Feature: visual artist Chantal Khoury
I’ve wanted to feature Chantal Khoury ever since I discovered she had become an artist. I knew her years ago when we were teens and I am thrilled to see how her creativity has evolved and matured into a full grown career. Chantal is originally from New Brunswick and now lives in Montreal, although she often travels home to visit her parents in Fredericton. She comes by her creative skills honestly, as her father Michael is a visual artist and her mother Nadia is the owner of Gallery on Queen. In her artwork Chantal uses bright colours to lay out scenes that bring emotions and memories to life. When you see her work it’s like getting a glimpse of feelings like warmth, passion, awkwardness and sadness. I really like her work and am excited to see where she goes from here. Here is a little Q/A and some photos to get to know Chantal. Check out her work at Gallery on Queen!
What got you started on your path as an artist?
My dad is an artist and my mom is an art lover (and a huge creative in her own right) so I was given the support and space to create at an early age. By the time I was six, I already decided to be an artist.
What have been some significant milestones on your creative journey?
I moved to Montreal at 19 and took the year off to explore the city. That same year I got Bell’s Palsy which is the paralysis of one side of the face. I was told it may never heal. I was young, very new to the city and too shy to meet people with this condition, so I dove into focussing on art and my identity within it. After 9 months my facial nerves slowly healed and I was more determined than before. It was one of the best things that ever happened.
Where did you get your training? Are you self-taught?
I discovered the Fine Arts program at Concordia University while exploring Montreal. The school’s approach to teaching really intrigued me, so I enrolled. My program didn’t focus so much on technique but more on pushing your ideas. It opened my eyes to what was out there in the contemporary scene and what sort of decisions I needed to make if I wanted to be a full time artist. We were told that only 2% of art school students will go on to be full time artists. I was determined to be in that 2%. I discovered my love for oil paints during those years and eventually graduated with my BFA in 2012.
What inspires the content of your work?
Moments between people that usually go unnoticed. I carry around a notebook every day where I collect found images from newspapers or magazines. It’s an obsession, really. Some images I may never use, but others become compositional anchors for my future projects. This process is one way to get inspired. Colour exploration plays a huge role in my practice; colour choice and experimentation allows me to dictate the emotional state of the image.
How would you describe your style?
The early expressionist painters have been my favourite since I was little. Van Gogh and Egon Schiele, to name a few, really influenced the way drew as a child. I have developed a particularly fast paced rhythm while painting, so my intuitive approach can be interpreted by some as ‘expressionist’. I have tried to commit more time to one piece than what comes naturally to me and it just doesn’t work. I lose interest and am rarely happy with it final product. Some have also compared my work to the school of the Fauvists due to their use of colour.
What does a typical day look like? (if such a thing exists)
I have always been averse to strict routine and I’m lucky that this vocation allows me flexibility. The only constant in my day to day, is my morning coffee. I devote some days to preparing materials: stretching large canvases and priming them. The long hours of manual repetition allows for my ideas to flow freely. Other days I am so anxious to get working that I hit the studio before having breakfast. These days are devoted to creation. When I am not painting, I am planning shows, preparing for art-related events and simply trying to stay on top of it all. Somewhere in between all of that, I try to fit in loads of time with my partner, Phil, and my brothers, who also live in Montreal. We love cooking, taking day trips out to the country, and all of that wholesome stuff. We often like to have picnics in a nearby park which serves as everyone’s living room during the summer.
What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
I put on some loud beats and I make a coffee. If Phil is awake I’ll play music loud enough to hear it from the patio. I love trying single origin coffees, so that first cup is very special to me.
What do you do to hit refresh if you get stuck on something in your work?
I leave it alone and start something new. Creating some distance with a piece of art is the best way to resolve it. If you allow time to pass, you can go back to with fresh eyes. This is why I work on multiple pieces at a time.
You grew up in New Brunswick. How does your connection to NB influence you as a person and an artist?
To be honest I feel like I am discovering New Brunswick again for the first time. I was born there, I grew up there, but I was stir crazy as a teen. After living in Montreal for a decade, something definitely shifted. I decided to visit NB more frequently and for longer periods so that I could reconnect with my Maritime roots and spend time with family. Since establishing a second studio in NB, my time spent there has kept me grounded. It is no secret that the landscape and slower pace is conducive for creation.
You have a studio in Montreal QC and in NB. What do each of your studios mean to you?
NB re-energizes me, like pressing the reset button. The foliage and beaches allow me the mental space to re-focus while spending time with family and long-time friends. My parents also have the most uplifting pets. Montreal is where I have my anonymity, which I cherish just as much. I am inspired by diverse crowds and the calm within the chaos. When you split your time between urban and rural settings, you come to notice that people are not so different. This has developed my interest for universal themes within my practice, such as affection, solitude and companionship. People from different backgrounds can relate to these themes, or at least I’d like to think so.