Erika Olson

Erika Olson began her fine -art studies at Queen’s University, which gave her a foundation in painting, drawing and sculpture. Looking for a broader artistic experience, she attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design where she explored textiles and conceptual art. She completed her BFA at Concordia University in 1997 concentrating on painting and relocated to Kingston to set up her art practice. She has had numerous solo and group exhibitions in commercial and public galleries and an artist run centre. Erika has shown in Kingston, Toronto and Calgary and in the UK represented by the Innocence Gallery. Erika Olson has had commercial and artistic success in traditional painting and pastel drawing, with subject matter such as still life and landscape, and has equally demonstrated strength in conceptual work.

In 2008, she won the Grand Prize for a painting submitted to Kingston’s Juried Arts Salon, an exhibition which featured the best of Kingston’s practising artists in traditional media. Also in 2006, she exhibited Fish Waterlilies Rice, an installation in the Main Gallery of the Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre which was funded by an Ontario Arts Council Project Grant and Exhibition Assistance Grant. The installation involved beautifully-lit arrangements of rice and a performance element .In 2003 she won a scholarship to the Vermont Studio Centre, allowing her to develop her art practice and attend seminars delivered by acclaimed international artists.

In 2015 Erika won a partial scholarship from the Edward and Gertrude Poole Foundation to attend a six- week course in Banff, Alberta. The name of the program was “Food Water Life” presented by Lucy and Jorge Orta.

Continuing to paint Erika began studying colours originating from other cultures namely Indian Miniatures.This interest culminated in her exhibition of abstracts called Colour Blast. Her next solo show is in the fall of 2020 at Studio22 Open Gallery in Kingston Ontario.

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Artist Statement:

In the first few years of my career, after leaving Concordia University, all of my studios were empty white spaces. I painted abstract paintings influenced by colourists such as Guido Molinari, Howard Hodgkin and Richard Diebenkorn.

In 2004 I was given a space to work in a house that I was looking after.  For the first time I was working in a domestic space filled with plants, pottery and textiles. There was a table in front of a large window with a view of a pasture running down to the St. Lawrence River. I began to experiment with the historically rich motif of the still life in front of a window made familiar by Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard. This was the impetus for my Open Window series which I have continued to revisit as I have moved to different studios and different windows.

These images with saturated colourful relationships and intuitive compositions are always inspired by a real still life and then abstracted. Working with a small number of objects allows me to create personified subjects existing as entities, relating to each other. These groupings are pared down, simplified and somewhat playful.

I often use food as a subject due to its perishable nature and intense cultural importance. Fruits and vegetables have lovely organic shapes and colours which makes them a natural choice to work with.

I paint urgently. Working from life, I paint what I see, but it is processed through my emotional attachment to the subject matter. All of my work evolves directly from my environment and the objects that I find in it. Appearing ordinary and dealing with subject matter like food, or the domestic sphere my work chronicles daily life and elevates these subjects to be worthy of consideration as art.

Artistic Approach 2020:

My work in 2020 focuses on my love of abstract and still life with bold planes of color. I often use food as a subject due to its perishable nature and intense cultural importance. Fruits and vegetables have lovely organic shapes and colours which makes them a natural choice to work with. I paint urgently. Working from life, I paint what I see, but it is processed through my emotional attachment to the subject matter. All of my work evolves directly from my environment and the objects that I find in it. Appearing ordinary and dealing with subject matter like food, or the domestic sphere my work chronicles daily life and elevates these subjects to be worthy of consideration as art.

“I work from a still life and fix the chalk in layers building up satiated color. One of the challenges of working with chalk pastel is that you only have certain colors to choose from where you can mix paints and create a greater range of color.” – Erika Olson

Related News

These paintings and drawings delight in conversations and celebrations. The cakes are inspired by vintage images from Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook from the 60’s given to my mother when she was married. . . . The smaller pastels are about conversations where the objects take the place of people. Larger pieces are a closed circuit of communication, dialogues or soliloquies or larger conversations about more formal elements of a painting.
Perhaps you’ve seen its shiny gold sign in art deco font on the northside of King Street beaming on a sunny day? Next time take a look inside and you’ll find a curation of Canadian art made up of work by 50% local artists and 50% artists from across Canada. Rest assured, you won’t be walking into a stuffy gallery filled with pieces that are only made to be admired from afar. You will find work created by artists inspired by Kingston’s incredible community and Canada’s stunning landscapes.
New work by Jane Derby, Margaret Hughes, Debra Krakow, Keight Maclean, Molly McClung, Teresa Mrozicka, Rob Niezen, Erika Olson, Susan Oomen, Lee Stewart and Vadim Vaskovsky.
Erika Olson’s new solo exhibition features a return to the large colourful abstracts which marked the early days of her painting career.