Angie Quick is an artist and poet in London, Ontario who has been pushing boundaries of comfort levels for years with  work. Like a dream you try to recount, her work is disjointed — as if speaking it out loud pushes the feeling farther and farther away from your memory. It is visceral, dangerous, and lovely.

Her previous collection, Interiors, suggests romantic entanglements and the passion of being caught up in the moment of, well, sex. In vignettes of living room coitus and hard, meaty all-night pound sessions, her brush strokes are thick, laden with gobs of paint and smoothed out for the perfect blend of pinks, reds, browns, and black.

Her latest show, In the future we will all be astronauts and abortion will be universally legal, the work has taken on a sci-fi theme (unexpected to some but not uncharacteristic of Angie). The pieces are massive, as per usual, and at first glance I am reminded of The Raft of the Medusa, except imagine instead of a shipwreck, a mountain of body parts, piled to a peak without faces or discerning individuality.

Angie is hilarious with a wicked sense of humour, a dangerous sense of decorum and a super-fun drinking partner. I met Angie in late April at Chaucer’s over beer to talk about her work, her upcoming show, and everything in between.

a collection of paintings in Angie's studio
Work in progress in Angie’s studio – photo supplied by Angie

Angie Quick – Hey, how are you? How’s work going?

Pam Haasen – It’s ok. I had a great Friday though. Was working at the library all day. I love working at the library. It’s where I work when I need to get away from the office.

AQ – Yeah the library is nice. Are the stairs fixed?

PH – They’re fixed.

AQ – I hated last year when it was just an elevator.

PH – Yeah but now there’s no escalator.

AQ – I miss the escalator.

PH – Yeah, I was pissed! I saw they built stairs and I thought “what? You downgraded to stairs? I have to use my legs to get up there?” I don’t even go to the third floor anymore.

AQ – But the third floor is the best floor!

PH – I know, that’s why I always took the lovely escalator up there.

AQ – But then there’s always that man that sleeps and snores on the third floor.

PH – He’s on the second floor too just like me because neither he nor I are willing to make the concession for the stairs.

AQ – There’s something calming about his snoring…and the view of Dundas is pretty sweet from up there. They’re good people-watching windows. It’s why I can’t have a studio on the street, I would never get anything done. I would just look out the window trying to figure out which businesses are drug fronts.

Family Shame

PH – We can talk about your show though… But first, thanks for the invite to your after party!

AQ – You’re welcome. I was making a Facebook event for the after party for the show and I was picking an image for it, and I was like “I don’t have to invite all my siblings to this! They don’t have to know the weird shit I’m putting on Facebook.” (Angie is one of 4 girls in her family).

I do all this stuff and then I have these moments when I think “oh, my poor family”. 

But the thing is, I have to think that my impulse for art-making has to be more important than the shame my family will feel.

PH – Do you think they feel shame?

AQ – Not shame, but there’s an uncomfortableness. I come from a very open family but I think they’re uncomfortable because I’m their sister or daughter.

PH – In my family we just don’t talk about uncomfortable things. My family is very conservative.

AQ – We’re a very open family, but I think that my art is very much poking at certain kinds of things. My mom is very grateful that my new show doesn’t have any obvious sex in it. The first show I was planning on doing, I didn’t even think I wanted my niece and nephew to see it. I’m really proud of that work but I was thinking it didn’t feel as fresh as where my mind is going now.

a woman sits at a table in a white room
Angie upstairs at The ARTS Project in London, Ontario

Poetry, Parties, and Academia

PH – You’re a poet. That’s a scene I know very little about. What are the poets in town like?

AQ – They party. But with a line of seriousness. Within our city, our poets are very educated and they’re entertaining but everything is done with a line of seriousness. And they want to talk about theory and things.

I was asked to be on a panel which I love because I didn’t go to school for any of this, and it was me and these two other guys. And when we were going thorough the poems together, they know all the technical terms and would remark on how a poem was technically very good, but I would be like “yes, it’s done right but it feels like nothing. I feel nothing from it”. And how are you going to reward someone for doing nothing? Like, who cares? If there is nothing being communicated then I think there’s just too much of a disconnect.

To me, genuineness and honesty is the most important thing. But then how do you know if someone is being honest or genuine? It’s so subjective. I mean, I like to say I just can tell (laughs).

It’s the same within the arts, in the academic art world. I don’t know if someone is actually saying anything with their art or if they are just following a way of thinking that’s fashionable.

oil on canvas painting
Angie Quick, After the Funeral, oil on canvas, 84X96in., 2015

PH – What was your work like when you were 16?

AQ – It was very figurative, like I would get magazine pictures and paint these strange kind of colour palettes using the source images. Often they would be portraits.

One thing about my work is that someone knows it’s mine when they see it. But now I can’t get outside of myself, so the fact that that’s who I am is just my style. It’s who I am. When I look back onto my younger work I can see my style in there in the strokes, but it was being developed.

I know what I can paint now. And I feel confident to know how and what I can paint, so now I can explore past that. It’s not that I ever felt that I had something to prove, but as an artist, you can’t ignore the fact that you’re sitting on this heap of art history and when you’re younger you feel like you’re competing with it but now you feel entrenched in it and there’s a beauty in being able to have a dialogue with all of that.

PH – Knowing everything you know now, what would you go back and tell your 19 year old self?

AQ – I wouldn’t say anything to my younger self because I like where I am now and I think you have to make those mistakes to get to that place of being conformable with yourself. Including all the good decisions and strange decisions.

When I was 14 my older sister got pregnant and my idea of sexuality and romance shifted at that moment because there was real, living proof of what happens when you have sex. And when they were born, I helped raise them and when I was 16 I really started painting at that time. I got good grades in school and just kept to myself, my school work, and my painting.

PH – So were you one of those kids that would have had a crush on a boy and would obsess about it?

AQ – No, maybe I would have had a crush and I would have denied myself that crush.

PH – Were you catholic?

AQ – No, I was raised by atheists!

PH – That’s funny because that just seems like a typically catholic approach to handling urges. Sorry, I had to say “urges”.

AQ – I had two older sisters and they had boyfriends who would come to the house and I just looked at it and thought “I don’t want that” and so I denied any identification with that type of thinking.

Who knows, if someone great were to come along, I’m open to that possibility. But art — for me — is actually the only reason to be alive.

Being raised by atheists is great, there’s a lot of freedom of thinking, but I got jealous of this idea of faith. I can never have total faith in anything because I always have doubt, which I think is really important and I love that aspect of atheism. But now as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that my art is my faith. I give my whole self to that and I started to realize I have an extreme sense of purpose in life and I live every day with that sense of purpose. I realize that a lot of people don’t have that.

PH – You know I love your work, right? Those beautiful pinks and I think Interiors was a perfect name for that series.

I think the people that are attracted to your work are people that accept themselves as flawed but are more interested in the process of being human than just playing by the rules. Or something. I don’t know (laughs).

AQ – I can’t be anything outside of what I am and the art that I create. A lot of Interiors was the work I was going to show for the upcoming show and I just decided not to.

I was feeling pigeon-holed into being this very sexual person. I don’t feel any shame about that, but I felt like “ok, I can do this in a way that I want to”. So I turned it into this more sci-fi thing now.

Did you see the promo for my show? (Holds her shirt down for me to read).

PH – Yes I did! I like that your thing is wearing your show titles on your shirt. If I was a jock in a car and I saw you on the street, I’d yell “Show me your titles!”

a woman stands with her back to the camera with the words 'angie quick May 23-27' on the back of her shirt
Angie’s typical show promo

AQ – I feel like sometimes I need to put on the ‘artist persona’ and that’s what is weird to me. It feels like I’m performing sometimes. I do so many studio tours and I’ll have these kids coming in and I’m asked to describe my practice to them, so I do, but I never give them a prepared speech or artist statement.

Sometimes I am just thinking “don’t be inappropriate with these kids” (laughs). 

PH – I think you’re incredibly brave for putting brush to canvas every day and then showing it to the world.

AQ – I consider all the work I made before I was 25 as my schooling and I feel like I learned a bunch and now the work I’m creating, I can be proud of. You know?

It’s easier for me to be objective about my own work. I can look at something and say “ok, that’s good” and then look at other work and be like “ok, that’s shit. That can be burned” because it’s served it purpose.

Trial and error is how I’ve learned everything in my life. Everything.

I always say that entering the studio is a moment of crisis. You’re either brave enough to engage the canvas or you’re not.

I live for this moment of pure communication between me and the canvas where it’s complete ecstasy.

That doesn’t happen all the time, in fact, it happens very rarely but I live for that moment. So it’s about putting in the work to be available for that moment to happen.

So I treat my studio as a job. I go to the studio for about 7-10 hours a day and I do that 7 days a week. When I was younger I didn’t socialize at all. But now I really enjoy it because I feel like it’s important to socialize and meet people. Learning to relax makes me a better artist.

I still go to the library and take out books. The library is my happy place.

For more conversation like this (and all the super personal stuff I edited out), come to The ARTS Project on Saturday May 27th for a live interview with myself (Pamela Haasen) and Angie.

Angie’s show opens Tuesday May 23rd until Saturday the 27th at The ARTS Project.

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