Danielle: Hi everybody, we’ve got a video call going with Sharon Barr who has 4 paintings in our current collection, Abstraction, and we having the chance to talk with her via video. I’m sitting in my living room, Sharon is in her living room and we’re going to chat a little bit. Thanks for doing this with us, Sharon!
Sharon: Oh I’m so glad to. It’s nice to see you Danielle even though you’re far away.
Danielle: So you’re kind of used to working from home. You have your studio and home together on one property.
Sharon: I do, so that part of the new situation is very familiar. My studio is in the back of my house in an old 1920’s garage that we tore down about 6 years ago and built a nice big studio for me although I seem to be filling it up and it’s getting smaller and smaller because I do like to paint big. But it’s a great space and I’m actually thinking I’ll use this time to tidy up because it’s a bit of a mess.
Danielle: It’s funny because you’ve got some big paintings behind you and when we were getting ready for the exhibition too you sent me a picture of artwork in your dining room. I mean, however much space we give ourselves to work it kind of tends to spread outwards.
Sharon: Yeah, my husband calls it studio A and studio B.
Danielle: Studio A and studio B, exactly! We wish you well getting your studio all organized during this bit of downtime that we’ve got.
Sharon: It’s great that the community of artists online is really supportive and fabulous. So I’m really lucky to have a lot of positive artists supporting me and I hope I can do the same for them.
Danielle: Yes it is, it’s a nice community and we’re fortunate that we have these ways that we can connect with each other and support each other, you know, from a distance right now.
Sharon: Absolutely, it’s so true.
Danielle: For our show that you’re work is a part of right now, the theme was “Abstraction”. And we brought in a couple of different artists that were really approaching abstraction in different ways. And I would say your work is really near complete abstraction. There’s not recognizable imagery, it’s all about painting and texture and pattern and colour and all of those elements. So what is it that really drew you to abstract painting.
Sharon: Well you know, it’s been a long journey. I remember in my teens I used to draw very realistic things and my sister and I used to go to the museum, the Royal Ontario Museum, and draw the preserved animals.
Danielle: Oh really!
Sharon: And my parents were always very supportive of that and I got a lot of positive reinforcement every time I did something like that. I painted people for a long time, people on the streets of Toronto a lot, and none of them sold it was tricky. And although I loved them I think maybe I sold a few of those and I ended up donating them to a shelter downtown. And I don’t know, one day I was kind of walking in these gardens near our house and there was this magnolia bush. And I thought, you know, I could paint that in an abstract way. And I think that’s when there was a paradigm shift and my work moved slowly into abstraction from there.
Danielle: When was it that you saw that magnolia bush that kind of got you painting abstract?
Sharon: It’s got to be at least 15 years ago I think.
Danielle: So a long time. And you’ve said to us before that something that you like about abstraction is that it kind of exists outside of pursuing perfection necessarily but it is still very beautiful. What things about it are imperfect and yet beautiful to you?
Sharon: Well, I think if you look at my work up close, and in fact sometimes I do too, well all the time I do. I don’t think it’s meant to be looked at too closely. It’s more a collective whole of how things move around the canvas. It’s not pretty when you come at it very close. I find…. I have to take a step back and how it works together in the whole. And that’s when I can leave a work, if I feel things are moving around in a beautiful but slightly ugly way.
Danielle: I think for me, what I see in your work is when you get up close… What I like about abstract or painterly work is it offers something different from a distance and up close. So when you’re at a distance like you say you see the whole, you know the colours that you’ve brought together all the movement and energy in the piece. And then when you get up close it’s texture, and you can see the bristles of the brush and these weird little spots of colour that you didn’t see before so it kind of two really different things, one from a distance and one up close.
Sharon: Yes it’s very painterly and I admire artists that work in a painterly way. I’m gradually moving away from using a brush and using different way to get that paint on that canvas that are mysterious. And so moving away from the artist’s marks I think is important for me now. I don’t want somebody to step up to my work and go, oh she used a brush for all of that or oh I can see how she did that! I think for me, when I see work and I go how did that artist do that, that’s when I want to stay with that work for a while. And I want people to look at my work and meditate for a time in front of them. Because we’re way too busy, we need to be forced, interesting time - we are being forced, to slow down and I think that’s the work of museums and artists is to force the collective whole to stop and take a deep breath.
Danielle: Wow well said. I think your work definitely offers that. And its interesting that you say you’re taking this technique of using unconventional ways of applying paint so that people are forced to pause even more right. They stop and they think, how did that all come together? What exactly am I seeing here?
Sharon: Right, true art lovers will do that. I always know if I’m going to be friends with a person if they come into my life and they will look at artwork for a time. I find that really interactive with another person, if they really want to spend time in front of a painting.
Danielle: For sure, I love that. Actually one of the things I’m being grateful for this week while we’re working from home is spending time with the work that’s in my own collection. Setting my work station up next to a new piece and really spending some time with it. Because you see new things all the time, right? Depending on the day it gives you something new.
Sharon: And it’s really important, I think in this time especially, that artists support artists. I have a collection of a lot of work from a variety of artists who I love. And I’ve used the money that I’ve made to some extent from sales to boost other people’s sales and my walls are pretty filled with art! I’m lucky that way.
Danielle: Yes, me as well. It’s nice to be able to support each other right now and I’m enjoying all the conversations that we’re having. I get to talk with you and talk with other artists this week as well. Is there anyone you’d like to see us interview this week or talk to on our roster of artists?
Sharon: Oh my gosh, well you know I’m a super-fan of Donna Andreychuk so I’d have to say she’d be the one on my list.
Danielle: Okay we will put her on the list for sure!
Sharon: Also I haven’t met Jill Price but I really like her work too.
Danielle: Jill Price did you say?
Sharon: Jill Price. I really like her work as well. You’ve got some amazing artists. I’m going to use this time to get more familiar with all of them.
Danielle: Thanks Sharon. So we did put up on our Instagram before we did this video call, to see if anyone had any questions to share with you. The one we did get was a business related question just asking at this time do you have any galleries that are open to the public?
Sharon: So I love the galleries that carry my work, they are very wise. They closed their doors which is the appropriate response and they’re selling online. Both In2Art and Canvas Gallery in Toronto - amazing people to work with at both - and they can actually put a painting you love into your room through a virtual experience for you so can choose to buy it if you think it fits. So I guess we’re moving to online purchases of art and I think it's very convenient. I certainly use Amazon quite a bit for art books!
Danielle: That’s quite the stack of art books you’ve got there!
Sharon: So yeah, for paintings it’s a great idea.
Danielle: Yes, so that same thing goes for Westland Gallery. We’ve got four of your paintings available and they’re still available online. We’re still her everyday ready to talk with people. You mentioned briefly the service of being able to, you know, virtually edit a painting onto the wall of your home. We are happy to do that there are a lot of ways that we can interact with customers at Westland Gallery. We’re closed to the public but we’re still here and still available and happy to facilitate these online sales and shipping and all of that. And one little bonus for you, the wall that your artwork is on in the gallery is very visible from the street. So for anyone watching who is a Londoner, take a wander by the gallery and use those big beautiful windows that we have at the front of the gallery and take a look at Sharon’s work. ‘
Sharon: Okay so that’s great. Instead of pressing their nose up to my paintings they can press it up to your windows.
Danielle: Yeah that sounds good! Thanks for talking with me today Sharon.
Sharon: Thank you Danielle and thanks to Al and Karen for all you do at Westland Gallery.
Danielle: Thanks for sharing your beautiful work with us and your time.
Sharon: Okay take care.
Danielle: Take care.