Erin Armstrong = Atmospheric + Portrait
What are three words that describe you?
Creative, focused, eccentric
What was your first artistic memory?
I used to go out to my mom's studio when I was very young and draw for hours on the floor while she painted. I tried to skip school and fake sick all the time to stay home so I could paint and draw all day – my mom knew what was up I think but she let me get away it probably more than she should. I guess it paid off...
When did you realize you wanted to become an artist?
From a very young age I felt it's what I was suppose to do. I loved creating, drawing, painting, designing. I've always had a really big imagination and art was the one thing that allowed you to take anything you thought of and run with it as far as your mind could go. The limitless realm of creating art is what drew me and keeps me staying.
Why do you create? What's your message?
I'm intrigued by the ways in which the mind can conjure and create worlds by piecing together memory, experience, and the ability of the mind's eye to render a non-reality. I draw on the genre of portraiture as a foundation for these explorations, but choose to depict not a person or sitter, but an atmosphere or sensation expressed inside the formal qualities of human shapes.
What would you be if you weren't an artist?
Something to do with design probably. I have too many ideas to not be doing something creative.
What was your biggest influence growing up (artistic or other)?
I don't know that I can pin point just one. Growing up my parents exposed me and my sister to art quite often: we went to museums, galleries, concerts all the time and they were very encouraging of exploring and trying new things around us. So, I think it was really just the engulfment of such varied cultures from such a young age that sort of opened up my mind and inspired me.
Why painting as your medium of choice?
I find painting to be the best way to convey what I feel and the narrative I'm trying to create. Whereas the format of portraiture has its historical roots in power, authority, and authorship, my paintings attempt to reverse subjectivity by insisting on imaginary anonymity. The onlooker "sees" in the painting a familiar form upon which they can inscribe meaning and identity – namely, their own, someone sees the image as sad and another as joyful; someone sees a vast forest while another sees a claustrophobic dense shrub. The paintings are spaces to consider place, time, joy, happiness and malaise as these sensations swing between abstract and concrete worlds. Paintings allows for these senses and emotions to come out through brush stroke, color, pattern, etc in a much more powerful way than I think another medium would allow for.
When or where do you get inspired?
Everywhere I go I'm observing things – whether consciously or not I'm always picking up on things around me in my environment. I will see a plant, a pattern, a person, hear a song etc. and all of it sort of jumbles into this one image.
Do you listen to music when you create? If so, what?
I always listen to music. Some of my paintings are actually named after songs or lyrics because I was listening to them on repeat while I painted the piece and I feel it really influences the final image. I have a really eclectic taste in music – I'm listening to everything from rap and blues to classical and folk. I think music and fine art sort of go hand in hand – they create times and places that you can get lost within auditory and visual worlds. I'll see a painting and feel something just as I would when I hear a song; so it really feeds into my work.
What's your favorite piece you've made?
People ask me that a lot – honestly sometimes I just look at the work and hate everything because I've been staring at it forever. I don't have one specific piece that is a favorite, they change and evolve over time. The work I'm doing right now I feel maybe is stronger than say that of two or three years ago. So I guess it would be my preference or "favorite" of the paintings I've created up until now.
What are you working on right now? Any exciting upcoming projects?
I have an upcoming launch with Portia De Rossi's new art line called General Public Art launching this Spring. I have created works of original art that Portia has taken and utilized a 3D printing technology that has never been used before. She is turning the works into art for the masses in a way to demonstrate and allow everyone who wants to own fine art the ability to do so – not just a select few. I also just had an exhibit in Seattle at Foster/ White gallery and have an upcoming show in Toronto this summer.
What is success for you?
The ability to do what you love and create work that reaches people and makes them think or feel something.
Your fantasized collaboration?
Yayoi Kusama, Kanye West, or Hrafnhildur Arnardottir.
What would you imagine your last words to be?