One to Watch

Erin Armstrong

Erin Armstrong is an emerging artist who lives and works in Toronto, Canada. After graduating from Dalhousie University in 2012 with a BA, she went on to enroll in the continuing studies program at OCAD University in order to pursue a career as an artist. Her figurative paintings are created using quick pencil and charcoal markings atop acrylic paints. Although her subjects can be found in everyday places and situations, there is nonetheless a distinct quality of otherworldliness due to her use of expressionistic colors. Erin does not necessarily recreate reality, but rather attempts to evoke a specific feeling or atmosphere that may transport the viewer into a state of personal contemplation. Her work can be found in both private and public collections in the USA, UK, and Canada. She is currently represented by galleries in Toronto and NYC.

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?
I’ve always been intrigued by the dichotomy between a perceived reality versus a hidden one. My work and the themes within it are an attempt to explore this dynamic. I create narratives using the human form in situations that may superficially appear mundane and benign. However, if I achieve my goal, they subtly suggest a reality that’s much more complex. The eccentricities, secrets, and oddities that people carry with them everyday are the themes I try to unveil with each subject I create. I find very compelling the  human obsession with projecting perfection while protecting their hidden lives. This is an important source of inspiration for my work.

I tend to mix organic elements of nature (trees, water, plants)  within self- contained man-made environments (rooms, pools, etc.) to hint at the juxtaposition between life as nature intended it to be and life as man has created it. I usually go into the studio with a theme or an idea in mind, but I don’t put restrictions on what the final product must look like. My work is stream of consciousness, therefore the end result is quite often far removed from where I initially started.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
You are here to make art, so put the brush to the canvas, enjoy it, and let everyone else worry about the rest.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?
I have a pretty eclectic assortment of music on rotation in the studio going almost 100% of the time. I’ve been listening to a lot of Motown, Soul and Rockabilly lately; Wanda Jackson, Otis Redding and The Temptations are some of my favourites. I feel that music can really have an influence on how a painting comes together in the end for me. When I need to sit back and problem-solve on a piece that isn’t working, I’ll turn the music off and just sit in silence for a while.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
Egon Schiele is one of my all time favorites, and his Self Portrait as St. Sebastian would be a nice piece to have hanging in the house. I’d also be pretty happy with anything by Elizabeth Peyton, George Condo, or Francis Bacon.

Who are your favorite writers?
Elizabeth Kelly (Apologize, Apologize!).