Artist Profile: Peggy Kouroumalos

An artist profile of Peggy Kouroumalos Can you talk a little about your show "Ferine" (March 12 to.


An artist profile of Peggy Kouroumalos

Can you talk a little about your show “Ferine” (March 12 to April 7) at Christopher Cutts Gallery? What are your inspirations for the pieces in the show?

It started with an illustration by Henry Clarke that I saw for Edgar Allan Poe’s “the Black Cat”. I wasn’t familiar with the story, but the image of this black cat sitting upon this woman’s head interested me. I wasn’t sure if it was part of her hair or what, but it intrigued me. The idea of this creature just attached to her head and what that could possibly mean. So I drew out a sketch and forgot about it. Months later I was looking for something to paint just because hadn’t picked up a brush since my last show, and I based the first painting on the sketch that I had made. At this point I didn’t expect it to be a series at all, but I liked how the fur of the animal became the hair, or replaced it rather, and there was still that question of it being attached. I painted the owl picture next and then I had the desire to paint different versions with other animals. I still don’t really know what the series is about, that’s something I usually don’t concern myself with. I need a bit of distance from them to figure that out, knowing what they’re about always comes later to me, and then it all makes sense. Basically I’ve always painted animals, I hate how it’s so trendy now but I just can’t keep them out of my work. I’ve always concerned myself with animal and human relationships, exploring animal characteristics reflected in humans. Pretty much anything old looking, I really have a disinterest for the modern world when it comes to painting. Most of my images and inspiration come from old images. Dutch and Flemish landscapes, Francois Boucher and rococo painting, vintage erotic photography, illustrations and writings about animal symbolism based on superstitions through myths, folktales and observed facts.

Describe your process of creating a piece. What materials do you normally work in?

Once I decide which animal to paint, I will research it a bit, based on both fact and fiction from various books and online sources. I search for interesting associations and collect notes in various sketchbooks, scraps of paper, it’s kind of unorganized and chaotic in the beginning stages but then it all comes together quite nicely. After the initial search I will take personal associations that I may have with that animal and work them in with my collected notes and images and come up with a sketch. I find an image of a nude that may work, usually out of my 1000 Nudes book (Taschen) that has been my biggest model resource for my last three series. Sometimes I reference Boucher models, or get myself to pose if I can’t find a satisfying match. It’s a bit of going back and forth from sketching and image searching, finding things that fit. This process could take days or weeks until I feel it’s right, then I sketch out the composition onto the canvas, still changing and adjusting things, adding different elements until I’m satisfied with it.

All the paintings for this series are on canvas stretched over panel, ochre or burnt sienna ground and then I work up layers in oil paint.

When are you most productive?

Now that I haven’t worked for quite a while, painting has become my 9-5, except it’s more like 12-5, after watching the View, with a tea and Joe and his Grandma. Yes, our studio is in the basement of Joe’s Grandma’s house. For the last two months I’ve been there pretty much seven days a week. If I have a goal I’m like a machine. Unfortunately without one I don’t have much motivation to paint, but I’ve become very disciplined in doing this and making it part of my everyday life, hopefully I’ll continue this habit. That’s one of the pluses to being in a boring town, you got nothing else to do and you’d hate yourself if you weren’t productive. The threat of letting myself down is a great motivator, it keeps yourself hungry for better things.

What are some of your favorite spots in the city? places to go, eat, drink, bike ride?

High Park is my favourite place in the city, has been since I was a little kid. When I last lived in Toronto our house was right by it with our studio looked over the park. It was the most ideal place for me, I was very sad to leave it. I loved going into the woods and having a chance run in with a fox, it would make my day. Tons of wild life to watch and then you got the zoo there too. I just love it, in every season.

Toronto has lots of great places to eat, food is always something I will splurge on. Some of my favorites are Cafe La Gaffe (24 Baldwin St), great brunch, you get a lot for what you pay for and it’s so good! Pho Tien Thanh (57 Ossington) has the best Pho, and the best spring rolls, they’re like 7-11 Toquitos! (I mean that in a good way, like in size and crispiness).

What are you currently obsessed with? Any blogs, pod casts, films, artists?

Yes, since I’ve been living here I’ve felt especially shut out from the rest of the world, so I became obsessed with blogs during the summer. Joe always made fun of me for it but then he realized I was finding all these interesting artists. We eventually started a joint one where we could post our own work and other artists and stuff that we like or hate. We needed a web presence and it’s been pretty good to us. We called it Fuzzyladies for lack of a better title, we combined words of what we mainly paint, him: fuzzy things, me: ladies. We also started our own blogs soon after, where I post choice selections of all the work I’ve done and there you could find all the other blogs I’m into, you’re on the list Sara!

For the studio it’s nice to have podcasts and stories to listen to. I usually can’t paint without music or something, but because I paint so much I no longer read, so books on tape are the perfect way to squeeze in some literature. Lately we’ve been listening to Chuck Palahniuk’s novels. And Ricky Gervais podcasts which are always entertaining. I’m real excited for Clash of the Titans and the new Nightmare on Elm Street, I’ve been a big fan of both since a little child, so I’m excited to see the remakes, Freddy got a makeover!

What are your thoughts on the Toronto art scene compared to everywhere else you’ve experienced?

I feel very detached from the Toronto art scene and that is my choice. I’m not even too sure what it is, I just know I don’t really want to be a part of it. It feels small and I see a community developing, that seems really supportive and great but I’m just not into it that much. I’m more interested in painting and I just don’t see enough of it here that impresses me.

The art scene in California is really fun and fresh. My top choice is New York of course, the art scene there just feels more relevant and alive, nothing could beat that energy there. It’s a lot more cut throat which is always exiting.

Any last words?

Yes, I’d like to say a special thank you to Joe Becker for his help and support in this series and every other series for the last few years. He’s the best studio partner someone could have. His wealth of knowledge in art is unmatched, he’s got an incredible resource of great art books, which I love, he offers his assistance, will paint things for me that I struggle with, keeps me from overpainting things or lets me know if I’m trying to get away with something that I just can’t, encourages me when I’m in doubt, and he entertains me with his singing and dancing (this could also become annoying at times) generally it keeps in me in good spirits to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m very lucky to have him in my life and the studio is a big part of that. He knows this but I just wanted it written out, so thanks Joe![rssbreak]

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