“Light versus shadow are integral components in my work.” - the artist
Q: What led you to become a charcoal artist?
A: It began with my choosing charcoal as my preliminary medium, the medium I would use to create initial response drawings to the subjects I was exploring. The expressive nature of the medium, as well as its versatility, persuaded me to begin using it as my primary tool. I work with compressed charcoal sticks on frosted mylar. In combination, the two enable me to create an incredible array of values, from the deepest black, to an untouched white. On occasion, I use an eraser to remove charcoal from the surface. At other times, the charcoal is applied then left untouched.
Working with charcoal, enables me to work intuitively. The drawings I create using charcoal, range from soft and atmospheric, to high contrast and dramatic. Subject matter determines my style of response.
Q: Where have you studied and/or exhibited your work?
A: I have been fortunate to study art through three different art Universities: The Alberta College of Art and Design University in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, The University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, Wales. I undertook, and received my PhD through the latter university, an undertaking that took close to nine years, most of which was conducted at a distance.
I have exhibited my work in Calgary, Vancouver, Canada and in Aberystwyth.
Q: Where do you derive your inspiration from?
A: Two recurrent themes run throughout my work: sense of place, and sense of self. In many ways, my art is documenting my journey, my physical journey; places I have visited and lived, the architecture and the landscape, and my inner journey; aspects of my self and my history. Often they work hand in hand, my visual explorations of a place, triggering a memory, or reaction, which in turn, guides my work down a completely, unexpected pathway. Sometimes, particularly when I work with landscapes, my work encourages me to resurface, to take time to breathe.
Q: We noticed a reoccurring theme of light vs. shadows, as well as a strong use of negative space within your work. Can you elaborate on this?
A: When I studied art history during my BFA, I was drawn to the works of artists such as Michelangelo Caravaggio, Jacques-Louis David, and Rembrandt van Rijn. I was captivated by their dramatic presentation of subject, their use of chiaroscuro, the strong contrast between lights and dark to accentuate form. My MFA thesis researched into shadow, light and darkness. Light versus shadow are integral components in my work.
In my first drawing class for my BFA, I was introduced to negative space. I had only ever been taught to define objects using line, and this focus on negative space opened up an entirely new way of seeing. Suddenly, in a way that made sense, objects and background began operating as one. Negative space is the aspect of a drawing I define first, before any other thing.
Q: What do you hope for viewers to take away from your art?
A: Just as certain places initiate a connection, and or, emotive reaction in me, my hope, is that my work will initiate a reaction in the viewer: perhaps igniting their own connections, triggering personal memories, activating emotions, pleasant or otherwise.
Q: How do you view your art career in five years?
A: For nine years, the PhD immersed me within a world of research. I emerged, confident in my ability to create, talk, and write about my work, but very much removed from the world of exhibiting. In five years time, I see my art career as one in which I am creating and exhibiting new works, but at the same time, writing and researching in conjunction. I am at my most effective when everything is working together as one.
About the artist:
Susan Fraser-Hughes grew up in Perth, Western Australia. She moved to Calgary, Canada in 1996, and then Vancouver in 2011. She holds a BFA, an MFA, and most recently, a PhD from Aberystwyth University in Wales.
To view more work by the artist or learn more about her work, please visit www.susanfraserhughes.com.
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