Terroir Q&A Series: Susan Tooke
On Sunday, November 27 at 2:30 pm, Tooke will join artists, Wayne Boucher and Janice Leonard for an artist's talk at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax so be sure to mark this event in your calendars! Terroir: a Nova Scotia survey is on view until January 15, 2017. The accompanying exhibition publication will be available at our Gallery Shop in December 2016.
What is your connection to Nova Scotia, and why were you inspired to submit a work for this exhibition?
I moved to Nova Scotia in 1981, and have lived here ever since. In some ways, it reminded me of where I grew up—East Coast. I lived for one year in Ontario, long enough to know that I identify with the Atlantic Ocean, and view the world from that perspective. Nova Scotia has what I want—Halifax, a conveniently sized city, wilderness nearby, and, of course, the Atlantic. The subject of my work has always been about the province, whether it was in exploring the stories of its people, or now, Nova Scotia’s environment and the challenges faced in a time of dwindling resources and environmental shift.
Can you tell us a little about your work that is on view?
Fundy Tidal was inspired by the action of the swash zone of the Bay of Fundy and the debris that is left behind, removed, replaced and reconfigured in the constant rhythm of the tides. I am interested in reflecting on the animation of these elements, and the evidence of the movement recorded in the sand as these materials, both organic and man-made create a dance along the shoreline.
Installation view of work by Christopher Webb (left) and Susan Tooke (right) in the exhibition Terroir: a Nova Scotia Survey.
Your work is on view along with 28 other artists. How do you see your work within the context of this group exhibition?
Many of the works in Terroir reflect the environmental crisis that is facing the world today. It is beyond all else, the most important threat to the earth and human kind as we know it. It is a crisis of our making, and to what degree if any it can be resolved is still unknown.
What are you working on in now, or planning for the near future?
I am working on a piece entitled Wildeornes, documenting through video, photography and audio field recordings, the transition of the environment from the steps of City Hall to the interior of wilderness. This documentation will be the inspiration for a series of 24 paintings with accompanying audio that will ask the viewer to consider the relationship between how we preserve, value and define ‘wild spaces’.
How has your artistic process developed over time? What informs your practice?
Initially, my work was focused on painting from my own experiences in a realistic style. Subject matter was in social context: social realism, crowd scenes, portraits, the influence and evidence of humanity in nature. This led to a decade of creating art for visual story telling in children’s literature. Notably, all of these books were based on stories from Atlantic Canada, and included Up Home (S.Grant/S.Tooke), Lasso the Wind: Aurélia’s Verses and Other Poems ( G.E.Clarke/S.Tooke), and A Fiddle For Angus (B.Wilson/S.Tooke). At the same time, I was collaborating with choreographer/dancer Véronique MacKenzie on performance based work involving digital imaging and projections. I continue this work in the collaborative team of Motion Activated, (Lukas Pearse, Véronique MacKenzie, Susan Tooke), working with video, audio, and animation for installation and performance-based artwork. In 2010, I turned away from realism in my painting to explore environmental issues surrounding the preservation of wilderness.
I am currently working on groundscapes and accompanying audio field recordings. My work has been included in several Nocturnes, including 2016, with the Beacon project Wild at Heart, a collaboration with Lukas Pearse and Daniel O’Neill, projecting video and rotoscoped animation with audio based on the wilderness areas in HRM on City Hall.
When you’re not working, what are activities/interests that inspire your practice?
I am an avid hiker, taking the opportunity to get out into our ‘natural’ environment whenever possible. Working with my husband, artist Richard Rudnicki, our backyard has evolved into a garden sanctuary. Inspired by my grandmother, I am hooking rugs.
In support of the cultural community, I am the national president of Canadian Artists’ Representation/Le Front des artistes canadiens, the national voice of professional artists working for artists’ economic and moral rights. I serve on the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council, an advisory body to the provincial government on arts policy.
Susan Tooke, Fundy Tidal, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 121.92 x 182.88 cm. Courtesy of the artist.