KO Artist Feature Natalie Lauchlan

Natalie Lauchlan PARKLUXE 2014

Natalie Lauchlanis “the” performance artist in this part of the country. She received her BFA in Craft and Emerging Media from theAlberta College of Art + Designin 2014. The first time I had the opportunity to work with Natalie was last year during her performance atPARKLUXE. Natalie chained herself to two cinder blocks. In front of her, but out of reach, stood a tall white tree where over a thousand keys hung and dangled. For the 6 hour performance, Natalie stood there while many people pulled keys off the tree to try and unlock her, to no avail. For me as the Director of Art and a spectator, it was a very interesting social experiment. I saw the determination of people who wanted to be heroic and free Natalie. I also saw people who were very hesitant to participate in the performance.  The performance spawned outrage with some, telling me it is a human rights violation to have her chained up, even though I assured them Natalie was doing this as an artist of her own free will. The performance also sparked conversation about abuse people had suffered in past relationships and how this performance made them feel.

Natalie Lauchlan Artist feature Katrina Olson-Mottahed


documented by Nathaniel Mah

Natalie’s performances are heavy and not for the faint of heart. Her most recent performance was 6 hour endurance performance laying on a bed of ice. –Inspired by the life of the artist and so many close to her; 2 is a place of stagnancy between the moment of realization and the moment of action. A frozen place in time, a moment of reflection, remembering, longing. A space of stillness and mental transition.

Dreaming of what is wanted by remembering what was had.

The artist waits. The artist falls. The cycle breaks.

Natalie Lauchlan Artist feature Katrina Olson-Mottahed

KO:What is your personal definition of art?

NL:Art is communication. I believe it strives from the need to express something, and in experiencing it as a viewer you interpret that communication.

KO: At what age did you decide you were an artist?

NL: I never decided to become an artist I don’t think. I never took an art class prior to attending ACAD, in fact most of my life I thought I would become an automotive mechanic. It wasn’t until the twelfth grade when I was in line for the water fountain at the Honens Festival that I realized that art was all I thought about. An old man in line ahead of me took note of how young I was compared to the average age of attendees and asked what grade I was in, and then followed up with the standard “what are you going to do with your life?” type question you get so often in grade twelve. I told him I didn’t know what to do, I was thinking mechanics, but my parents were pushing me towards music. He then said what changed my life forever; “Well, what do you think about when you aren’t thinking about anything? Because that’s what you should do.” And then he walked away and left me thinking about that question for days. I applied for ACAD the following week. I don’t think it was the moment I decided to be an artist, but definitely the moment that I stepped onto that path.

KO:What is your earliest “art” memory that evoked the feelings inside you?

NL: I think art meant music for the majority of my life, I am told one of my first words were “Marvin Gaye”. I so vividly remember dancing to Gipsy Kings so young I could barely walk. Hearing that music evokes such a strong sense of self within me, it is pure sense of belonging, of love, of family. I think all art has that power to make you feel, to transport you back in time to a place, a feeling, a memory. It is as if art works against time, an independent force to make you re-experience; transcendental.

KO:What is your favorite film?

NL: le premier jour du reste de ta vie I watched it for the first time on a plane and spent months looking for it after that. I finally ordered it from an eBay seller in France. I watch it almost every month and cry at the exact same places each time. This film is so close to me, to my life, it touches me. I relate to every character, I feel for them, I become them throughout the film. I am reminded of my life, of my dreams, of my heartbreaks; it is my favourite film and I can’t see it ever being replaced.

KO:Who is your favorite fashion designer?

NL:I have trouble picking! I think I would pick Alexander McQueen. I really admire his shows and how immersive they are as an experience. Every aspect of his work is so strong, powerful and bold. I really admire how completely his concepts are constructed and executed. I also am so connected to his story personally, his struggles with depression and his relationship to his mother are things I relate to. I admire his legacy, and I mourned his loss so heavily.

KO:What are the staples of your wardrobe?

NL:My biggest staple is a colour: black. I only own clothing in black or grey, and I only own silver jewelry. This was a conscious decision when I realized that I look the way I do because of who I am. I wanted to represent myself visually the way I want to be perceived. Black means so many things to me, but what I enjoy the most about dressing monochromatically is the way it draws attention to textures and material. I am a tactile person and so drawn to weaves, knits and structure, I love accentuating that in my wardrobe.

KO:What kind of music do you like to listen to while you are working?

NL:I find it depends what I’m working on. When I’m working I always try to pick music that mirrors the feeling of the piece I’m working with. For example, while doing really big, blunt work of some of my heavier sculptures or installations I love listening to Drake, Skepta or Beyoncé. Something motivating, energizing. While other work requires more emotional connection and I listen to things like David Giguère, Future Islands, Bonobo; it really depends on the feeling.

KO:Who is your favorite artist?

NL:I have an incredibly hard time answering this question. I think I could narrow it down to a top tier of 3. Forever and always these number ones will be Tracey Emin, Louise Bourgeois and Ann Hamilton. These women embody all the elements of my artistic practice, but more importantly their work connects with me and my views so closely; I feel there is a piece of each of them in me..

KO:What artistic movement or period has influenced you the most in your own practice?

NL:I would honestly say the Impressionists; think Egon Schiele. I am so drawn to honesty, to raw emotion. Though I am not primarily a drawer, Egon Schiele evokes so much emotion in his work, like a mirror to your inner feelings. I aspire to make work so emotionally charged.

KO:What did your parents do that help encourage/discourage you in your artistic practice?

NL:My father and brother are my biggest supporters. Almost every large scale installation I’ve done has either my brother or my father behind the scenes with me. Climbing ladders, hanging hundreds of keys, carrying really heavy things, sitting in a window gallery for hours with me; I can’t name all the things they’ve done. I am so lucky to have their support.

KO:What advice would you give future artists?

NL:Don’t be afraid of fear. Fear is the biggest obstacle as an artist, it comes in my forms and manifests in many different ways; harness it and use it.

KO:Are you superstitious?

NL:I wouldn’t say I’m superstitious, but I would say I’m intuitive. I get feelings about things and I trust them. I have spent a lot of my life losing touch with myself, and have spent the past few years regaining my trust in myself. I have remembered how to trust the feelings I have, and I think that when I don’t listen to my intuition, that is when I run into trouble.

KO:What does your creative process look like?

NL:It looks a lot like living. I find myself almost constantly working, but it takes its form in coffee dates with artists, in teaching art in the classroom, in the relationships I build with others, and in the experiences I live daily. My practice exists so intensely within my day-to-day it’s almost impossible to distinguish research from creation from living.

KO:Where do you create? Where is your studio?

NL:I am really lucky to work primarily out of residencies. I am almost always working out of a residency studio, somewhere new and different. I am so motivated by my surroundings and by change. I have been so lucky to have worked in several different countries and cities, remote Northern Iceland was definitely the most unique of these experiences. I have just finished a residency with the ledge gallery at the Arts Commons, and I am just getting started at my second year of a teaching/studio residency. I also have a small home studio primarily for research, drawing and writing at my apartment.

KO:How has your style evolved?

NL:My style has evolved so heavily and quickly in my emerging career. I started with no exposure, or experience to the art world. Once I started at ACAD I wanted to try everything I could get myself into, and as a result my practice has jumped around a lot. I am continuously growing as an individual and as an artist, I can’t say that I am stable in my style now; but I have definitely found my voice for now.

KO:Where do you ideally see yourself in 7 years from now?

NL:Seven years from now I see myself continuing to practice, and exhibiting internationally at non-profit galleries. I see myself continuing to work in residencies internationally, and look to Belgium as my next location. I dream of directing an artist-run centre here in Calgary and working to grow our artistic community to reach a wider population. I can’t imagine my life without teaching, I just don’t know how that role will continue to fit into my growing artistic career. I’m excited to see where I end up seven years from now.




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