Because we are a Canadian-run publication and we admire those who continue to work with the arguably dated medium of paint, in the arguably dismal landscape of the Canadian art-world, we have decided to do a week-long feature on some of our favorite current Canadian painters, in no particular order. Stay tuned this week to see who we believe to be among the greatest established and emerging painters the Great White North has to offer!
Nadia Gohar’s vivid painting and sculptural work focuses on her attachment to objects–objects she owns; objects she’s seen; objects that she can’t be sure she’s seen, but that linger in her imagination nonetheless. A natural forager, she is an expert at amassing things that act as considered inspiration: trinkets from Chinatown, fruit wrappers, houseplants. Raised in Cairo but currently based in Toronto, her colourful but soft aesthetic often reflects her surroundings while encapsulating her nostalgia for the past and her entire history. Nothing is forgotten. All has meaning. The green sandal on her studio floor remains forever treasured through its depiction, just above, oil paint on a piece of unstretched canvas. – Jessica Carroll
Where did you grow up? What was the landscape like?
I was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt. Cairo is an excitingly dense and chaotic city, but it’s also easy to escape that. You can drive in any direction for a couple hours and be completely surrounded by sand. I remember seeing and stepping on moss for the first time in New Hampshire about six years ago and thinking it was the most foreign thing I’d ever encountered. I grew up with a really muted colour palette. As a kid, I use to wish it would just rain or flood so hard that all the dust and sand would wash away. Of course now I miss that caked-on dryness. I find myself nostalgically standing in front of Chinatown displays in Toronto when you can just tell the displayed luggage and clothing has been soaking in the sun since the store first opened.
Do you think being Canadian has had any impact on your work?
Technically, I’m not Canadian…yet. I moved to Canada about three years ago and my citizenship is still processing. I think any change of surroundings impacts me/my work.
What is your favourite medium to work with?
Painting, whether it’s oil or acrylic, has always been my go-to, but I try to break away from that. Last year, I stopped painting for a while and began making sculptures instead. They basically were my paintings, just in another form. The medium I choose to work with is more of a vehicle, secondary to the subject. I find that my best work happens when I’m working with new mediums.
What themes do you work with, if any?
Right now I’m making a lot of still life work. I’m interested in the way paintings of still forms define our cultural assumptions. And how that affects the way we see subjects like food, landscape, women, dignitaries, and mythology. That being said, my work is constantly changing. I get sick of looking at things I’ve made after a while. Like I might read this interview again next year and hate everything I’ve said. Regardless of how drastically my work and ideas change though, some themes stick, like cultural identity and the concept of “home.”
Are you inspired by any Canadian painters?
Jillian Kay Ross and Chris Speck.
Is there any one painter who has influenced your work more than others?
I can’t really say I’m influenced by just painters, or that one artist has influenced me more than others. I like Betty Woodman, Torey Thornton, Andre Breton’s drawings from his book Nadja as well as his writing, Eddie Martinez, Henry Taylor, Abdel Hadi El Gazzar, Tony Matteli, and Bill Traylor.
Are you drawn to any particular historical art movement?
No, not really.
Do you consider your work to be political?
I grew up in a heavily politicized environment. My dad worked in television news and broadcasting/media. There was never a minute where the news broadcast was not on in our house. He even slept with the radio on all night so he wouldn’t miss a thing. I knew from an early age the importance of being “in the know” and forming opinions on current affairs. My family and I moved to Canada shortly after the Egyptian revolution, and a lot of my ideas/work stem from that longing to be home again. It’s not always evident in my work, but I would say the political events that lead me to where I am now affect my work.
What do you think is missing from the Canadian art scene?
So much of the work I’m seeing in galleries right now is too sterile. My friend Kristie Muller put it well the other day, saying people are too afraid to be vulnerable. That being said, I am excited to see new project-based initiatives and galleries like Karl Projects, The Loon, Post Order Projects, Roberta Pelan, and AC Repair Co. pop up in the last year or so.
© 2019 The Editorial Magazine