Alex Livingston is an artist based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He attended Cooper Union in 1982, received a BFA from NSCAD in 1983, and an MA Fine Art from Chelsea School of Art and Design in London, England. His work is in numerous private and public collections. He has exhibited in Canada, United States, China, Germany, and England.
Originally, my studio was in a warehouse by the pier. It was an old administrative space for immigrants that arrived in boats. Artists took it over because it was really rough. It was super cheap. A studio there was next to nothing. Then, the Immigration Society took over and turned it into the Canadian Museum of Immigration.
We had to move out of our studios with nowhere to go. Studio space is always an issue in Halifax. Fortuitously, the port authority found another industrial building and sent architects to see what we needed. We thought it would be a wish list that would never come true. The architects came and we asked for ceiling height, double doors, sinks, outlets close to the floor–they respected everything.
My work is a bit of a hybrid. It alludes to painting, it alludes to photography, and it alludes to drawing. As much as I like looking at abstract painting, I could never understand the impetus for making the mark. I ended up making little digital sketches, using a stylus on a Wacom tablet, and creating a bunch of marks. The little marks wouldn’t have been made with a pen or a paint brush–they were coming from a different spot. I used those sketches as a springboard into the painting. Then I realized I should start looking at those sketches in and of themselves.
The initial gesture, in my work, comes more from a drawing space, a wrist action, because of the nature of working with the drawing tablets. When you scale them up, they start to allude to the shoulder action of gestural abstraction. I find that intriguing to go from this wrist motion to more of a body motion.
I use Corel Painter for my work. I spent a lot of time learning how to make brushes. For example, it’s possible to create a digital brush mark of braided human hair, a chain of daisy flowers, or belts, like François Morelli. Digital brushes can produce any image or form as a brush mark. You just need to tie the images together the right way through digital stitching and then the brush generates the continuous patterns.
Now, I‘m using Corel’s impasto media in a way that it is not designed for. Corel is made for illustrators, so they make brushes that max out at an inch and a half. I find that when you push those brushes up to three or four inches, like you would a paint brush with canvas painting, all sorts of peculiarities arise and erratic behaviour that software writers weren’t even thinking about. It’s the ghost in the machine. Odd things start happening, chatter and peculiar phenomenon on the brush mark. It’s intriguing when technology starts to become unpredictable and unplanned.
–Alex Livingston, as told to Studio Beat
photos by Rachel MacFarlane
Visit Alex Livingston’s website here.