I’m currently working from a studio in Berlin, but have had a 400 sq/foot studio in Vancouver, Canada for the last 5 years. That studio is in an old warehouse known as Parker Street studios that looks like a giant shack from the outside. On the inside, the building is organized and well run. It houses four floors of artists, wood workers, designers- likely more than I even know about. Freight trains run outside my window, and twice I’ve left the window open only to find a bird flapping around the room when I returned.
Originally from Montreal, Fiona Ackerman studied art at Concordia University before receiving a BFA from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver. Recent solo exhibitions include ‘Celebratory Gunfire’ at Herringer Kiss Gallery in Calgary (2011) and ‘Heterotopia’ at Winsor Gallery in Vancouver (2012). Her current solo exhibition ‘Expeditions Through The Mirror‘ is with Galerie Steinrötter in Münster, Germany and runs until January 2013. Fiona is currently shares her time between Berlin and Vancouver.
FIONA ACKERMAN: That largely depends on what I’m working on. My abstract paintings always start with no plan, on a blank canvas laying on the floor. However, the most recent paintings based on my own, and other artists studio spaces start with a photo taking session that I later use as references for the paintings. These paintings begin with much more of a plan. Either way, it’s a process of painting, then looking, then painting, then looking… over and over and over…
FYD: What is your favorite sentimental object at your workspace and why?
FA: I don’t really have sentimental objects in my studio. Actually, my studio is not really a comfortable place. I don’t go there to read or relax. I go there to paint. Sometimes I make a mental note to soften it up a bit when someone comes to visit and I realize I only have one chair and one coffee cup between us. I feel at home and happy there because I know that in my studio it’s okay to do nothing but work. That said, I had an old paint can lying around my studio that I ended up painting into my paintings five times. After looking and painting that yellow can over and over, I felt really attached. In fact, we put it on the floor in the middle of the gallery for my last exhibition in Vancouver. I feel pretty sentimental toward that thing.
I reinvent their space by making it my own.
FYD: What is your favorite or most required work tool?
FA: Over the course of making a series of paintings, I get really attached to 4 or 5 paintbrushes. They’re not necessarily expensive (I buy many of my brushes at the dollar store). I get to know a few so intimately that they almost become extensions of my hands. After the gallery had picked up all the work for my last show, I laid out the little favored brushes, and whispered ‘thank you!’.
FYD: What prompted you to experiment with studio paintings? Is it a window into a window of work?
FA: I was working on a series where I was making little compositions of papers stuck to my studio wall, and then making paintings of them. It didn’t take long of course before bits and pieces of the paintings and clutter lying around the studio found their way into the new paintings as well. The next thing I knew I was arranging whole areas of my studio, and painting those. Eventually, the studio became the subject.
FYD: Talk about your Expeditions Through The Mirror. What is behind a mirror — a reflection of your work or watching the work come in to fruition?
FA: I consider this show ‘chapter two’ in a series of paintings where I am exploring the concept of heterotopic space, put forth by French philosopher Michael Foucault and how this idea relates to painting. For my subject, I’ve chosen the artist studio, both my own and other artists’. Part of this process is visiting artists’ studios and doing paintings based on what I have found. Foucault uses the mirror as an example of a heterotopia. Very simplified, it is a place that reflects someplace real, but at the same time inverts it, or shows it in a completely other way. The results of my ‘expeditions’ into these studios are the paintings. But the paintings do not just mirror the creative environments I saw, they become heterotopias. I reinvent their space by making it my own.
FYD: Often, as viewers, we take in the art but don’t take in the fact the artist was surrounded by their own inspirations and their own walls. What do you love about inspiration inside your studio?
FA: What is most inspiring about my studio, or any studio I have had is that it is a dedicated space for working, and I don’t do anything else there. As soon as I step through the door, my mind turns to painting. Every-day life is so chaotic and it’s extremely important to work from a place where I can really focus.
It’s also important to me that the space not be precious in any way…
FYD: What is important about the space you create in?
FA: A good studio should have adequate light and at least one wall that you can stand far away from. It’s also important to me that space not be precious in any way (I hate having to worry about spilling on the floor) and that I have privacy. Any more is much appreciated gravy.