Featured Artist: Sharon Kirsh, Canadian Abstract Artist, Poetry In Oil And Cold Wax

The following is a wonderfully detailed account of Sharon Kirsh, her background and inspirations.  The article begins with Sharon's artist statement, which if you are familiar with these, tells us a lot about the thought and inspirations generating the artwork.  I was lucky to be able to ask Sharon multiple questions that she is gracious to answer.  Enjoy!

Sharon Kirsh, Canadian Abstract Painter

Artist Statement
The poet Pablo Nerudo said; “It was through metaphor, not rational analysis and argument, that the mysteries of the world could be revealed.” Poetic metaphors often serve as a jumping off point for my work, but with greater frequency, my inner instincts are guiding my hand. I begin painting by laying down colour, and shape expressively. I paint with thick transparent layers in cold wax and oil. I apply paint with a trowel or directly with my hands, and use pottery tools to excavate through the many thick layers. Sometimes this feels like jumping out of a plane and trusting that the parachute will open. My process, involves sitting back and looking, trying to understand the composition, and listening to the feelings and ideas that emerge. 


Gold 12 x 12 by Sharon Kirsh

Style Process / Type of Art I create

I work in a medium known as cold wax and oil. I value the experience of working solely with organic materials because the tactile experience is so rich and the resulting painting feels alive. For me it is like having a conversation with someone who listens and responds.

Cold Wax painting techniques go as far back as ancient Egypt; artworks made of this material have been found in tombs. This is a testament to how durable and able to withstand time these surfaces remain. In more modern times Rembrandt rebirthed this way of working when he created a mixture of wax, resin and natural solvent to combine into his oil paints, in order to increase the luminosity and impact the drying time of his work.

The paste of today, is remarkably similar to what Rembrandt used; however, in contemporary use, it is applied more thickly in order to emphasize texture and depth. Working with a thick paste means that paint brushes are out of the question. So palette knives, kitchen spatulas and my own hands are the tools I use to apply the paint. Carving implements are used at later stages to carve into the deep surface. The paintings develop and emerge in layers. In the actual creation of my work, I begin with emotion, and colour, and in each additional layer, respond to what is already on the canvas, building texture, creating composition and working with the materials to best hi-light their reflective qualities.


1. Bio

Sharon Kirsh, born in Montreal; the daughter of newly immigrated artisans, her family’s influential educational aspirations clashed with her own innate artistic longings. Thus, a successful corporate career led to the eventual study of Interior Design, where Sharon’s projects earned her the Steelcase Graduation Award. Realizing that the conceptualization and rendering of a design was what fascinated her most, she shifted to painting. Working with cold wax and oils, she explores the emotive quality of colour, while slowly building up waxy layers that create a history, adding to the depth and story of the work. Curiosity and play are important elements in her work, and she strives to carefully balance focus with abandon. Her paintings lead viewers through an abstracted, atmospheric, and imagined version of a natural landscape. Her work can be found in public and private collections. Sharon also teaches painting at various locations throughout the Greater Toronto Area. 


2. How did your background shape you as an artist?

My background set-up a powerful internal struggle between who I really am at my core, and what I was raised to believe I must do. This meant that I came back to art after years in the corporate world and after pursuing a career in Interior Design; which was meant to be a compromise but left me as unsatisfied as corporate life. I had to fight against my upbringing; I also had to flip my life on its head in order to be who I was meant to be. As a result, I am beyond grateful that I am not only able to do what I love but that I can make a living doing so. My deep and sincere gratitude drives me to work harder, but also to create works of art that touch people with positive emotions as well.


3. Do you collect anything?   What are your hobbies?

I love antique chairs from many different eras. The lines and shapes of them excite me so. I am hoping to next add a mid century modern chair to my collection. I have a specific leather piece in mind, but would rather find an original rather then a newly crafted piece. In my spare time I enjoy knitting and reading paperback books.


4. Where do you produce your art? Home studio?   Kitchen?

I have a nice studio space with large windows in my home. I like to take sketching materials with me wherever I go, and even staring out a car window at shifting clouds can inspire me. I kind of consider the whole world my studio.


5. What fascinates or inspires you? 

Poetry inspires me. As an artist I express myself through picture and often wish I had the vocabulary to say what I wish in words. So I really admire poetry for that reason. Nature really inspires me. I will be out for a hike and the space between two rocks will thrill me beyond reason.


6. What art form and/or artist is your favourite?

I am a big fan of paintings. The Group of Seven were the first painters I learned to love as a child. I was taken away by how they could make me feel something so powerful. Visiting Marc Chagall’s museum in Nice made him my favourite, by far. His ability to portray such joy, humor and love in his work, despite the sadness and pain he knew was a transcending experience as a viewer.


7. Did you have an inspirational teacher and how did that affect you?

I have been fortunate to meet the teachers I have needed at every step of the way. When I began, I needed a teacher who could allow me to view my work with kindness and love. As I grew, I needed teachers to offer wisdom and guidance on technique, artistic practice and original voice. I have been lucky to have all this learning, at the times when they were most needed. I have also worked with a couple of mentors over the last year, who have professional art practices. While they don’t offer support about painting, they have given me great insight into my professional practice as an artist.


8. Tell us about the first artwork you sold.

My brother purchased a mixed media/collage painting that I created about our mother. That he believed in me, and wanted to support me in this way, meant the world to me. My first painting sale to someone I had never met, was because the painting made them feel joyful. Knowing that my painting could give someone joy meant far more then the monetary sale, and continues to motivate my direction artistically.


9. Is there any main goal that you want to accomplish with your art?

When someone in my life is feeling sad or blue, I want nothing more then to take their pain away and make them feel better. The same sort of applies to my artwork. I want to create art that makes someone feel peace, uplifted or joyful. I think that art has the ability to make people feel something and I want it to be a positive feeling.


10. Do you have any/ what are your pet peeves related to the art world/market?

When other artists tell me that they create abstract art because it is the easiest to do. It bothers me because other artists are sharing a fallacy about abstract art that simply isn’t true. From my experience painting and teaching abstract art, it is in fact the hardest to do. While it may appear that Pollock randomly splattered paint on his canvas, there is in fact incredible thought and meaning behind his work. People might look at a Rothko and say it is famous because he thought of it first, but to appreciate the work, one must sit in front of one of his paintings for 5 – 10 minutes to understand how the evocative colours are transformative to the viewer.


11. What are you currently working on?  What do you plan to tackle next?

Over the past year I worked on 3 very large commissions. The story that I was able to tell in these paintings emerged from the amazing conversations and cohesiveness that I developed with my clients. While working on these projects, the additional work I created was a continuation of the story I had been telling in the commission works; they were an opportunity to explore these stories even further. I have decided to take a 6 month hiatus from beginning any new commission works, so I can explore some ideas that have been brewing in my imagination, specifically, the emotive quality of colour.


12. What can you say about your work that might not be evident to the viewer?

I think that my paintings reveal themselves over time. The details, the way in which light reflects throughout the day and at night, will allow the viewer to notice and discover different elements over time. I create paintings that will have appeal from a distance, but that are also unique and thought provoking when experienced up close.


Be sure to check out more of Sharon's art, by clicking here.