In The Studio with: Surrealist and Neo-Expressionist Artist Avleen Kaur
Avleen Kaur is an emerging visual artist based in Toronto, whose distinctive dichotomous styles of painting speak to how humanity reacts to colonization, capitalism and the structures imposed on us in our daily lives. She has had three shows in the works for Only One Gallery in Parkdale. A group show recently exhibited called “Got Paper” as well as two shows coming up in February and April in collaboration with Outtaline.
Kaur’s oeuvre can be separated into two separate aesthetic styles which each speak to a different paradigm of socio-political life and the perils of existence in the contemporary world. We sat down with her to talk about her aesthetic, her influences, and how art can act as a form of catharsis.
“I would consider myself to be a surrealist and neo-expressionist painter in two different mediums that I’m working in right now. The surrealist paintings would be my oil paintings where I’m talking about mostly real-life situations but in a more suggestive manner or a Freudian visual psychology. Whereas in my neo-expressionist acrylic paintings I speak about being on the other end of the spectrum of order and obedience which is a big part of my own process. If you look at my oil paintings, they are quite structured with lines and I know exactly what shapes I’m going for. I’m completely trying to eradicate these when I’m painting acrylic paintings so there are these very polar opposites of visual aesthetics that I’m going for.”
Kaur wasn’t always a visual artist, however, having just recently started painting, her prolific catalog has been produced solely in the past 4 months, largely in response to the suffocation of a traditional life that left her feeling trapped and uninspired. “Growing up I always felt like an existentialist.. knowing that I never wanted to associate myself with doing the same things schoolmates were doing. Coming from the family that I came from, however, we were more academically pressed to be excellent or to live life in the traditional sense of getting a job and getting married. So, I went to school for engineering, because I suppose that’s what I was supposed to do.” She maintains it was this predetermined path that inhibited her creativity to the point that she couldn’t take it anymore.
“I interned at an oil and gas company in Canada, in Alberta. I finished school I went to work for them for 3 years and that’s kind of when it became an actuality of my life that I had to wake up at 7 and go to bed at 10. I had 3 hours after work to exercise, make food, see friends, read if I wanted to.. I kind of started to realize that I wasn’t even allowed to be myself. So four months ago in August of 2018, I quit my job and I’ve been painting full time to release what I feel internally out into the universe.”
She hopes that her paintings will help others find solace in the alienation of modern society. “Art is a way of projecting myself outside of myself. But because I know people feel the same way as me, I like to think of my paintings as a visual conversation between me and somebody else. It’s like a poem that I want to write for somebody to be able to look and think ‘I feel like that too.'” Touching upon themes of rampant consumerism and the alienating effects of capitalism, her paintings tread the line between personal catharsis and cultural commentary. “I want to talk about how caught up we are in capitalism. It’s insane. Your being sold something every moment, and I want to use that noise that you’re always surrounded by, and so comfortable with, on a canvas, to make you question all of it.”
Kaur’s style draws on the masters of the genres she’s situated herself within. Picasso, Van Gogh, Francis Bacon, and Basquiat to name a few. Eventually, however, she sets her sights on expanding her creative practice beyond the canvas. “I would definitely see myself going into installation art and art direction. Installation is something that I’m really interested in because I feel as if nothing is policy change except policy change and everything else is the start of a revolution. Art in its different forms has the capacity to bring about conversations, and start that talk of revolutionary change; installation is another way that I want to spark those conversations.”
For now, however, she is content creating and relishes the opportunity to see people’s reactions to her work, and to allow them a salient moment of self reflection. “People don’t do well in their own solace. When you haven’t understood yourself in silence, that’s big. You need to be able to sit with yourself, and know yourself; know what you’re projecting into the world. So, I want people to take their time when they’re looking at my paintings and feel that rush of emotion; whatever that rush of emotion may be. I want somebody to look at one of my paintings and imagine whatever they’re going through, or have gone through in the past, being put right in front of them. I’ve seen some people look at my paintings and react a certain way and it’s so surreal to me. I’ve felt that way about other peoples work but to be able to see somebody experience it with my own work? That’s insane to me.”
Cody Rooney is a Glossi Mag contributor.
He is a photography aficionado, masters candidate, fashion enthusiast, avid Ariana Grande fan and lover of all things aesthetically pleasing.