Filtered Expressions - Curious Questions Part 3 - Courtney Chetwynd

Let me just begin by saying that this was an especially enjoyable interaction for me. I am mainly doing this project for my own benefit and I am sharing it in hopes of inspiring and connecting with others. Well, this brought a large amount of beneficial information and creative juice my way, and I hope do it does the same for you.


I was sitting in my tent in the Bastion Square Market here in Victoria when I spotted a lovely lady and her Gentleman, make their way towards me.
She was drawn to my work and we got to talking of our mutual love of contour lines and geographical inspirations. They were only on the Island for a short time. Originally from the North West Territories, I'm pretty sure they were headed home within the next day or two.
She kindly bought a shelf that I had just finished painting with the promise of granting me a picture of it in her home (which she quickly followed through on) and with the trading of business cards and a warm fair well, she was off, swallowed by the ocean mist on that drizzly Summer day.
Afterwards, I explored her website and learned that we are much more connected than I had first thought.
Her work whispers to me in the most delightful ways and, as you soon shall see, her words are just as satisfying.
In her Bio, it says "Her work focuses upon themes and metaphors of the body, space, and relationships by integrating Northern concepts and materials in a poetic and psychologically charged manner." Which I feel, is a beautifully accurate general description.
But what I see, is the amount of thought she endlessly pours into her creations. Everything is reflective, symbolic, riddled with metaphors and dreamy realities. She takes concepts and ideas and brings them to life by putting them in these simple yet elegant material forms, projected, constructed, and hung with delicate purpose. The dedication she has to her craft is blatantly obvious. She has an understanding of what it means to be a highly creative individual, both the positive and negative effects of such, and seems to be so patient with her creative process. Which is shown clearly in her work. I can't imagine the tedious hours she has spent, not only physically building but processing the layers of her creations. All the way from the creative mental spark, to meticulously finding materials, to chewing and digesting the construction process (as well as potential travel and placement) and finally putting it all in place. Not to mention the constant amount of self motivation it takes for any Artist to push through when it comes to being deeply involved and reliant on your work (financially but more so for sanity).
I am drawn to the lightness of her presentation. It has this curious mystique, yet it exposes depth. Her ability to show the purpose and effect of connection, storytelling and of the relationship between land and human as well as the intrinsic interdependence of two.
Though the pictures she has on her website look magical to say the least, I have a feeling that the true majesty of her work can only be experienced through immediate interaction. Which I hope I have the pleasure of being able to do someday.
Until then, her words will have to do.


1. What are your values as an Artist?

-Put my soul in what I do.
-To maintain a genuine curiosity about everything and everyone
-To continue nurturing healthy passions and obsessions. Artists need to be extremely obsessive people (who else can be locked away in a room combing lint for 50+hours, you need to be fixated on expressing an idea)
- Treat nothing I make as too precious. My work is often ephemeral from found and disintegrating materials, and I’ve come to think of this as sort of a spiritual practice that helps teach me to not to hold on to things too tightly or too long. I think a lot of artists can get stuck. It’s easy to do if you receive a lot of great feedback or validation about a piece…well, this can be a self-fulfilling trap whereby you get stuck either making the same shit, or having this ghost of your last grand piece looming over your head and haunting and freezing you from progressing.
-Everything you make it not going to be good. Just keep creating.
-Consider the moral codes of the environment you are working in and your practice. Just because you are an artist you aren’t exempt from ethical relationship.
-Consider the impact of your creations on the earth. As artists we are responsible for creating more stuff in the world. I often tend to practice this performance of rescue in my work, just using cast off materials people consider garbage or detritus and give them a new life.
-Find meaning and pleasure in what you do (or else how do you figure others will). I think that authenticity shows you the work.
-Make work that is honest.
-Always try to push a few underlying meanings within the work but leave openings and mysteries. Listen and allow it and others to teach you new meanings about your work.
-Work hard. No one is pushing you as an artist, you have to find that drive within. As an artist you have to work to seek opportunities, put yourself out there, take risks, find ways to pursue your art while surviving, write and speak about your work in a variety of ways (its challenginging to articulate your ideas to people in a way that will excite them and that they can understand when it is merely an idea not yet in physical form)... let alone even conceptualizing and creating the work! There will be times you doubt yourself and what you do. I think that the notion of artists as lazy is bullshit. It’s a really hard job, but I couldn’t imagine not doing it.


Image borrowed from her Quallunaat series. I just find it a striking representation of her beauty and the environment she calls home.


Image from her (Stolons) installation.




2. What draws you to doing Installation?
3. Do you feel Installation is something you can learn and practice, or is it more so a way of thinking?

- I’ve always been very tactile and enjoyed sculpting. I’ve been trained in photography, drawing, and sculpture, so I have always been pretty all over the map and drawn to mixed media processes. I like working in fragments and then enjoy the process of putting them together. Layers can be read separately or melded together to form new interpretations. I am trying to push myself to do more direct performance work within my installation. I have noticed that this element always persists in my work, more and more frequently. I also find installation work a great challenge - it’s not just the object or 2nd or 3rd dimension, it is a consideration of space, the lighting, and the more esoteric things like overall the feel, energy, and atmosphere an environment can evoke, the potential to envelop…it’s how the work is positioned in space, and trying to anticipate how the viewers bodies might move in the space and through your work. Much of the making happens in the specific space for me. It can be really frustrating at times - I have had many mini-melt downs installing for an exhibition and things don’t quite translate as you have planned or imagined, so you have to be really adaptable and flexible as an installation artist - its a balance between pushing your own ideas and will, and collaboration with the environment and it’s limitations.

5. Is there something that you can depend on to always inspire you?

- I have learned to trust and depend on following my own rhythms. I work when I am inspired and allow myself to go for a walk and to pull back when I need to. Materials inspire me, whether its a walk in the bush, a garage dump, or a hardware store. Also traveling always inspires me - basically anything that takes you out of your familiar patterns and environment.

6. Do you believe in mistakes?

- Simply, no.

4.What do you see when you dream?

- Worlds and spaces that I want to make real.

7. What piece of work are you most proud of thus far?

- Anything that I was able to and will in the future bring from an idea to form. It’s like alchemy to be an artist when you think about it… working to create reality - conjuring the imaginary into a reality. I guess that means I am always dreaming

9. What has been your greatest creative struggle?

- There are two big ones so far that come to mind. 1. deprogramming from a formal art education, and it’s funny that I am currently working to complete my PhD, but that this was the thing helped me to make a real return my practice. You have to learn and then un-learn. and 2. was learning to be with my vulnerability and be ok with it. Really it’s against everything that we are taught, but I can’t understand how one can make work otherwise. I’ve come to know that the more personal something is, the more it is universal it becomes.

10. When were you the happiest with your work and why?

- When I am in the process of making, when I create unselfconsciously, lose track of time,  and when I am installing. Really, it’s the being in that flow. The process. The ritual. The practice of it that I enjoy the most.

Something of beauty in her day. "..a quick snap where I noticed a reflection through my studio window, caused by the sun setting (at 3pm!), creeping towards the near 24hour winter darkness we experience here in the North."

Bonus Question!
Musican/band that you have been digging lately.

- This week I have been listening to FKA Twigs a lot

You can find her website here, I highly suggest diving into it and seeing more of her work.
I want to genuinely thank Courtney for putting up with my emails and laying herself out so honestly for us to breathe in.

And thank you to all who take interest in this little endeavor of mine. I so appreciate and revel in the attention.

Until next time,
spread so much love.