Interviewing Artist Series: Anne Munroe
Updated: Apr 27, 2021
The interviewing artist series is dedicated to interviewing undergraduate Studio Art students at the University of Guelph in partnership with the Juried Art Show and Kaleidoscope Magazine.
The following interview features the artist Anna Munroe with questions from Alexa Collette.
Can you describe yourself and your practice?
My practice is multi-media: paint, print, photography, sculpture, and drawing and I have made a docu-audio on my iPhone. It is all interesting to me. How would I explain that? I think it is the fact that I did so little art when I was young and there are now so many new possibilities for art -making. I keep discovering more. I can combine my earlier career as a social worker to interview and record. I worked in health care for most of my career so I am interested in the body, identity and systems: particularly health care, the internet and language. I enjoyed reading and doing research for projects in geology, British History, and new technology.
What is your process of creating art?
My process changes. At the moment, I am reading and studying the Internet and its impact on the brain. Last term I made a couple of prints in black and white that I liked. I am remaking these in oil. I have stepped back from colour painting to black and white, to explore motifs and focus on surface and depth in the work.
Are there any particular artists or people in your life that inspire you? If so, please feel free to elaborate on your relationship to this person or their artwork?
In the past few years, I have found several artists whose work I admire: Phillip Guston from first year for his commitment to abstract art and his bravery in leaving NYC and abstraction and moving to figurative work, Hans Hofmann for his distinguished teaching of art and especially picture planes in NYC, Amy Sillman for her beautifully integrated geometric, organic, figurative work, her choices of colour and her amazing use of line. Also, in my early days at Guelph I discovered the Canadian patriot and versatile artist Joyce Wieland. A sculptor I came to know in an intro class was Alice Aycock. She opened my eyes to the marvellous range of research possibilities in art making. This year I read about Eva Hesse who was an Avant-garde painter and sculptor who died well before her time after a very short but remarkable career. At the moment I am channelling an artist who does photography and performance.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
One of my earliest memories is making mud pies (really pottery) at a construction site up the road from my parent’s home on Maple Street in Guelph about the middle of the last century. I was “making” at an early age.
Can you see any links from this memory to your art practice?
I didn’t do much art except what was required in elementary school, but I did take an after- school-class at one point. My high school was very academic. You went to a different high school for art. In spite of that, I thought we needed a high school yearbook. One of my best friends and I co-created our class yearbook when I was in grade thirteen. In University I did not know about art instruction there, but I visited the on-campus art gallery often. I liked going there but didn’t research the artists. I just enjoyed being in that space. I began to make pottery in 1970 at the Guelph Recreation Centre behind the building where I worked, Children’s Aid on Delhi. A few years later I joined a potter’s workshop in Stony Plain Alberta. I began a family not long after that and found I could do some sewing and needle work for my young children. I did not do much art until about 2000 when I began water colour painting, then acrylic and oil painting, taking community lessons in Waterloo, Kitchener and at Dundas Valley School of art. In 2014 I took an intro course in Studio Art at the University of Guelph.
Which art project are you most proud of?
The project I am most proud of is sometimes the one that hasn’t been released to the world yet. My latest read is “The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains by Nicholas Carr. One of the works that has come out of this is a stone “tablet” …thinking of lost language.
How has your practice changed since working from your home?
My practice since working from home has shifted…. I do not feel so expansive internally and my works are smaller. I have pulled back to explore, surface, depth and shape in black and white, taking a pause from large scale and colour for the time being. I intend to do small
collages in paper, working on motifs that may inform larger painted works
You have come quite the way in going to school initially, creating a family and taking up art again and coming back to school. What really pushed you to getting a degree in art now?
I came back to university for a couple of reasons. I was taking art courses twice a year anyway, and it occurred to me I might as well get credit. I had heard that your art work becomes more saleable if you have a degree. Also, I was retired and before that I had a very busy life; raising a family, working, going to school and when I gave up my last job which was part-time, I just didn't find the retiree circuit very rewarding. I could have spent more time connecting to the community in a more planned way, but I did not do that.
As you've explained, your practice is not restricted to one type of media. What main discipline do you find yourself engaging in most often? (painting, drawing, sculpting, printing, etc.) And how does this relate to your practice as a whole?
I suppose I am intrigued by some of the work I have seen in Specialized: that is installations like the work of Cruz and Scott, former students here, that are collections of things that suggest a narrative. At the moment, I am thinking about a number of ways to work with an idea or a set of ideas using paint, print, tape, among other things. Hopefully, it will come together.
How has your practice changed since you have been in school at the University?
Before I came to U of G I was taking community classes and painting mainly landscapes. I began with water colour, then acrylic and later oil paint. Lately, the paint of choice has been oil. I discovered I really like ink but haven't done a lot of work drawing or painting with that medium. Marlene Dumas' style and subject matter is an inspiration. I have just begun to explore some new technologies like the laser cutter and photoshop.
What do you do when you are not creating/in your spare time?
Ah... spare time.... I am looking forward to that. Now, when I am not doing projects for school, I am involved in environmental and social/political issues, am in a group movie night (since we are in covid times) and I cook and read. I have a lot of unread books and I juggle those with recommended reads or new finds. At the moment I am listening to a CBC podcast with Ron Diebert of the U. of T. Citizen Lab on the dangers of social media and what we can do about those.
Do you have any words for someone who is struggling to figure out what they are doing with their art practice?
Thoughts for someone who is struggling with their art practice.... that is an interesting question. This is really a new experience for me as I have spent quite a bit of time making art with an external goal in mind, one that has been laid on. Walking your own path is a different story. I have a few art slogans I like, and I just try to keep on doing something artistic...moving away from paint to photography at times...or collage: taking a break from whatever path I am on artistically. Here is one of my favourite slogans at the moment. This was written in 1903. "Everything is gestation and then birth. To allow each impression and each embryo of feeling to complete itself in the dark, in the unsayable, the not knowing, beyond the reach of one's own understanding, and humbly and patiently to await, the dawning of a new clarity: that alone is the way of the artist-in understanding as in creating." - Rilke