Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Interview with Leya Tess about ‘Ólafsfjörður Drawn’ by Sheila R. Alonzo


‘Geysers, volcanoes and portals into the centre of the earth’ were some exciting inspirations Leya Tess drew from when we talked about her current exhibition at the fifty fifty arts collective in Victoria, BC. For six weeks, Tess was tucked away at the Listhús Artist Residency program in a small fishing town connected by a tunnel in northern Iceland. Weathering arctic 1.6°C this spring, Tess watched the landscape turn from no plants to moss plants emerging out of the snow. Observations such as these informed her exploration on multiplicity and interconnection. As a result, she created an intuitive web, playfully drawing the eyes to bulbous shapes and sounds of her residency in the fjord documented in a 24ft scroll. ‘Ólafsfjörður Drawn’ exhibition runs until Sunday June 21st, 2015.


SA: What is it about the arctic island of Iceland that fascinates you? 
LT: I think something special happens to places that are surrounded by water, rather than artificial political borders. The physical isolation of an island can cultivate a certain type of introversion that seems to produce fantastic art. Artist centres can also be islands of sorts; safe havens of creativity/ dedication at their best - to self-absorbed old boyz clubs at their worst.
SA: When you arrived, was it what you expected it to be?
LT: Before the trip I had some romanticized ideas about Icelandic society, mostly informed by the following naive (but endearing) reasons: 1) My adoration of Bjork 2) Media hype over the country's constitutional reform 3) The looming danger of being surrounded by 30 active volcanoes. Upon arriving I realized that there were plenty of other twenty-something tourists smitten by identical ideals. 
SA: What were your first AND long lasting impressions? 
LT: It should've been obvious but throughout the residency I was amazed at how much deeper I could explore my drawing practice. Who would have thought: lonely days devoid of obligation & distraction = productivity!
SA: If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
LT: The next time I do another residency, I hope to be a little less self-absorbed and create work that directly engages with a host community.

SA: Does your dual nationality (Chinese and Swedish) inform a lot of your work?
LT: Yes. The complexity of being mixed race, Yin-yang dualities, perceived binaries of east & west, black & white, absence & presence are things I think about while I draw.
SA: You mentioned a strike during your residency. Did that impact you? LT: I spent two days on hold with Icelandair trying to rebook my return flight.
SA: When you returned to Canada, you drew ‘Siglufjordur,’ Egilstadir’ and ‘Myvatn’; what can you say about these smaller pieces in the exhibition.
LT: Those were really fun and liberating - I used some of the forms I learned on the scroll on a smaller scale.
SA: Is there any piece that is part of the exhibition that is not in the show?
LT: I accidentally left another unfinished, smaller scroll at the residency.
SA: Hugo Nebula was at your Opening Reception, what can you tell me about the band?
LT: Hugo Nebula is named after the Hugo and Nebula awards for science fiction. It’s mostly the spacey synthesized sounds of the talented Reuben Wier but sometimes I add in my experiments in video mixing projection imagery.

SA: Did you have a show while you were there? 
LT: Yes. I met a tombstone engraver who also makes impressive paintings.
SA: Any plans for your next exhibition?
LT: I’m working on an outdoor installation for the Campbell Bay Music Fest on June 19-20, 2015 on Mayne Island, BC.

Image 1 – Text: This spring, Leya hitchhiked across Iceland with an awkwardly large roll of paper. Eventually she found her way to the Listhús Artist Residency in the small fishing village of Ólafsfjörður. Tucked away in a snowy fjord she bathed in the luxurious privilege of an abundance of time, frozen foods and geothermal heat. Following a methodical routine, she filled the 24ft roll of paper with an intricate web of intuitive freehand drawing.
These monochromatic drawings swim out into the waters of multiplicity and cyclical movement. They are obsessive mark meditations that tap into the intertwined and mutually engaged undercurrents that are most often obscured by the daily drudgery of the standard western grind. -LT

Below Text: a cut-out sample of the palette.
Image 2 - Artist Leya Tess standing in front of the 24ft Ólafsfjörður Scroll
Image 3 - Framed drawings (L to R): Siglufjordur, Egilstadir and Myvatn

the fifty fifty arts collective is a non-profit artist-run centre that provides space for artists of all disciplines who have yet to be defined in the mainstream {intimate music, art and film programming}. Hours: Monday 1-6 / Wednesday 10-6/ Friday 10-330/ Sunday 9-12 Contact:

Photos: Sheila R. Alonzo
Iceland Map: Wikipedia

No comments:

Post a Comment