Is an artist based in Montreal, where she focuses on making objects and images, and obsessively pickling, preserving and fermenting food. Her practice focuses around drawing, printmaking, sculpture and installation. In 2011 she received her BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University in Halifax, including a term at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland.
Casting will be showing at Monastiraki from 1 November to 1 December, 2013. You can find her website here.
On 1 November 2013, Monastiraki was warm with bodies and voices orbiting the front of the gallery, interacting with Senft’s work. And it wasn’t the glance-hmmm-nod type of interaction (that’s altogether too bourgy, and we all know that). The knit-like patterns evoke a trance of sorts; eyes doing infinite loops while remaining grounded in the soft, sinewy line work. The pieces are at once taxing and sedative, a quality of art that creates a rare sense of breathing room for the viewer. Following the patterns is a commitment, yet pausing is an acceptable and, perhaps, essential facet. It’s quite clear that Senft won’t be a starving artist (she pickles). As the night was coming to an end, Senft and I spoke about untouchable art, pig noses, and people who don’t have secrets.
In your artist statement, you mention taking your drawing ‘beyond the page.’ Can you talk a bit more about that?
My dad was a sculptor, so I grew up in a metal shop. When I did end up going to art school, I didn’t take any sculpture classes. I still haven’t really acknowledged or found where that resistance laid. So that led me into other venues – a lot of which was printmaking. That’s where I really learned paper, surface, line, that kind of thing. And when I left school, a lot of that translated to drawing, because that was what was affordable and accessible .and easy Once I start to look back, I realize that everything I make or have made is this obsession with surface, materiality, form, line. And all that goes back to, really I think, love of sculpture, and that being the initial education. So I think that’s where my desire to take it [my work] ‘beyond drawing,’ comes from. It’s like, “Yeah, I made this drawing,” and then I’m interested in it, but I want it to be more. I want to make things that are 3-D or malleable or more physical. And bigger or touchable.
Which seems to be embodied by your installation in the window. The changing shadows throughout the day was a great surprise.
That piece is about the material but it’s also about the surface it hangs on. Because it casts multiple-layered shadows, so it’s really about how it interacts with the surface behind it. I’ve always hung it on a wall and made sure it was lit in an interesting way. But now it’s hung on a surface that has two sides, so it’s doubled in that sense where it has that extra layer, which is really exciting.
Tonight, we’ve seen people touching the installation, adding a third element to the piece. What are your feelings on viewer interaction; should people touch art?
This is really my dad – I grew up [with the idea] that you touch art, that’s what you do. If there’s a sign that says, ‘Don’t touch the art,’ that’s bullshit. Now when it’s a print or a drawing, I don’t necessarily believe that. You know, if you have clean hands and you’ve handled paper before and you know what you’re doing – great, touch it. But it’s hard to let the general public touch a drawing because it’s going to be destroyed. [The installation in the window is made out of] EPDM, but it’s like sheet rubber, essentially. It’s pretty durable, and everybody sees it and they have no idea what it is, and they’re so interested. So I’m always telling people, “Touch it, here, just feel this, you know? Move it around.” They’re like, “Really, are you sure?” “Yeah, please, this will give you an understanding of what you’re looking at,” you know? This explains the sculpture if you realize what the material is. I’m very for touching sculpture, touching art.
Also in your artist statement, the word subtle seems to be a driving force in your work. You express a need for patience when dealing with your artwork, and enjoying pieces that ask the same of the viewer. In that same vein, how do you feel about people who don’t have any secrets? Does that make sense?
I work in service, [at a] café, and something that I struggle with or come up against a lot is people just asking questions about your life. As if it’s never occurred to them that you don’t work in a café because you want to be a public icon, you work there because it pays you. Right? And, I don’t want to tell this stranger what neighborhood I live in. People who don’t have secrets is like the same thing to me, I don’t relate. I like to be social, I like to talk and hang out and meet people but I also really like to have that separation between private and public life. [This translates into the art world when,] for some people abstract work is problematic: “What am I supposed to be seeing here?” Versus why I’m so drawn to making something that is abstract and that I want people to spend time [with] and see whatever they want; I think that’s a parallel. What I go through in making this work – because they’re kind of process-based drawings, they’re meditative – that’s not necessarily what’s on display. What that drawing is about for me is not what that drawing is about for that viewer.
When you were young, was there something you found yourself habitually drawing?
The way that I drew noses as a kid was pig noses – so the two dots and then a circle around. Any figure that I drew human, alien, otherwise had a pig nose. Which is really nice. My dad, being a metal sculptor, he would sometimes take a drawing and turn it into a sculpture. So there’s this amazing drawing that I did age 3 or 4, and it’s my cousin crying. It’s kind of like a sun head – it’s a blob. And then there’s lines coming out of it – hair – and then these eyes that are crying and this pig nose, and a wide open wailing mouth. And then just two legs, with lots of toes. So this exists now in forged steel, and it’s amazing – the best collaboration I’ve ever seen. It’s my cousin being a drama queen at age 5. Family portraiture.
Is there anything you’ve been reading or listening to that’s worth putting on record?
Something that I’m really excited about that just started is Perish Publishing, out of Toronto. I think they’re making art books.
I read this book recently that I really loved, and I’ve been recommending it to everybody since then but I think, ultimately, I should just recommend it to young women I know. It’s called How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti – I think she’s from Toronto, she’s pretty young. I relate to it on this level of what-the-fuck, and I’m a young artist trying to make it sort of thing. But I don’t know why or how. But at some point in the book she buys a tape recorder and approaches her best friend – she’s trying to write a play and she’s really stuck. She wants to record all the conversations she has with her best friend who’s a painter. And her best friend flips out, she’s like, “You can’t put me into this concrete thing where everything I say is now archived forever, that’s horrifying.” And that’s how I felt when Billy told me we were going to have this interview, I was like, “Oh no!” So it’s good, I’ve overcome a fear today.
Interview conducted by Tara Slaughter