Behind the Canvas this week we chat with Winnipeg born, Edmonton based artist, Riki Kuropatwa. Riki's approach to her work is unique while challenging traditional conventions and perceptions of common activities. From her series around food, to roller derby, to various abstractions her approach always leaves you with something to think about. We are proud at Art Perspective to be representing Riki's work, for additional information, to be included on the mailing list or to purchase a work, please contact us.
AP. Tell our readers a bit about you.
RK. I grew up in the north end of Winnipeg, on Bannerman, just off Main Street, close to the intersection made famous by Randy Bachman’s Prairie Town song (Portage and Main 50 Below). I am the sixth of seven children, which caused a lot of attention and speculation growing up. People would inquire as to whether we were strict Catholics (ironic as we are Jewish), or if my mom ran a daycare. My upbringing was a strange mix of leftist politics and traditional religion, that is, individual freedom and restriction. In public school, one student (per grade, or school I’m not sure) was selected to take Saturday art classes at the WAG (Winnipeg Art Gallery). I was selected, in my foggy memory I am not certain how many years I went, but the experience was significant and gave me a lot more exposure to art and art processes than what I was getting in school. I would never have been able to go due to financial constraints growing up, so it was very fortunate for me indeed. If I hadn’t already self-identified as an artist, I did during this time, and ever after.
AP. How would you describe the type of art you create?
RK. I am predominately a figurative, representational painter. I am equally interested in the visual and conceptual components of art. Beyond this, it is hard to select the right descriptive language that is both meaningful and non-restrictive.
AP. What project(s) are you working on currently?
RK. I am deep into my football series, moving away from the roller derby and doll imagery for the moment. Typically, I would have two bodies of work to move between, but I am finding the football series diverse enough to stay focused. Moving back and forth between acrylic on canvas, to oil stick on wood panel keeps things interesting. For several years I have noticed the highly charged images of football players as they tackle, pile up, and celebrate. Like with the Roller Derby images, I am attracted to the way the players look, in their padded uniforms, and most especially in action, and interaction with each other.
AP. Where can people find your art? How can they purchase a work?
RK. At the moment, you can see my work at https://rikikuropatwa.carbonmade.com/ and of course they can contact me through Art Perspective.
AP. Who is your favourite creative person? Why?
RK. Must choose Curtis Trent, my husband, obviously the closest creative person in my life. I admire his passion and work ethic. We have very different ways of working, but experience the same joys and pains that make up the art process.
AP. With your husband being a successful artist/photographer in his own right, is it difficult to be married to someone in a similar creative career?
RK. It is an advantage, and a blessing, in so many ways, that we are both in the arts. We share an understanding and shorthand. We can celebrate and commiserate the ups and downs of a creative life. We have very heated debates around colour and composition, and content, which from an outsider’s perspective must seem bizarre or comical. Also, practically speaking, it’s great having professional copy work at my fingertips.
AP. What is your favourite album of all time?
RK. Impossible question. I listen to music in very compartmentalised ways. I have specific music for working in the studio (Bob Marley, Jacob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Sade, Blue Rodeo, the Avett Brothers), which I use unless I am listening to talk radio (CBC).
AP. If you didn’t have to work what would you do with your time?
RK. Not much different, I am fortunate that I know what I love to do, and am able to do what I love to do. Financial freedom would enable more of the same.
AP. What is your favourite journey?
RK. Going down the hill, on my way to U of A, on a clear day. It offers a lovely view of downtown and the river valley. And then again, driving over the high level bridge, over the North Saskatchewan.
AP. What is your favourite piece that you've created?
RK. Usually the piece I am working on is my favourite, so right now that is the football tackles on black ground. When I look back at work I’ve made, where I’ve used different imagery, or different processes, it will become favoured for a time.
AP. What are your thoughts on the influence of fashion and music on visual arts?
RK. It’s all connected, you can see that historically, it can be harder to spot in real time. For all its challenges, I love the time we are living in, there is such a wide view of what is beautiful and interesting and valuable.
AP. Who is your favourite author?
RK. Instead of favourite, as it changes for me every few years, I can share the last few books I have enjoyed. The book I can’t get enough of is ‘ How to Fly a Horse’ by Kevin Ashton. It is non-fiction, and is dense with historical and scientific information; you couldn’t have paid me enough to read a book like this ten years ago, I was solely interested in fiction. Tastes change. The other two are “the Signature of all Things’ by Elizabeth Gilbert, and ‘Bossy Pants’ by Tina Fey.
AP. Where do you go for inspiration?
RK. Ideas come all the time, from both my interior world and my exterior environment. Instead of a sketchbook, I have a box of images, bits of paper with words, ideas, quotes, that feed the work. If I am in need of an idea, or motivation, sifting through the items to generate or recapture ideas/direction. Inspiration is mostly myth (one of many surrounding art, artists, and art making), doing the work, and doing it regularly is far more powerful, and where the real magic lies. Physical movement is essential to my ability to get into and stay in my studio. I will often exercise before, during, or after working, to clear my mind, get energy, and dispel anxiety. Changing my environment, whether that is going for a walk, to window shop, or watching television, they all feed my studio work, directly or indirectly. As a direct example, I recently took a couple photos of my television screen when having paused the show resulted in an incredible still image. These will probably make it into my studio box to use in some way.
AP. What is your greatest achievement so far?
RK. My daughter and my relationship with my husband are the two things I am most proud of, although I am do not think they are achievements. Also, being able to stand up in front of a class and speak continues to blow my mind, as I am an introvert, and experience social anxiety.
AP. What is your favourite colour?
RK. Impossible to select one favourite colour. I am attracted to different colours at different times, for different purposes. I certainly have a particular colour palette running through my work. New colours and colour combinations grab my attention all the time, from what I see around me, and in my environment, which includes in nature, on television, in fabric, and design/advertising. I recently saw the new Cinderella movie with my daughter, the colour combination that the town criers were wearing was exquisite, extreme lemon yellow with deep, dark, navy blue-purple, it will make an appearance, or in some way influence my colour choices. I can have intense reactions, of all sorts, from colour. It is no simple or passive thing.
AP. Who are some of the heroes in life?
RK. My mom is someone I admire very much. She is a force of nature. She had 7 kids over 9 years, worked full-time, and managed to do her undergraduate and graduate degrees. We finished our Masters’ the same year, I was 26, and she was 50. My sister Sharon is another one of my heroes, she is super smart and articulate and strong and sexy, a killer combo. My closest girlfriends have heroic features, whether it’s their quick wit, or ability to be consistently fair and generous under pressure. I am more interested in the heroes in my immediate experience than distant figures.
AP. Who are some of your favourite heroes of fiction?
RK. Pippi Longstocking, and by extension Astrid Lindgren (or should that be reversed?), anyone else I could mention, is another version of the same model.
AP. What is your motto?
RK. I don’t have a motto, but one phrase that I identify with myself is ‘master procrastinator’. After many years, and while it is still an area of struggle, I have realized the importance of my procrastinating as a major active component of my way of working and being in the world. It enables me to synthesize, stew, collect and work through ideas, and maintain energy and focus.
AP. If you could live anywhere, where would you like to live?
RK. I have lived in several cities in Canada, and would like to try a few more in my lifetime. I live mainly in my own interior world, the exterior needs to meet a short list of requirements: be in Canada, not too big, not too small.
AP. What is the one thing you want to share with everyone reading this?
RK. The question activates my desire to stand on a soapbox, and proselytize for the value of art. Art is important. Art is for everyone. You do not need to make art to be involved in and with art. In our time of speed and technology addiction, art is a place to restore balance and ground oneself. Doing something that takes time, and uses your whole self, is critical for me, in order to live a good life.