A Week of Canadian Painting: Rachelle Sawatsky

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!

Roulette, 2016, Oil and flashe on canvas 51.5 x 103 inches

Here we share work from Los Angeles-based, British Columbia-raised artist Rachelle Sawatsky. These paintings are taken from her show “Reincarnation Clash” which was recently up at China Art Objects in L.A. There is a youthful intensity and energy to Rachelle’s work, realized both as more traditional paintings on stretched canvas, and as asterik-shaped ceramic pieces. These ceramic works are given a visceral textural complexity through a mix of screen-printer’s ink, ceramic glaze and watercolour paint. Her other paintings are messy and folkloric, very human and yet possessing an undeniably mythical, other-worldly quality. Manticore’s sludge home in the sunset, a burning plane indexes its bizarre collection of passengers, a snake and a lion roll dice in a tiled, tropical room.  A poem is included in the show, giving insight into the psychic landscape from which Sawatsky was working. Lightly alluding to some of the painted subjects while half-asking profound questions about life and narrative form, the poem pairs well with the ancient innocence of her paintings. – Olivia Whittick
“Love Loving Lobe” 2014, chalk paster on newsprint, 20 x 24 inches
“Heartbreak Confusion Disaster” 2014, chalk paster on newsprint, 20 x 24 inches

Where did you grow up? What was the landscape like?
I grew up in Ladner. It’s a suburb of Vancouver that was a fishing and farming community before it was a suburb. I spent a lot of summers on the Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast. I remember mountains on one side and the ocean on the other side. I live in L.A. now and it’s the same.

Do you think being Canadian has had any impact on your work?
I didn’t see a lot of art in person until I went to Europe when I was 17. I just looked at pictures of art in books. I think this informed some of my earlier work. I never expected to make money as an artist in Canada so I always felt like I should take risks with my work.

What is your favourite medium to work with?
Chalk pastel on paper, also oil painting.

What themes do you work with, if any?
Animal, emotional life, vegetative life.

Are you inspired by any Canadian painters?
Yes, mostly by friends…Tiziana La Melia, Elizabeth McIntosh, Mina Totino.


“Romance” 2016 oil and flashe on canvas, 52 x 58 inches 


The Animal Lover’s Guide to Tragedy/The Emotional Person’s Guide to Plot, 2016, Oil and flashe on canvas, 51.5 x 58 inches


Untitled, 2015, watercolor and glaze on ceramic, 12 x 11 x 2.25 inches


Untitled, 2015, watercolor and glaze on ceramic, 20 x 21 x 2.25 inches

Is there any one painter who has influenced your work more than others?
Not particularly.

Are you drawn to any particular historical art movement?
I feel a lot of affinities with feminist artists, artists that have curative, experimental/other purposes than making art for art. Individual careers are more interesting to me than historical movements.

Do you consider your work to be political?

What do you think is missing from the Canadian art scene?
I think there are a lot of art scenes in Canada. I’ve spent most of my time in Vancouver and don’t feel like I know the art scenes very well in other cities.