22 March 2011

Patrick Howlett


Can you briefly describe what you do?

I make paintings that I hope are novel in some way. I like the transformative nature of making a painting, and I am conscious of that idea when creating an image. I mostly make watercolours and temperas but I also experiment with gesso and stain on plywood.

What drives you to make work?

I would say it is a combination of the experience of seeing other painting and the experience of making work myself. Both are very rewarding activities for the most part. I get a lot out of looking at other art, but then I get something different from working in the studio - it generates new ideas and approaches that I would not have had otherwise. Surely there are other things too, some deeper, some more shallow. 

Can you tell me something of your day-to-day working practices?

Day to day can really vary. It depends on what else I am doing, deadlines or lack thereof. I make my own gesso and egg tempera paint. The process can be a lot of labour and so I break it up into stages. I might be preparing a group of panels for a month or I might be working on a group of paintings or I might be reading and working on the computer. I like to be trying different things at the same time and generally I really like to sit with work for a while. I feel more than ever the need for a studio routine that can fend off other demands. If I am away from the studio for too long I can get a little lost, but on the other hand it can also help to have new approaches, because you sort of forget where you were.

How long have you been working in that way?

The last five years. It probably changed after I taught full-time for a few years. On the other hand, it's probably more similar to how I've always worked than it is different.

Which artists have had the greatest affect on your work?

This is actually a really hard question. Early on some painters that really interested me would have been Paul Klee, David Milne, Georgio Morandi, Philip Guston. More recently, what I was doing led me to look at particular artists such as Jean & Sophie Tauber-Arp, the Vorticists, Arthur Dove, Lawren Harris, Bertram Brooker, and Joseph and Annie Albers. In thinking about series of works and processes I have looked a lot at Sol Lewitt, Blinky Palermo, Robert Mangold, and Richard Tuttle.      

What, outside visual art, informs your practice?

Literature, philosophy and writing in general are important for me. They have suggested a lot of content, and influence ways that I approach making the work. For recent work I have been reading Henri Bergson. Music is really important too, for thinking through visual problems I often think of music - mostly because I really like working with it and it is almost always on. I was really into dance, but I haven't seen much of late. The internet and photoshop have also played a part. Oh, and cooking too.

How would you like people to engage with your work?

It don't really have an interest in prescribing how people should be looking. It is just nice if they take the time to look. I definitely appreciate that. I hope people can enjoy painting in way similar to how they might listen to music.

Have you seen anything recently that has made an impression?

I have seen a couple of Robert Mangold exhibits that really made me think about his work more: work from the mid-80's and more recent stuff.  I've run into a few Lara Owens paintings that were really charismatic. Also, a couple of shows by Amy Sillman that I keep thinking about. Last time I was in Berlin I was blown away by the hanging of two Chardin's on either side of a Watteau at the Gemäldegalerie. The Brice Marden retrospective a few years ago really surprised me and left an impression. There was a Thomas Nozkowski show last year at the National Gallery of Canada that was really great to see.

Do you have anything exciting on the horizon?

The horizon is exciting. 

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