.J.T. Mitchell. He wrote a great essay on intimacy and abstraction. But theory is useful on the periphery of my practice. It operates as something that can be incorporated into the work, but not at the centre of it.

Are there any recurring narratives or obsessions in your paintings?

Photograph courtesy of David HucalThe artist’s studio.

Centric forms continually crop up in my work. Often, figurative elements come in. Awkwardness comes through, and that increases the impact of the visual imagery—when you look at an awkward image, you become more aware that you’re looking at something.

Why awkwardness?

It happens naturally. I’m a somewhat awkward person, so it’s truthful to who I am.

Tell us about your piece in the RBC Canadian Painting Competition.

It’s an abstract painting. I was working with observation as a beginning point for paintings. I was studying objects in my studio, and then elaborating on those observations.

What are your ideal working conditions?

Good light, a combination of natural and artificial, and a good eight hours so I can muck around for seven of them and accomplish something in the final one. I like to have images surrounding me. I spend a great amount of time just looking and thinking in the studio. It functions as a contemplative and productive space.

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

It says a lot about painting, and not just within Canada: that there isn’t any one conversation or direction within painting; that there is now interest in understanding what the artist is attempting.

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


Chris Berube is the host of The Walrus Podcast.