March 30, 2016

Spotlight: Alicia Nauta

Talking architectural inspiration, medium choices,
and community involvement with Alicia Nauta.

When I look at Alicia Nauta’s art I imagine myself climbing into it and living in her kaleidoscopic world. Pattern is what makes Nauta’s world so hypnotic, her work is filled of oozing landscapes, otherworldly potted plants, warped Greek columns. What’s just as impressive as her pattern work is the unique furnishings and architecture she depicts. Much of her work is like an extraterrestrial home catalogue and this is just why I adore it. Nauta has welcomed her scenes into our dimension by painting murals, creating wallpapers and screenprinting pillows, rather than just on paper. Aside from her own creations, she hosts DIY Tuesdays at the Art Gallery of Ontario where she teaches how to make patches, buttons, tie dying, and so much more. I spoke with Alicia about her architectural inspiration, medium choices, and her art community.

The Le Sigh: What did you study in university?

Alicia Nauta: I went to OCAD University in Toronto. I graduated from the Printmaking program in 2010.

TLS: Your work often incorporates unique architecture. where do you draw inspiration for these structures from?

AN: All my work begins as collage, made up of images I source from books and manipulate through photocopy and cut and paste by hand. I'm drawn to architecture manuals for source material as a way of mixing up 2D and 3D planes, where some objects are 3D and some are flat. For example, in my print 'Purify your air' part of the shelf structure the plants sits on is 3D and then the top part is a flat 2D shape. I like the strange feeling it gives my compositions, familiar and alienating at the same time. I also like to think about the layers of compacted history found in the ground, like using images of Roman architecture next to an image of a crocheted hanging plant, thousand of years apart, yet in the timeline of planet earth, right next to each other. Humans have been on this planet such a short time compared to everything else (like plants) that I like to picture everything all mashed up together. Picture the remains of civilization floating around as cosmic garbage.

TLS: I’ve noticed that your work has been wallpapered, been shown in large installations, as well as small multiples. do you factor in the context that the work will be created in when you are making it or does this come afterward?

AN: When I first started wallpapering, I just repeated prints that I liked because I thought the effect was exciting. As I began to do more wallpapers, I started thinking about it differently. Now I create a single panel that can be repeated in an interesting way for an overall effect (so, more like proper wallpaper) Sometimes my brain hurts to try and figure out repeating patterns (especially because I'm fairly analog and don't really use a computer for my work) but I think i'm getting better. Each wallpaper is an opportunity to make a better pattern! I also like to make large banners, but these are more similar to making a smaller multiple. I mean, you think about the scale in a different way, what will stand out and what will get lost, but I'd like to think I can create an image that is distinct from far away, and also has lots of small details close up.

TLS: How does your process differ when working on large installation paintings, to screenprinted works?

AN: Hmm I've only really painted two big murals, and those were projected from smaller collages I'd created. In creating a print, I work backwards in screenprinting, which is very graphic and in creating the stencil, can only have black and white (any grey shade becomes a tiny black line or dot). So as a result I think very hard about how to make images simple, yet exciting. Each line, shape, object, texture, pattern should be considered and there for a reason. I'm a maximalist so constantly have to edit myself and pare down. But each different colour becomes it's own layer in screenprinting, so you have to think about how and where those colours will interact (if they do) and how many layers you want to print...the more layers the more work!

TLS: How does color factor into your work? 

AN: I love bright, saturated colours. I draw inspiration from the natural world, hand painted signs, fruits and vegetables, clothing, the palate of 1960's kids books, record covers, paintings I find in thrift stores, etc. I must admit I'm a purple hater (just in my work/life!) so that's one colour that might not ever appear in my work. I also really like simple black and white. It's classic, man.

TLS: When did you begin screenprinting?

AN: I started screenprinting after I switched majors from drawing/painting to printmaking. So I guess I've been screenprinting about 9 years now.

TLS: I’ve read that you do DIY Tuesdays at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. How does community involvement affect your work?

AN: The DIY days at the AGO has been so fun. It's free program for youth (ages 14-25) on Tuesdays. So far I've done mail art, terrariums, two tie dye parties, mix tapes, poster making and screenprinting tote bags. This Tuesday we'll be knitting. I love getting to hang out with people whose paths I might not have crossed otherwise, especially teens. I learn so much from them. I got my start doing zine fairs in highschool and have continued with zine and book fairs. I like art that is accessible and inclusive. I think it's important to work collectively, work together. We have so much to learn from each other.

TLS: What is your dream art project?

AN: There is an art residency at the San Francisco dump where artists are there 40 hours a week, at the dump. I'd love to do that.

Rachel Davies is a student and freelance writer in Toronto and founded the zine distro, The Piece of Work. In the physical world, she can be found listening to Justin Bieber in a campus library but, in cyberspace, she's tweeting @rachelcomplains.