Down The Rabbit Hole
(or The Magic Behind The Curtain)
By Kelly Drennan
Growing up, I was introduced and then hypnotized by fantastical films like "Alice in Wonderland" and the "Wizard of Oz", as well as the books "Where the Wild Things Are" and "The Secret Garden". Many years later, I still find myself attracted to these stories and tickled by the idea of escaping to a place of mystery, adventure, and magic. For most of us, the inner child never really leaves.
Artist Cora Brittan's artistic practice encapsulates these nostalgic memories in a shimmering dome. She paints iridescent storybook characters with whimsy and beauty. They entice you to follow them on their journey to who knows where but it seems like a better place than the here and now. There is a delicate fluidity in her representation of bunnies, sea creatures, birds, flowers, horses, children, trees... and by her application she treats them all with admiration and respect. The warmth in her work is inspired by the time she spends painting in Mexico. Earls Court recently caught up with Cora to talk to her about her lovely work.
"In my mind the artist has an opportunity to celebrate beauty and reflect the wonder and mystery of things seen and unseen" - Cora Brittan
1. When did you first become interested in art?
I don't have too many very early memories. The one that really stays in mind was the first day of kindergarten and seeing an easel holding a big pad of paper and pots of paint with brushes stuck in each one. It was quite sad to find I couldn't head straight to this glorious sight and instead had to sit in a circle on the floor and listen to the teacher.
2. What are you working on right now?
Well.... I have just finished 2 long paintings and 6 miniatures and am now painting a much larger mixed-media painting of a large bird in an exotic tropical setting.
3. What inspires your work?
Inspiration for my work? Things I see when travelling to different countries, meditation which I practice daily, vivid dreams and what simply might be called "everyday wonders".
4. Can you tell us a little about your process?
I am a mixed-media artist experimenting with printmaking, encaustic (using beeswax and colour), gilding with 22 carat gold, silver leaf, light-fast inks and silver-point drawing to name a few.
5. Which artist/s have influenced your work the most throughout your career?
Certainly as a girl I loved the work of Vincent van Gough, his intense dedication, his unique vision of the world around him and his unswerving effort to find his voice in the world around him.
6. If you could give your younger artist self advice about something you know now what advice would you give to her?
Advice to myself? To keep in mind the essence of what I want my painting to say. Not to be afraid to take creative chances, it will only lead to a watered-down image and a deep frustration. After all, the only person who really cares deeply about the outcome is me!
7. If you were not an artist, what would you be and why?
Can't really imagine doing anything else but definitely I would want to pursue something creative. A writer.... a poet?
8. How has your artistic practice changed over time?
I can now go much more quickly to the heart of what I wish to create, not so much time spent in tentative somewhat fearful efforts because of lack of confidence and experience.
9. What is your dream project?
To have a really big panel that I can tackle. Lots of elbow room for magical, wondrous things that hopefully lift up the hearts, minds and spirits of the viewer.
10. What is the role of the artist in society?
In my mind the artist has an opportunity to celebrate beauty and reflect the wonder and mystery of things seen and unseen.
11. Do you have any advice for someone in school who is studying art
Absorb all the essential, basic skills so that you have the ability to metamorphose into painting your own vision as clearly as the gonging of a bell.
12. What would you like others to know about your art that you feel makes it unique?
Everyone is unique, I use art as my medium to express what that means to me.
13. What mediums do you work with?
At the moment I am mainly gilding with 22 carat gold, silver leaf, light fast inks, iridescent mediums on a ground of gesso on board.
14. Much of your work has a storybook, magical likeness, what kind of experience do you want the viewer to walk away with?
A sense of joy, a feeling that everything is not as it seems, that life isn't confined to a rigid, impenetrable box, the edges can bend or disappear altogether.
15. Your husband Eric is a practicing artist, do you ever collaborate with him on projects?
Yes, we have worked together on wall murals in Mexico and also team-taught a course at Sheridan College where Eric worked as a drawing and painting master.
16. Can you tell us about the sacrifices and rewards of a long artistic career?
The reward is being able to do what I love, that is a great privilege indeed! The sacrifices?..... living with less "stuff" than many others. Also our four daughters had to do the same. In our many travels our girls learned to live like the general populace, for example taking ordinary buses and trains and staying in basic hotels in India and Mexico rather than being in 1st class. They learned to depend on themselves and each other and all of us understood that to achieve your goals you must be undaunted. To do what you love is the reward.
Cora in her studio, Mexico. 2018
To see more of Cora's work please visit:
www.earlscourtart.com or www.earlscourtgallery.com
or visit our Ottawa Street location.