WKP Artist Spotlight: Ashley Guenette
As a Franco-Ontarian artist from rural Northern-Ontario, holding an MFA from the University of Waterloo, Ashley Guenette currently showcases her solo-exhibition, "Put a Finger Down If You've Ever Been Personally Victimized By Social Media Algorithms," presented by BravoArt in the WKP Kennedy Gallery. Her recent work draws from algorithmically-generated social media content to reveal hidden forms of oppression, and reframe them in critical, feminist contexts.
Intrigued by her provocative and higlhy contemporary exhibition, we sat down with Ashley to learn more about her practice, influences, and the thought behind her work.
What is your main source of inspiration for your current works?
My recent work and research draws from algorithmically-generated social media content (like TikTok) in order to reveal their hidden forms of oppression and reframe them in critical, feminist contexts. Using analogue methods to interpret digital content, my drawings, paintings and multiples challenge aesthetic conventions of painting while engaging in an ongoing dialogue with its histories.
Can you give an overview of your artistic practice? What are the steps involved?
I don’t usually preconceive my paintings, I try to stay as much in the moment as possible – trusting my instincts, starting with simple markings and seeing where it takes me. I also like to let the materials make decisions for me as well. My process changes a lot depending on what medium I’m working in, for example when I am print-making, I need to plan out my work before carving and printing – which is very different from my paintings process.
My process for Put a finger down if you’ve ever been personally victimized by social media algorithms was a bit different than my usual as it was heavily based within my MFA research. All of the works in this exhibition started as 11”X14” quick and reactive oil stick drawings that I created while scrolling through TikTok. All of the imagery found in the drawings are responses to viral trends that were popping up on my FYP (for you page). These drawing became part of the What it means to be a girl series, which includes over 70 different oil stick drawings that are meant to represent the micro-aggression that are found within these viral social media trends. Some of these drawing were then rendered a second time either as a large-scale painting, a soft sculpture or as a t-shirt print.
Is there a specific medium you enjoy working with?
As a multidisciplinary artist, I like to explore a variety of different mediums and find the right one for the project I am working on. But, painting of course has a special place in my heart since it was the first medium I learnt.
Tell us about your studio setup. Where do you work? How do you work?
During the making of the majority of the works in Put a finger down if you’ve ever been personally victimized by social media algorithms, I was working in my studio on the UWaterloo campus. My set up really just consisted of a clean white wall to hang and lean the canvases on while painting; and a desk with my sewing machine to create my textile works and soft sculptures. The drawings were mostly done on my couch. Currently, I do not have a studio but I have a setup in my living room with a large white wall where I hang my canvases to paint, and my drawing are still done on my couch.
As long as you’re making art, even if it’s not to your standard, you are successful. Sometimes you need to work through all the bad ideas to land on a good one. If you are making, you are winning.
Are there any artists you look up to or that influence your artistic practice?
Tracy Emin: Drawing from Tracy Emin’s recent autobiographical and confessional paintings such as Another love story (2011-2015) and I tried to hold your soul (2015), I’ve adopted her quick and immediate style, embracing her crude, messy approach to visuals and text within paint – including thin washes, gestural markings, hand writing, and spillage, within my own paintings like You’re So Easy (as well as Becoming ‘That Girl’).
David Shrigley: My works also reference Contemporary artist, David Shrigley’s recognisable and crude drawing style, which combines humorous text with cartoonist, child-like visuals relating to everyday life, politics, social and economic issues, etc.
Do you have any advice for new artists?
I’ve got 5 pieces of advice I repeat to myself at all times:
First is inspired by my friends and contemporary artists Julie Hall and Jacob Irish, if you aren’t having fun then move on – you should always be having fun while creating.
The second comes from one of my mentors, contemporary artist Colleen Heslin: keep making even if nothing is turning out right and work on multiple artworks at once. Sometimes you need to work through the bad ideas in order to land on a good one.
Third comes from one of my prior TAs at UOttawa, friend, and contemporary artist Michael Belmore: don’t say no – apply to everything and take on as many projects as you possibly can.
Fourth come another one of my TAs at UOttawa, contemporary artist Julie Caissie: don’t take constructive criticism personally, don’t get held up on rejections, continue applying and bettering your writing, and never give up.
And finally, from myself - finished doesn’t always mean perfect. Learn to take a step back from the artwork and decide when it is finished. Embrace the mistakes, messiness, and imperfections.
What’s next for you?
I plan to continue my research, explore new mediums and make more art.
How can we keep up with your work?
You can visit my webiste https://www.ashleyguenette.com
and follow my Instagram https://www.instagram.com/ashleyguenart/?hl=en
Ashley's solo-exhibiton "Put a Finger Down If You've Ever Been Personally Victimized By Social Media Algorithms," will be on view unitl January 20th 2023.