In the studio w/
Cam Champ

I first discovered Cam's work on Instagram and was really intrigued by the intensity of it. He often uses a dark colour palette but there's an optimism to his work, a vibrancy, that I find really captivating. He is both a writer and visual artist, working mainly in collage and painting. I had a chance to catch up with Cam recently to learn about his creative process, how he approaches his time in the studio, and his project Public Topic (which I highly recommend you check out).

Favourite -

Artist/s: Tal R, Lawrence Weiner, Olafur Eliasson, Katherine Bradford, Mark Rothko, Tala Madani, Clyfford Still, Helen Frankenthaler, Jules Olitski.

Galleries: Internationally, Sprüth Magers, Guggenheim, Detroit Institute of Arts. In Toronto, Clint Roenisch, Birch Contemporary, Dianna Witte.

Season: Autumn

Meal: Crab legs and beer

Game: Basketball

"I’ve begun to recognize nature as a source of dualism; a remarkably abstract place, yet stunningly organized at the same time."

How does your time in the studio start?

Because I work where I live, I need to have a very specific catalytic procedure to switch mental modes. For me, it means putting on a certain pair of pants I only wear when I’m painting. I’ll usually also brew a pot of coffee and drink all of it before the first brush stroke. Beyond that, I spend time thinking about where I want a painting to go– so I’ll make lists of words and thoughts in a notebook. These often constitute sketching for me. I do sketch in a traditional sense as well, but they stand alone. I never sketch a painting before beginning it.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Everywhere, really– but lately I’m particularly inspired by nature. I’ve begun to recognize nature as a source of dualism; a remarkably abstract place, yet stunningly organized at the same time. This realization has gotten me thinking about the ways in which we (as a species) interact with and change these landscapes– either intentionally or unintentionally. I’ve also been getting really inspired by literature. Writers like Raymond Carver, Renata Adler, and Georges Bataille are some of my favourites.

 


"It’s going to sound very saccharine to say, but I’ve been trying to listen more to what the painting in front of me is saying."

 

Does that impact how you create series or how the work progresses?

I never set out to do a series. For me, a series comes around after tons of experimentation, thought, and making a lot of mistakes. So while I might have an ambition to make a series of nature-based works, the ambition to do so is not enough. I need to arrive at a visual language and then work more on the concept.

Music or no music when you're in the studio? If so, what do you listen to?

It used to be a ritual for me to need music to be playing (loudly) while working. I mostly stuck to hip hop and Italo-disco. But lately I tend to prefer silence. If I do listen to anything, it’s usually far more ambient, like nature sounds, or waves washing up on a shoreline, or rain on a tin roof, but it’s uncommon. It’s going to sound very saccharine to say, but I’ve been trying to listen more to what the painting in front of me is saying. Of course, it’s silent, but a painting in progress has the tendency to suggest where it wants to go. It’s harder to pay attention to those cues when I’m also focused on the music playing.

Your work often blends abstract and representational elements, is there a narrative to your artworks?

Less and less. I used to try so hard to embed a specific meaning or narrative into the work, and the more I did it the more I realized it didn’t feel natural. Doing so felt like trying to smash a square peg into a round hole. While maintaining a balance between abstract and representational elements has been relatively constant for me, I’m now trying to leave narrative behind in favour of leaving things to be more open for interpretation, depending on what the viewer of the work brings to it. I won’t be doing all the work anymore.

What are you experimenting with at the moment?

Colour! It sounds dumb, but It’s a fairly new thing for me. As an historically mostly-monochromatic painter, and someone who has previously believed colour to be a distracting and frivolous ingredient in art, these are exciting developments. I’ve been looking at the photos in my phone—sunsets, beaches, forests—and studying the way colours work with and against each other, and then I make digital paintings on my iPhone.

 
 

How are you staying creative during quarantine?

I got overly ambitious in the first two weeks of quarantine and began painting a massive 90” x 70” colour oil painting. But then I ran out of paint and supplies so I decided to take it as a sign that there’s something else I should do.

I realized that I had been asking many of my friends what they’re up to and realized that we’re all experiencing this thing in very different ways. This was an interesting notion to me, so I started up a series on Instagram called Public Topic, in which I speak to other artists in isolation and learn about their work and how they’re getting by. I think it’s important to document how this situation is affecting artists. It has been extremely gratifying and is something I likely wouldn’t have even thought of doing pre-Covid.

I plan on doing this until it’s safe to go outside again.

What do you look most forward to doing after?

After Covid is behind us, I want to compile the Public Topic conversations into an art book. It’s up to all of us to determine the thickness of the book.

 
 
Do you collect art?
The only art I've acquired has mainly been through trades with other artists. As much as I'd love to collect, I don't have enough money or space to start seriously doing it. I'd love to follow in Herb and Dorothy Vogel's footsteps, but my apartment is already cramped with stacks of my own artwork leaning against things, under my bed, behind things, and on every inch of my walls. I'd hate for someone's painting to get damaged or lost in the shuffle.
 

Cam's tip for art collecting:

Whatever blows your hair back. If you find yourself still thinking about a particular piece in the days, weeks, months after seeing it, it's a good bet that you probably won't get sick of it hanging on your wall.

Thank you for joining us! You can find available work by Cam here.

 

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