January 18th, 2016
Jesse Gussow

It’s always a great when we can showcase some fantastic Canadian talent. Artist Heather Mclean is very much a fantastic artist! Her work first caught my attention when I was checking out the BeinArt gallery website. I was immediately drawn to Heather’s work. I don’t know how to properly describe it other than to say it’s so surreal. Its stunning visuals and use of colour transcends dimensions, and it is everything that I love in art. The more work I find by Mclean, the more I’m truly amazed. Take a look at our interview and check out some of her work!


Where are you from?

A suburb of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


How did you get started on your artistic journey?

Probably like most kids: I always drew and got lost in the process of "creating" (aka making a huge mess all over the living room). I loved craft and art supplies, and the time, space and freedom to create. My family and teachers were all super supportive and kind of greased the wheels to help me, as much as they were able. It was never a conscious decision in this life to be an artist.  Although, when I was in university I entered in the Education program and decided that I wanted to make art rather than teach it. I suppose that was a decision.  


How would you describe your work?

I guess I’m a translator: creating an outside manifestation of an inner world. Using symbols in the second dimension to express ideas in the others. Stylistically I suppose I would belong to the figurative surrealism camp. The aesthetic is the vehicle for the idea or message, which ranges from project to project, but for me is always my way of lancing the veils, and trying to understand what the hell humans (and this dimension) are.


What mediums do you work with?

Graphite on paper, acrylic paint on board, oils, housepaint, tattoos. I have a done a few mixed media and 3D projects too, but they require a lot of space and materials (and budget!)


I noticed that your work is not available in any Canadian galleries despite you being Canadian. Why do you think there are so few Canadian galleries showing art similar to yours? While a country like Australia has BeinArt Gallery which seems to very successful in the work it shows.

Oh boy. This question is such a can of worms for me. I definitely feel like an art orphan in my own country and city. There are places for us in many other cities and counties - LA has several galleries that focus on pop surrealism and figurative art. NY, Rome, Paris, Tokyo, Seattle, Philly; there are pockets all over the US, Europe and Asia to host works in this vein. So naturally it's a bit of a bummer that I have to outsource from my hometown and country to exhibit and be part of that world.

I know Canada has a low population, and that lack of saturation doesn't achieve the sort of cultural critical mass or infrastructure needed for niche galleries or scenes. So to some degree it's simple math. But Canada is a progressive and wealthy country, so it's a bit frustrating for people in my experience, culturally, to not have a place to exhibit or be represented in my own city or country.  First world problems, right?

I keep reminding myself that at least those places exist at all in the world, 'cause 20 years ago they didn't at all, and everything was still very underground.

Some people have suggested I open a gallery in Canada. Aside from the fact that I don't know if we have the buying audience to make that sort of gallery financially viable here, I don't want to run a gallery. I have done pop-up shows and things in alternative venues and it's a lot of work. I'm generally looking for less irons in the fire, not more.


What is your favourite movie of all time, or at least the one that had the biggest impact on you?

Far Away, So Close! by Wim Wenders. About an angel that gets to experience life as a human and through sense perception, how he becomes lost in it, and has an awakening about using his opportunity as an agent in the sense world to affect positive change.


What is your process for creating a piece from start to finish?

Hmmmm... the initial origin depends on if it's a commission or assigned subject, or just me wanking into the abyss, left to my own devices. Commissions I sketch or brainstorm and come up with options. Generally with my personal work, the idea comes to me somewhat flushed out already. I make thumbnails and take reference photos and get a basic layout. I transfer my drawing onto the board and keep working away at the places that look like crap until they stop looking like crap.


Do you listen to music when you're creating? if so what have you been listening to of late?

I get paralyzed without background noise! Music, movies, podcasts. I've always been a trip hop sucker and lately more into hip hop. Tricky, Massive Attack, Raury, Tribe Called Quest, Weeknd, Kaytranada, Kid Cudi, J5, SBTRKT, The Internet are my current addictions. Podcasts: Ram Das Here and Now, Star Talk Radio (Neil deGrasse Tyson, Your Mom's House, and Joe Rogan are my faves in that order. That shit saves my life.  Movies - any and all sci-fi.


Where is your latest mural? How long will it be there for us to see?

I did two walls in Reykjavik with Urban Nation and Iceland Airwaves this September. I have no idea how long it will be up, I guess that's up to the owners! Hopefully a while!


Do you prefer Oreo or Fudgee-O cookies? or some other snack?

I'm more of a chips gal. Or coconut fat and raspberries.


You can find more of Heather's just breathtakingly beautiful work on her personal website and check her out on Instagram.

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