Graham Krenz is a sculpture and mixed media artist who has shown across Canada, now living and working in Montréal, Quebec. He received his degree in Drawing from the Alberta College of Art + Design, where he was the recipient of an Alberta Foundation for the Arts project grant for his graduation piece, titled “A History of Nature”, which was constructed in partnership with his friend and collaborator Meredith Angus. He has since maintained studios in Toronto, where he showed installation and site-specific work at large events while continuing to develop his small-scale work.
How would you describe your own personal style?
The aesthetic I try to maintain throughout my work is a sort of monochrome patina. I want the forms and shapes to be the draw, with an emphasis on my choice of material. I think there are ways to use color I am beginning to explore with some upcoming pieces, but with this series, the focus was allowing the imagery to blend from a distance in the same way a city does. I’ll often age the wood with bleaching chemicals, or simply rub parts of the wood with brass or steel rods to get a dirty oxidized look as well. I want my work to feel lived in.
Are there particular individuals who have encouraged / inspired you along the way, friends, family, teachers, maybe even other artists?
I’ve been fortunate over the years to be surrounded by supportive people, whether during my schooling or on car rides with my parents as a child. They encouraged curiosity and knowledge of the places we lived or travelled through, and without that upbringing I don’t believe I would be making the work I do now. I have spent many hours of my life hearing my parents point out and discuss parts of our hometown, how it was built, why it was built, what it meant to them. That will always be the most valuable influence I have.
When it comes to creating your work, do you have a preferred medium, certain types of brushes or tools you love to use?
Wood will always be what draws me back. I was raised in a home with a woodshop, and a family who was constantly building, but as an adult I have developed my own relationship with the medium that bridges my interests of urban planning and natural/national resources. The wood I use is almost exclusively construction lumber, and exclusively from my home country of Canada. I want my work to be tied to place, and informed by where I have called home for all of my life. I don’t have much room for the decorative woods imported from exotic islands, from trees that are probably extinct by the time the shipment arrives at my doorstep. Most of my tools are refurbished antique planes, or chisels I've received as gifts from family or past employers. I almost always avoid power-tools, I find them noisy and impersonal.
If you could travel back in time, is there a particular artistic period / era that you would like to have been involved in?
There is a long list of them. I would have loved to have been a student at Frank Lloyd Wright’s school in Scottsdale while he was alive. There was a group of artists used during WW2 to construct and build fake airfields and military bases, and another group who designed “dazzle” camouflage during WW1 which I would encourage everyone reading to look up. I think most of all I would want to go back and work with Japanese woodcut artists during the golden era of that medium, or with the oldest continually operating company on earth, Kabushiki Gaisha Kongō Gumi, who built many of Japan’s important temples. I think a mega-conglomerate bought them out recently, but they had a good 1400 year stretch.
What challenges do you feel the 21st century artist has to overcome?
Longevity. So much work is over-exposed, used up, and pushed too hard until we all become sick of it. I understand that becoming a victim of your own success comes with the benefit of, well, success, but I still think it’s something to consider if you find yourself at the top some day. I also think it’s becoming harder and harder to find studio space in major cities as gentrification takes over more and more places. There are some people doing fantastic work to preserve these spaces, such as Akin Collective in Toronto, a group that is responsible for a great deal of the infrastructure that has made Toronto’s art scene so vibrant over the last decade. There are many others, like Walnut Collective that deserve a lot of credit for community engagement, but I’ll leave it at those two since I was fortunate enough to have studio space in each.
What advice would you give to a young aspiring artist currently studying art?
Don’t try to make work that you think you should make. I’ve fallen for this many times, where I’ve seen what I think is going to be a trend and tailored my work to fit. It doesn’t work, you will never make better work than what you actually want to make. There are billions of people on this planet, many of whom enjoy buying or owning art. You will find your audience, you don’t have to be jealous of someone else’s. On a more personal and practical note, get a first aid kid for your studio, you have no idea how many times I’ve had to sacrifice a T-shirt for a bandage because of my poor chisel-sharpening skills.
When is your next exhibition? Is it a solo or group exhibition? Could you tell us a little about the exhibition, when and where it is?
I just finished a group exhibition as one of the regional finalists of the Bombay Sapphire Artisan series here in Montreal. It was a fantastic show, there was a lot of great art and artists that I was honored to show with.
To view Graham's full collection - The Online Art Gallery of Graham Krenz