You don’t have to major in fine arts to become an artist, proves Swiss-Canadian painter Tamara McKay Thalmann, a graduate student in clinical psychology at York. Inspired by her program and her current and past research, she is now exhibiting her new show Defense Mechanisms at the Grad Lounge in the south end of the Ross Building, an “amazing venture for [her] paintings.”
Different from most exhibition art, none of Thalmann’s works carry titles.
“I want people to experience
my art and leave it open to personal interpretation,” says the artist. “A title would be restricting this individual thought process.”
Process is indeed a very crucial and major aspect in Thalmann’s work.
“Every picture is in a constant process of change,” she explains. “And I do only stop working on it once I feel that it depicts the right emotion, and that I can feel this very emotion when looking at it.”
The right emotion “depends upon [my] current emotional state,” Thalmann continues.
“So basically every piece will turn out differently, lead by a slightly different emotion. […] But because everyone experiences emotions in varying ways, I want to leave it up to the eye of the beholder to
interpret each piece independently.”
To allow a broad range of interpretations, all of her paintings are abstract. Thalmann appreciates feedback from others, positive or negative, because she understands art as being a dialogue between artist and observer.
“Feedback helps me grow and reevaluate and understand my own work better for myself,” she says. Defense Mechanisms as a collection is very personal, inspired by a breakup. These defenses are the unconscious, psychological tactics that people use to overcome and cope with major tragedies and emotional pain in their lives.
Due to her background in psychology and her special interest in clinical depression, Thalmann is highly interested in the concept of the unconscious and highlights this theme by, for instance, not assigning titles to her work. In her art, she takes a painful experience or emotion and experiments with it to transform it to something else.
“Most people believe that
pain and beauty do not go hand
in hand, but I think that something beautiful can come out of pain,” she says. Thalmann does not stop at her own pain threshold to bring this point across, in three paintings that are created using the artist’s own syringe-drawn blood.
“I consulted medical professionals to introduce me to this very clean method of blood drawing and would not advise anyone to
try doing it without consultancy,” cautions the artist.
The blood is applied to a canvas with structure paste to give it its different shades, and once dry, covered with a polymer coat for adhesion and preservation.
Nevertheless, the paintings in the exhibition span a wide range
of styles, using an array of materials, such as India ink and acrylic paint, wax, and colored shellac based inks.
“I love to experiment with all kinds of art forms,” says Thalmann. “And going through this period of my life triggered the wish in me to concentrate on my art and try something new.”
As a result, she finished the pieces in a couple of months,
but they still manage to be different and unique from each other.
Thalmann aims to host another exhibit with more of her own blood paintings, which she hopes will be available to see in next year’s show in York’s Grad Lounge.