I met with Saskia van Kampen by the Henry Moore sculpture at the AGO before settling in her office for our interview. A first surprise; I hadn’t known that Saskia was a design instructor at OCAD University. Saskia is currently getting pieces ready for SHED: Patterns of lives a show that will be opening at Graven Feather July 7th and running until July 30th. This will be her second solo show at Graven Feather after Mending, which ran in 2015.
** Image taken from Saskia's website.
I chatted with Saskia and here is what she had to say:
Alexis: Where are you typically going to look for source material for your work? (Do you typically go)
Saskia: I collect paper things everywhere including fortunes from cookies and old TTC transfers. I have found old telegrams and marriage certificates at the antique book and paper show. I have found correspondence, paper dolls and food stamps at The Gadabout on Queen Street east. And I have kept my father’s immigration papers, passports, and resumes and my mother’s sewing patterns and journals. I also have lots of old magazines. What I like to do is take the messaging and imagery that’s found in all of these disparate pieces and put them together so that the meaning shifts—so it can be twisted and you can read more into them.
A: I have found that a lot of artists have private collections of things that they are fascinated by. Besides old images and paper, is there anything else that you collect?
S: I am fascinated by skeletons and I have quite a few at home. It is funny, I have a friend who works with me on screen printing. She has keys to my house. One day she popped by with her little boy to pick something up when I was not at home. She let hime sit in the living room while she collected what she needed. He got really freaked out because of the art in my house. He was sitting there amongst skeletons and “creepy” paintings. * Laughs *
I have a deer skull and some antlers and lots of weird oddities. I also like collecting samples of typography because I am fascinated with letterforms. I also have a lot of vintage playboys from my last series (Mending), that I am continuing to work on.
A: For your last show you were working with quilting and hand embroidery, for this show what format are you working with?
S: For this show coming up I am working in several different ways. I am doing collages in the more traditional fashion where items are pasted down with glue, but I am also working on collages that are sewn together. These pieces are very lacey, and really, really delicate — they flow, they move, and they cast really gorgeous shadows. I am also doing some large-scale pieces, which is new for me. I have started scanning interesting paper scraps and blowing them up really big so that the mass-produced printing technique of using patterns of CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) to build colour becomes very apparent.
A: You started as a graphic designer, how would say that this compares to working on your own collage pieces?
S: This has been a real struggle for me, I went back to school to get my masters and I was working with materiality, with sewing and more “craft” techniques of making. I have always separated graphic design from art, and by working through my master’s thesis I began to gel these two worlds. I don’t have a complete understanding of how these worlds can integrate, which is what my work is helping me discover.
A: How do you know or decide that a piece or a body of work is finished?
S: This is a great question as just a few days ago my mom was in town and I was showing her my pieces that were being worked on for SHED and she said they looked finished. But no they were not done, but they look done, but they were not done. So how do you know? Collage is really tricky because if you don’t control it, or if you overwork it, it can get very messy. Collage needs to somehow tie itself all together through line, through colour, through imagery or they can look very spotty. To me a collage is finished when the spots are no longer seen as spots and has become a unified piece. And yes, sometimes you over work a piece and you have to find out how to fix it, if you can fix it. Also, timelines—art is one of those things where you can just keep going and going and going. Eventually you have to stop. * Laughs * Yeah, the nice thing about collage is that if you don’t like something you just cover it up!
A: What can we expect to see in SHED: patterns of lives, what is the show about?
S: For this show I am commenting more on the experiences that we have in our lives and how we have to let go of things in order to move forward. So things are ripped, torn, and dismantled, yet they are still holding on, clinging, and making up the fabric of who we are.