As an artist, I am always on the look out for those artists that are inspirational for me. I feel that if one does find such a person, it is part of their creative duty to share the discovery with others. It is not everyday you find something/someone that sticks, that somehow whether quietly, loudly, quickly or slowly seemingly makes a difference in your approach to something.
It can happen without you even recognizing it. But when you do recognize it please, please share with the world because …everyone needs some discovery and inspiration!!!
I can not even recall how I happened to find Cagney-King, but I will honestly admit I am very happy I did. I love her work for an abundance of reasons; style, colour, flow, size, impact, content, feel, layers of thought, the hidden and unhidden and the something else that truly can not be explained.
Thanks Cagney-King for taking the time to share with me and others your words, thoughts and stunning paintings.
“I work to draw people into my work, but then to also cause them to step back and take in the whole image and contemplate the meaning and intent. My work encompasses this push and pull with mediums and textures that take me on a journey of discovery with each painting.”– Cagney-King
1. When painting, do you as the artist go through a similar process with the piece? Or is this process by viewers only?
I very much go through and experience this push and pull with all of my work. From concept to the very start and throughout the entire process, the painting speaks to me; and yet is my voice.
There is a kind of communicative dance that goes on with each of my paintings. Just like in a sentence, each word has meaning, and together these become the building blocks of the sentence as a whole. Words put together in a certain way lead to an end result of a formed sentence. Thus it is in this line of thinking that each stroke, each layer, builds up to an end result. This coupled with thought processes and emotions along the way lead to the push and pull that happens for me, and in the end I hope for the viewer.
In this world of television, billboards, media, and internet…everything is cold, fast and instant. I truly believe that our society is becoming de-sensitized. So many times it seems we sit through the news full of devastating and painful images from somewhere in our world, but then after the weather or sports we turn off the tele and then go off to bed. Just like that it doesn’t exist anymore; it is ‘turned off.’
For as long as I can remember, I have been very much affected by all the painful stories from all over the world. I used to read four or five newspapers a day! Plus listen to NPR and watch the evening news. Eventually I just could not stand it anymore. I had to stop because I found I was obsessing over it, internalizing it, and it was just not healthy. It came to me one day that my art was the only way I could try and get people to really look and feel without changing the channel or quickly forgetting. It would be hard just to ‘turn it off.’ Just as music is a universally recognized language, so is art in my book. So I wanted to use it to create a thinking link between myself and the canvas as well as the viewer and the canvas no matter where in the world they stood.
I want the push to be the overall image, and the pull to be the desire to get closer and look at the details and the layers that come together to make the whole. I want people to feel an emotion. Doesn’t matter what it is…just feel it. Then I want them to have the desire to look deeper and wonder or think about what the story might be or how it might relate to their own experiences.
I used to use a lot of written words in my work, but eventually felt that even that was too literal, to instant. That is why now I convert the words to numerical values that don’t spoon feed people the meaning behind the image, but allows them to make it their own interpretation, or just to walk away thinking they just don’t get it at all…which is fine too, as long as they walked away thinking or feeling something.
2. You reference science, math and art in your artist statement, where does this science, math, right brain type of activity come from for you? Were you the kid in class that math came very easily?
Not at all! I held my own, but generally did what I had to do to get by. The truth of the matter is I am a bit dyslexic and horrible at math…but absolutely love the art of mathematics. It wasn’t until much later that I dove back into the beauty behind mathematics and science. It was actually a kind of personal quest to read about and understand the concepts behind some of the most celebrated mathematicians and their theorems. Now I can’t get enough. I pick up old copies of algebra, geometry and science textbooks at used book stores and spend hours pouring over them. Once at a library book sale I came across a stack of books on structural engineering. I began thumbing through and immediately was taken aback by how the physical descriptions of engineering could be taken out of context and take on a completely whole new meaning. For example when you read about the formulas discussing the physical strain and stress energy of a particular metal, and then you take it out of context – the metal then can become the physicality of anything! Suddenly you can find yourself applying the same principals to human conditions or even the human physique. Plus, the formulas themselves are beautiful, a kind of hieroglyphic language. I was completely enamored. The more I learned the more questions I had! Since then I have read mathematic books on everything from the History of Zero to the History of Pi and on to books about some of the most unsolved mathematical theories of our time. My favourite mathematician is from the 12th Century – Fibonacci. His recurring theories found in nature, art and life just blow my mind. What I find fascinating is that when you begin to understand and read about one concept it begins to overlap with others. For instance how Fibonacci crosses over with Pascal (triangle), divisible Pi, and so on. I also love how mathematics crosses over into art. The perfect ratio, the division of space, the third and fourth dimension, scales…etc. Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the obvious nature of numbers occurring and re-occurring in my current work. Perhaps it is an extension of my interest in mathematics, or perhaps it is another layer of common language that I want to work into my paintings. I also have meditated on the concept – continuing with the idea of how de-sensitized society can be – that it seems to me that each and every one of us can actually be broken down into a sequence of numbers. Our house address, our birth date, our driver’s license number, our passport number, our social security identity number, our phone number, our IP address and so on. Charles Eames once said – “Never delegate understanding.” I love that quote, and use it in my everyday quest for learning something…even if I will never understand it all…I still want to know and try and will continue to enjoy the journey.
3. How do you know a piece is completed? How often are you just right in knowing this?
I’m not sure I’ve been right yet!
You know the old joke that in every studio there should be two people? One – the artist; and two – the person with the sledge hammer to make the artist stop working on a painting. I don’t have a person with a sledge hammer…and if I advertised for one I would get too many volunteers I’m sure! But, that said…I’m not sure a painting is ever really finished…only rendered to a stopping point. It seems that I always start out with an idea or sketch to get the journey started. The journey continues with various sessions of communication between me, the idea and the painting. The paintings desire to exist in a certain light often times dictates the will for me to stop and step back. I almost imagine the painting physically pushing me away from it screaming ‘leave me alone already!’
I tend to also stop working when I begin to get frustrated and disgusted with myself…then I know I should either stop or put it away and go onto something else. Problem is, when I go onto something else…I never really go back to the other paintings. I will however quite often, be sitting in my studio and looking around and land on a painting that has sat aside for awhile and suddenly I will notice something that just needs a little fix or a little something added, kind of an ‘Ah ha!’ moment. So I’ll jump up, get over to the paints and then slap a dab of paint on, or re-work something very quickly…spontaneously.
Then try to never think of it again.
4. What are you currently working on in the studio? Will you tell us a bit more about it or do you prefer not to share ideas and works in progress?
Currently I am working in a contemporary figurative mode. I am constantly journaling or clipping various images and sketching off of the emotion I feel or the power of the global image. I began the journey of working with figures at a rather wide glance, and as I have developed out the concepts I find myself zooming in more and concentrating on the close-up of the head or the source of emotion. A hand gesture, an exaggerated facial expression and so forth…I don’t want to be too literal and work to abstract the image enough to capture the emotion and the painting process along the way. What I am enjoying about this phase of my painting, is that emotions are universal – global. I like to think that no matter whom, or where a person is in time and space, they will be able to feel or take away a feeling from the painting…no matter their lat and long.
I consider myself a mixed media painter. I like to work on substrates that are at least 36” and larger. Currently I am in a 48×48” square mode. I just love the visual presentation of the square as a living space for the painted image. It just seems to settle in nicely.
I usually begin with what I refer to as acrylic slop and slap coats, working really loose and physical, and then moving to a charcoal sketch. Then I begin to work in more detail with charcoal and ‘turpy’ layers before switching over to tube oils and spray enamels. Along the way some oil sticks, liquid graphite, graphite and more charcoal will work their way in. I am a textural freak and love the tactile feel of a textural piece. However; I have learned along the way that texture has a time and place and can easily distract from a finished painting if over-used or forced. So lately I have been depending on the paints and materials to work the textures in, rather than the physicality of gesso, marble dust, concrete, carpet glue, sand and whatever else I could think of. I use a mix of traditional and non-traditional tools – brushes, palette knives, scrapers, kitchen utensils, sand paper, pattern stencils, and metal grids…whatever feels right for the job at the moment.
I am feeling rather drawn to go back and start incorporating more physical texture along with the build up of paint layers…we will see what happens!
I prefer to work in studio, alone and secluded with my music blaring so that I can enjoy the communicative dance with the canvas and just get lost.
I have tried painting in groups, or en plein aire…it just doesn’t work for me. It is usually a determined disaster…I am definitely a studio painter.
5. If you were not an Artist, what would Cagney-King be? What profession?
Well let’s see…when I tie a paper towel horn to my Chihuahua’s head and make her my little unicorn for the day, I would say that I have just always dreamed of being a full-time artist.
If that just wasn’t in the unicorn cards, I would say that I would want to work in a studio or as an artist assistant. (I would want the artist to be really demanding and challenging too!) Or perhaps as a gallery assistant that got to work directly with promoting artists, or maybe even a museum docent or curator.
As it is, in order to afford my paint, materials, and studio rent, I currently work at a very small ad agency…that is my rock pile for now…until my break comes along to take me away and allow me to transition into a full-time artist. That day seems to be getting closer…so I’ll keep the Chihuahua Unicorn around just in case!
See more of Cagney’s work on her website: