The RBC Canadian Painting Competition interview series
Painting and photography courtesy of Katie LyleWhite Night, oil on canvas (41 x 30 centimetres).
Katie Lyle lives in Vancouver. She received a BFA from Concordia University in Montreal, and an MFA from the University of Victoria.
Why did you choose painting as your medium?
There’s a real connection between your body and your hand and the paint. There’s an immediacy to painting—the connection between you and what you’re making—that appeals to me.
Describe your practice.
There’s this history of images that people have stockpiled. And so, as a representational painter, my greatest challenge and interest is to try to take all of those images, then filter and rework them.
Does theory inform your work?
For me, it’s just about knowing as much as I can about the conversations that have happened and the research that has been done, but at the same time separating myself from it and working with my own experiences.
What works outside of visual art have influenced you?
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of short stories by Alice Munro. Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye has these incredible descriptions of relationships between girls and between women and gets at what it means to grow up. Those are things I’m definitely thinking about.
Portrait of the artist’s studio.
What unifies your work, past and present? Are there any obsessions or themes that keep coming up?
I’m constantly working with the female figure. And maybe my obsession is with the eyes, nose, mouth, forehead, cheeks—the building blocks that make up a face. I’ve also always reworked paintings—wiped them off and started again, thinking I’m getting somewhere and then changing a painting entirely.
What’s the art scene like in Vancouver?
There’s a strong tradition of photography in Vancouver and that influences everything people are doing. The schools are really good and they’ve created an impressive community. I feel a little bit outside of that right now with the work that I’m making. There’s a lot of abstraction in Vancouver painting right now. I’m influenced by it, but I also push against it.
When do you work best?
I like to get up really early. There’s this idea that everyone is sleeping. It’s quiet and you can be on your own.
What are your ideal working conditions?
I’d like someone to make lunch. That would be wonderful. Other than that, I’m pretty content. I don’t think I need a perfect cabin in the woods to make work. I like the balance of being around other people in a building, but not having to walk around them constantly.
Much of art today is seen as a reproduction, either on a website or in a magazine. Does that affect the way you work?
It’s not a big concern for me. I’m making something in the studio and that’s all I can really think about. Worrying on another level about how people will see it is just too much.
What’s distinctive about Canadian art?
I wouldn’t say there’s one thing that makes work similar or one overarching theme. We aren’t hemmed in by any specific or long tradition. Canadians are doing a bit of everything.
This interview has been condensed and edited for publication. See all fifteen finalists at TheWalrus.ca/cpc.