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Janet Phillips, In Conversation With Quest Art School + Gallery

In anticipation of her upcoming exhibition, "Explorations," which debuts at Quest Art School + Gallery on Friday, January 19th, we interviewed artist and long-time Quest supporter and volunteer Janet Phillips to learn more about her showcase, the inspiration behind her collection of work, her approach to her creative process and what she hopes the audience will take away from this dynamic exhibition.

"Explorations" will run at Quest Art School + Gallery from January 19th to March 2nd, 2024, in the Mezzanine Gallery on the second floor of the Midland Cultural Centre at 333 King Street in Midland, Ontario.


Tell us a bit about yourself and your background in the arts.

I have always been a maker of sorts, exploring a wide range of craft, sewing and needlework.  My first foray into visual arts began in my early teens when my parents gifted me a Brownie camera. Over time my interest grew along with the technology.  For many years I was a member of the Midland Camera Club, serving a term as president.  Photography is still a part of my art practice as I explore the many digital applications.

What was the inspiration behind your current exhibition and the themes that you explored in your artwork?

Many of the works are nature-inspired.  Some reflect my background in geography and fascination with landforms and their geology.  But, I do love whimsy as interpreted in the cat paintings (inspired by the antics of my kittens), and in the fish print. Abstract design is a growing interest evolving out of both natural abstractions and mark-making/collage play.

How do you approach the creative process when developing a body of work for an exhibition?

Well, developing a cohesive body of work has been a great challenge for me.  At most, I manage 7 or 8, then move on to explore something different.  I think developing a body of work through a specific medium, such as printmaking or collage rather than a subject, works best for me.


Are there any specific techniques or mediums you employed in this exhibition, and how do they contribute to the overall artistic expression?

For this retrospective I have chosen to show a range of techniques and mediums (painting, printmaking, collage, mixed media) explored over time.


Are there any recurring motifs or symbols in your artwork that hold personal significance to you, and if so, how do they manifest in this exhibition?

I love fish!  My fascination with fish comes from snorkelling and delighting in the myriad of shapes and colours.  The large fish print “Dare to Be Different” uses fish to comment on conformity or deviance from it.  “Eons Apart…..” notes the short length of time humans have inhabited earth compared to fish.  And then there are flowers…just because of their beauty, colours, and intricate details. The drypoint prints attempt to capture these details.


How did you navigate the balance between artistic freedom and conveying a specific message or narrative in your work for this exhibition?

As a retrospective, eclectic mix, it was not really a consideration.

Were there any challenges you faced during the creation of this exhibition, and how did you overcome them?

Again, as a retrospective, the only challenge was what to include and what to edit. The way the mezzanine spaces are broken up helped facilitate this type of mixed subject and medium exhibit.

In what ways do you hope your audience will engage with and interpret your artwork within the context of this exhibition?

Simply that they may enjoy viewing it and perhaps embarking on an art-making journey of their own if they are not already doing so.

Can you share any memorable moments or experiences from the process of bringing this exhibition to life?

As the works span a period of about 20 years, it was a trip down memory lane.

I particularly love the collection of prints as they were created amongst friends during open print studio at Quest Art.

Are there particular artists, movements, or historical influences that have informed your creative approach for this exhibition?

Too many to mention and they change over time.

What does Quest Art School + Gallery mean to you?

QUEST Art has offered so many opportunities:  learning, exhibiting, volunteering, but most importantly, interacting with people of like mind and the friendships made through enjoying the creative process together.

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