2019 Alumni Horizon Award
INTERVIEW BY KERRY MAGUIRE, BFA '18
Shards (2019), acrylic and aerosol on canvas, 24 x 24 inches.
Kerry Maguire: How did you end up at AUArts?
Rhys Douglas Farrell: I think the main reason I went to art school was that in high school, and even before, it seemed like the only place I could see myself. I wasn’t into mechanics, or doing a trade. It seemed like the best option at the time.
MAGUIRE: When did you graduate from AUArts?
DOUGLAS FARRELL: I graduated in 2016 from the Painting program.
MAGUIRE: Was painting what you always wanted to do, or did that change while you were at school?
DOUGLAS FARRELL: I was always thinking of either painting or drawing, but painting seemed like a better fit.
MAGUIRE: What did you think being an artist entailed before you started at AUArts? I’m also interested to know if or how that changed while you were doing your BFA.
DOUGLAS FARRELL: When I first went to AUArts, I didn’t know much about art. I was just making it. I had very little knowledge of conceptual art, and the history of contemporary art. I basically had very little knowledge of what art was actually about. I definitely learned a lot, and it changed my work because it gave me more information to work with. Once you start researching, you find new ideas and interests to work with.
MAGUIRE: What has your art practice looked like since you graduated?
DOUGLAS FARRELL: I’m still working with op-art and pattern painting, and I am still interested in colour theory and illusion. I think I’ve had a lot more time to spend in the studio and to really think about what kind of elements and colour pallettes I want to work with. I’ve had a lot more time to investigate and explore my ideas and research, rather than making work for classes or something like that.
MAGUIRE: What does your day-to-day life look like?
DOUGLAS FARRELL: Every week is different for me. I have my practice, and I do commercial interior painting. So, I have to juggle those two things, and I’ve also been doing more murals in the last couple of years. In the winter, I’m in the studio a lot, and in the summer I focus on doing murals and my job. On average, I am juggling all three of those, but every month could be structured completely differently.
MAGUIRE: Where have you done mural work?
DOUGLAS FARRELL: I’ve done quite a few in Calgary, and then I’ve done one in Spain and one in Sicily last year. Those residencies were really great.
Learn To Love Again (2018), acrylic and aerosol on canvas, approximately 10ft x 75ft. Graniti, Sicily.
MAGUIRE: Is there anything that you learned at AUArts that you continue to think about as you move forward with your art practice?
DOUGLAS FARRELL: One thing that really fuels my practice is to keep looking at contemporary art. Seeing new work and ideas, finding new artists, and basically being in the sphere of contemporary art is so helpful to keep going with the ideas you’re working on. I’m a visual person, so I get a lot of my inspiration from looking.
MAGUIRE: Do you have any advice for recent or future graduates?
DOUGLAS FARRELL: Apply for as much as possible! Set aside time to submit lots of applications and learn how to make it easy for yourself to write those things. They are painful, but there are so many opportunities for money and funding and shows. The opportunities are essentially unlimited, so the better you can get at writing, the more opportunities you will get. Then you can make more art and have fun!
MAGUIRE: How did you feel when you won the AUArts Alumni Horizon Award?
DOUGLAS FARRELL: I was so surprised. It feels really good to be recognized for what I do and working hard.
MAGUIRE: Do you have any thoughts on why creative education is an important thing to pursue?
DOUGLAS FARRELL: Artists are being employed more and more to make things contemporary. For example, architects and artists will work together, there’s a lot more public art. There are so many opportunities for creative people to work with people in other domains. The internet really helps in exposing the public to visual art, and people are more aware of the value of an artist’s skills
Laced (2019), acrylic and aerosol on canvas, 24 x 24 inches