Studio Visits: Syphon 3.4


Aida Sulcs, studio visit on March 21, 2017

In order to provide an opportunity to learn more about artists in Kingston and the surrounding region, we will now include a new Studio Visits column in each issue of Syphon. This section will serve as a space for dialogue and exchange, where a local artist will open up their studio to a writer to reflect on what the artist is currently working on, what is motivating them, and what projects or exhibitions they may have coming up! We are pleased to have Aida Sulcs, a local artist and member of Modern Fuel since its inception as the Kingston Artists' Association Inc. in 1977, host us for the inaugural studio visit.

Aida Sulcs' studio

I am always struck by the colours when I am invited into Aida’s home. This applies as well to her home studio, occupying a central space in her basement. Colour is a significant component of Aida’s work; it compliments her interest in material and form. It conveys a meaning and expression that she is not interested in pinning down. Rather than seeking resolution, she expresses a desire to appreciate her presence in a space—whether a physical or mental space—and values the ephemerality that this presence can entail.

While she works in a range of media, from drawing and drypoint to painting and performance, much of her work defies easy categorization; it is for this reason that her exhibition at the Verb Gallery (April 15 to May 14, 2017) is titled “drawing”—written with quotation marks around “drawing.” The quotation marks are significant. Combining a mix of mark making that is both additive and subtractive, her recent works do not remain in the conventional parametres of drawing media and techniques. The erasure is particularly striking, where graphite would begin to blend and smear, resulting in an almost painterly effect. This subtly pushes back against the age old questions of where drawing ends and painting begins, with her removal of material disrupting graphite’s typical texture.

Aida Sulcs' studio             Aida Sulcs' studio

As Aida served us mint tea, we discussed the artists that have inspired her lately. She spoke of Hajra Waheed, whose work she came across in Waheed’s recent Sobey Art Award exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada, where Waheed’s balance between loose mark making and more controlled, angular forms re-energized Aida’s love of this kind of disruption. Meryl McMaster, an Ottawa-based artist who similarly uses colour to convey a range of cultural and personal references, has further motivated Aida, where McMaster’s work resonates with aesthetic interests that Aida has been exploring for years. I too was struck by the resonance between their practices, where the physical body seems to serve as a stand-in for the mental or emotional body.

A less expected point of reference, however, was Aida’s work with children. She is continually motivated by the creative ways that they approach mark making, where they are not weighed down by art historical references or pictographic traditions, nor by  concerns for likeness and so-called ‘accuracy of representation.’ The drive to resolve works within this logic is absent. While Aida’s efforts to problematize this logic find inspiration in their approach, it is situated within her own highly developed technique and formal understanding; but don’t tell Aida I wrote that, as she would be far too humble to let this go to print.  

—Michael DiRisio


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