Sasha Pierce‘s kaleidoscopic paintings are created by squeezing oil paint from plastic bags to mimic that weaving and textile traditions. Her approach to abstract painting starts with mathematical models for patterned geometry. The framework for her paintings is drawn onto linen canvas and then she hand-pulls the threads of paint, playing with colour, for a dizzying effect. Pierce has a BFA from the University of Guelph and an MFA from the University of Waterloo. She has exhibited throughout Canada, USA and Germany. Her work can be found in the permanent collections of the Doris McCarthy Gallery, University of Toronto Scarborough; The Donovan Collection, University of Toronto; Collection of the Canada Council Art Bank; RBC Collection; BMO Collection; and the TD Collection and the Cleveland Clinic art collection.
My studio is a live/work Artscape building. I was on the waitlist for five years. Actually, I forgot I was on the waitlist when the space became available.
I’m lucky because my work is fairly clean and not too big, so living in my studio works for me. Sometimes I miss going out, but it saves me so much money to have everything in one place.
I used to paint in my main room, where the bedroom is, but my sister is a naturopath and pointed out that smelling paint all day long might not be the best idea, so I switched the painting to another room. I work in oils, not acrylic. I don’t think it would work well in acrylic. I like it oily not plasticky. It’s tricky not to smudge it—I use a cloth so that paint won’t get on top of the other layered paint.
I don’t use brushes to paint. I squeeze the paint out of plastic bags. It started in grad school when I wanted to create a terrycloth texture. I’ve always liked texture work. In undergrad, I took a piece of string and dipped it in paint and stamped it—like printmaking, over and over again. I’ve always been interested in how you create different textures with paint.
Because I’m an introvert, I like things that are close up—both internally and externally. I’m not necessarily looking at the bigger picture, but of course the microcosm is the macrocosm.
Maybe I was a weird kid, but I was obsessed with my wallpaper and making it do certain things with my eyes. When I focused my eyes, I could push stripes in and out. I was obsessed with details and pattern. I think it was comforting—OCD stuff or something.
I like quiet and I like calm and I like making things. I made a lot of friendship bracelets at camp when I was a kid. It took so long but it was so beautiful.
My work takes a long time to make so I can’t give them away for auctions. My collages are better for that. I create a tessellation in Illustrator and the perspective is used on top of a map similar to my paintings. I wanted to see if I could make work faster in a different medium, but still use the same math.
I print out the layers and cut them apart and then use a special tape that I make to stick it together. You can see it through the collages, which I like. I didn’t want to use plastic or rubber tape so I have mending tape, specifically for paper, and I put a sheet of paper in between two pieces of mending tape. It’s a process. It takes five or six hours to make a collage.
The math explains how you get this pattern based on certain shapes. I go into a section of the pattern and create vanishing points so I’m taking a model and then destructing it.
I love-hate the process of making my paintings. It takes a lot of concentration. My favourite part is the end. I don’t know how they’re going to look until they’re finished so that’s the best moment, when it comes together.
—Sasha Pierce, as told to Studio Beat
Photos by Brittany Carmichael