How Canadian artist Kathy Ager finds a balance between art and commerce

Kathy Ager’s list of collaborations includes Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren and the upcoming Real Skateboards.Kathy Agger/Handout

At first glance, Kathy Ager’s colorful paintings might be confused with 17th-century Baroque still lifes. A closer look reveals modern objects—Air Jordan sneakers, Supreme baseball bats, discarded Budweiser cans. It is this incongruous juxtaposition that has brought Agger, 41, into the international spotlight. The Vancouver-based artist honed her craft for nearly a decade in Amsterdam, collaborating with brands including Nike and Polo Ralph Lauren, while her striking work graces gallery walls from Los Angeles to Honolulu . We caught up with Ager to chat about sneaker design, her big breakthrough and what’s next for the emerging talent.

You were a successful graphic designer before turning to painting full-time. How did that come about?

I paint in my spare time – weekends and evenings. I went to design school in Vancouver and the curriculum also includes illustration. We learned a lot of classic techniques – acrylic, watercolor, oil painting. I drew a few pictures at school. Then, while living in Amsterdam, I got sick and needed to entertain myself because I was stuck at home recuperating. Feeling very alone and isolated. One day I drew a still life based on a photograph I saw. I love how it tells a story with objects. So I set out to build my own still lifes using items I found around my house. Not long after, my big break came: I was picked up by a major gallery in Los Angeles (Think Space Gallery).

Hunt, Ms. Agger.Kathy Agger/Handout

I think that’s a dream come true.

I remember exactly where I was when it happened. I just visited a friend in Lisbon and was sitting on a bench waiting for the bus. I glanced at my phone and wondered, “Why am I getting all these followers all of a sudden?” I only had 200 or 300 followers at the time, and I added thousands within a few hours. I follow a bunch of art and design blogs, many of which welcome contributions.I only did five or six drawings at the time, but I submitted them to a project called woo woo woo, who posted them on Instagram. This is where all the followers come from. Then I saw a message from Thinkspace Gallery asking if I would like to work with them. I thought, ‘Are you kidding me? That’s my main goal, my ultimate goal.

What was it like to open that DM?

It makes me anxious. This is what I wanted, but then I thought, ‘Okay, now I really have to make it. ’ I went back to Amsterdam and was terrified for a few weeks. I remember going to a friend’s house and lying on her couch, wrapped in a blanket, like a walrus on the beach.

What makes your paintings stand out is that they are clearly inspired by the Baroque style, yet you combine animal carcasses and still lifes with pop culture elements, such as the Nike logo or Tyler, the Creator album. How did you come up with this concept?

My drawings represent different people in my life, whether it’s a book that reminds me of them or the shoes they wear. It is for this reason that I included a pair of Nike sneakers in one of my paintings and the response was incredible. Also, when you look at these paintings from the 1600s, there are things that we would call antiques, but they were very modern things at the time. In 500 years, these Nike shoes will be considered obsolete.

However, sneakers are all the rage right now. What is it about sneaker design that attracts you?

I have always loved sneakers. My friends would make fun of me for looking at a person’s shoes before looking at their face – it tells me a lot about a person. I take care of my shoes in the same way. Nike really got me. I’ll wear other brands like Adidas and New Balance, but the graphics and colors of Nike have something for me. Believe it or not, I don’t have many; I get satisfaction from drawing them. My favorites are my Nike Dunks; they’re simple, but they have these amazing graphic elements.

I Hope Your Flowers Bloom, by Ms Agger.Kathy Agger/Handout

It must be exciting to work with Nike.

Yes! They reach out to me through Instagram. I created a drawing and they printed it on a sweatshirt. This happens during the first few years of being a full-time painter. It’s crazy.

Your paintings have a dramatic feel to them, with lots of dark colors and shadows, often in their natural form. Why does nature play such an important role in your work? How does it complement the brand expression?

Life is stressful. So I try to create images that are emotional and dramatic but also a little distorted.There’s a painting of a marble bust of a man in a balaclava – it feels dangerous – and then the title [The Look Of Love] Flip the narrative. In this sense, my paintings are very personal. They’re capturing slices of my life, but I’m trying to somehow create a message in the bottle. People can interpret them all they want, but I want them to have an emotional response; that’s why I love combining these natural, beautiful floral and fruit elements with design objects like sneakers and beer cans. They mean something completely different to me than they do to other people, and I love that.

Can you tell me a little bit about your process?

Sometimes I have an idea in my head and I look for a specific object to paint. I was looking for some kind of coyote when I got my mom’s call.She goes out for a walk every day with my aunt and she says, ‘Kathy, we got it [dead] Coyote, let me send you a picture. My uncle came by in his red pickup truck and threw the coyote in and put it in the shade (I remember it was during a summer heat wave). I came over with the gloves on and asked my mom to hold it in the position I wanted and I took some pictures. Then I buried it. If my uncle saw any dead bodies around the property, he would actually report it. So do friends. A man was working on a mural in an apartment block when a goldfinch hit the window and fell to the ground. She sent me a message: “Do you want this?” I would draw with it and put it back in my freezer. People know I’m watching.

What are you going to do next?

I have some skateboards launching with a big brand called Real Skateboards and they’re going to be showing some of my drawings on their pro skateboards – some of them are huge!I also have a group show coming up in January called 100 Amigos with 100 locals [Vancouver] Artists are invited to create a 12×12 inch piece of art. It is curated by Douglas Coupland, Drew Young and Pablo Zamudio. I have to say, it’s great to finally feel part of the local scene.

Source link

Leave a Comment