Canadian artist Kim Dorland allows us to take a look into his studio as well as to understand and appreciate his artistic practice in a deeper manner by opening up to us so candidly in this interview. Known for his vivid paintings in which he depicts the landscapes of his surroundings, the Canadian forests; conveying to the viewer feelings of melancholy, unsettledness, nostalgia, i.a., we are very excited at NBB Gallery to be able to present on March 17th, 2022 the artists upcoming solo-show I Hold With Those Who Favor Fire. Through this interview the artist gives a glimpse inside his mind, the studio being a direct representation of them. In particular we are very excited to be able to view and present a peek of the pictorial program that awaits us mid-March.
How would you describe your relationship with the materials you use? Do you have key items or art materials that you always need to have close to hand?
I’m a hoarder. If I find a tube of color I like I just buy all of them because I hate to run out of materials halfway through a painting. I try to approach painting in an experimental manner meaning I try to let the materials interact with each other and tell part of the story of the painting. I don’t really have a color or paint that I’d call a staple because I’m always changing the approach to the work but whatever I’m using I need a lot of it. I guess I can’t live without neon pink and neon orange.
Do you have a daily working routine in terms of morning rituals or habits that contribute towards a productive day in the studio?
I work pretty much all day but in smaller chunks of time. I usually work on drawings in the morning and the evenings with a few hours in the middle of the day for painting. I find shorter bursts of time in the studio help me focus better. Coffee and ambient music in my headphones keep me going…
Can you tell us a bit more about the role music plays during your creation process?
I always listen to very loud music in my headphones while I work. For the last few years I’ve been listening more ambient music because it helps clear my head while I’m working. I can’t listen to podcasts or things like that because they are too active.
Your paintings make a strong impression on the viewer, not only because of the techniques applied and the color use but also because the figures depicted often evoke an ominous, unsettling feeling. Could you elaborate a bit on your color use in relation to the representation of your subjects?
Well, it’s my job to do as much as I can with paint to get the viewer to pay attention to my paintings and what they are trying to say or convey. Sometimes it’s narrative and other times it’s more of a tone or visual ambience that I’m trying to paint, like the unsettled feeling you mention. Color is another tool in the paintbox to add visual friction to the work. It’s also a great way to turn mundane settings into something more sinister or overwhelming
Your canvases are often a mix of heavy abstract impasto contrasted by some delicate passages. You have mentioned in previous interviews before that you tend to use different techniques and materials in order to achieve this thick impasto layers/areas. One could even claim that the works open the dialogue towards plasticity and sculptural art. What is your take in regard to this?
I love the tactility of oil paint and how thick passages slow the eye down and hold your attention. I also like to push the ticket with the materials I use to see what I can do with them and how they’ll interact with each other. Even though I’m often regarded as a ‘thick’ painter I find all of the techniques at my disposal equally interesting. I think my paintings would look boring if they were only thick. It’s the mix of several approaches to painting that (I hope!) makes them pack a visual punch.
Fire and flames seem to be reappearing themes within your recent artworks, seemingly referencing the wildfires in Canada. When did these events become a turning point regarding your artistic expression? Could your artworks be read as socially/politically committed?
The changing landscape and how to approach it has been a question in my mind and practice for a few years now. I don’t want my work to be overtly political or have the intention of being a call to arms. However, climate change is happening in real time and I don’t want to just paint pretty landscapes and ignore what is obvious either. I’m just painting the landscape as it is, and it is burning.
Can you highlight some of your influences and inspirations and discuss how they have made an impact on you and your work?
My work is heavily steeped in the tradition of Canadian Landscape Painting. There are historic artists in Canada who have been heroized for their depictions of landscapes, and the roots of that history are very hard to escape. But I have always had an eye looking outward as well. I’ve learned so much from so many different artists that it would be impossible to list them all, but they include Munch, Kirchner, Guston, and Daniel Richter. I’m most attracted to artists who take risks with their work. My favorite painter of all time is Tom Thomson (a Canadian).
Kim Dorland's I Hold With Those Who Favor Fire will be on display from March 17 - April 10, 2022 at NBB Gallery.
All photos: © Kim Dorland