Xander Maclaren and Flora Aldridge Duo Exhibition

Xander Maclaren makes art about systems:  his works explore an ever present tension between logical and arbitrary choices . Flora Aldridge creates works that explore the complexity of memory, and the fabrications or distortions which arise during the process of recollection. Both Xander and Flora are Toronto- based artists, completing their final year of study at The Etobicoke School of The Arts.


Left: Xander Maclaren’s  017, (2015); Right: Flora Aldridge’s Recollection, (2015)


Q: From your artist statement, it seems that the process in creating your pieces is a particularly important aspect to your work. Can you speak a bit about your intention when creating?

A: It is important to me that once a piece is started, it could theoretically be worked on forever. This could be through increasing size, increasing density, or some other metric. I define some visual parameters and watch where a pattern is going, guiding it gently rather than dictating.

The visual timeline of creating my two-dimensional works is an evolution from simplicity to complexity and back. There is a point about halfway through the process, before the lines are very dense, where the canvas looks like a disjointed mess. I continue from there and stop once there are enough lines drawn to create a sort of uniform noise.

The process is that of the piece sorting itself out.

Q: I love that your pieces convey such a strong sense of movement and texture, all through line work.  Do these works reference images that you observe in real life, or are they of a plane all their own?

A: The images tend to share a resemblance with systems in nature and elsewhere because of the manner in which they are drawn. Despite this, I consider them to be purely “flat” and not intentionally representational.

Sedimentary rock formations and tree rings are formed in essentially the same way as my drawings, with each layer or line being a slightly dulled or rounded-off “photocopy” of the preceding one.

As a result, there are visual similarities to real objects, but it is important that this comes to be through the honest evolution of a piece rather than a deliberate effort. My titles (which I choose usually a few weeks after a piece is completed) sometimes reference this resemblance because I hate to leave work untitled.


021, (2016)

Q: How do you believe Flora’s body of work complements yours within this exhibition?

A: In both Flora’s and my art, there are new images being created that have a grounding in our present or past reality. I believe that these groundings, and the thinking that led to them, are rather different between the two of us – Flora’s work draws on mental processes (namely memories) while mine draws on physical processes.

My work is not image based, while Flora’s takes cues from significant and carefully chosen existing imagery. Despite this fundamental difference, there is a visual harmony because of her effectiveness in distilling an image down to its core. As a result of this, the exhibition has a consistent visual cleanliness.

Q: As a young emerging artist, do you notice something in particular that your generation is bringing forward in the art scene that was perhaps not prevalent previously?

A: As of now, the prevailing trend in the work of my peers seems to be confession. There is a great deal of vulnerability that comes with a theme this personal. Common recurring elements include naïve visual styles and text fragments – a general striving for an “unfiltered” or non-curated aesthetic.

I have found that this is not where my area of interest or my skills lie.

I think that honesty is key to making good art. Although my work is sometimes said to be impersonal, I believe that through its transparency it is every bit as honest as explicitly introspective art.

Q: Who are a few artists that currently inspire you?

A:  My idea of “good art” was blown up and formed anew when I saw an exhibition at the Guggenheim of the Zero group of artists a couple years ago. I was most struck by the visual and ideological purity of the work.

The most direct influences on my two-dimensional work are pieces dating back to the mid-20th century from the likes of Frank Stella, Bridget Riley, and Sol LeWitt. I do not believe that my drawings and paintings read as proper minimalism or op art, though, in that my approach is more explicitly handmade.

Contemporary influences, more so in my three-dimensional and digital work, include Takeshi Murata, Jimmy Limit, and Thijs Rijkers.

I was lucky enough to once see a rendition of Anthony McCall’s “Line Describing A Cone”. I hope to someday create something so simple with such visceral power.


Q:  In your artist statement you speak about the importance of remembering, and your reinterpretations of memories. What prompted you to create your pieces “Water Amongst the Trees” and “Recollection” on such a large scale, and how does their sizing relate to the theme of this body of work?

A: Creating my works on such a large scale helps to fully emerge the viewer within the piece. When you stand in front of these pieces the size allows the viewer to be brought closer and closer into the piece. I created them on this scale so that people get lost in the paintings so that the lines and images have a hypnotizing effect. When you are fully enveloped in my pieces, it allows you to create your own reinterpretations of the memories held within the pieces. My work is about proving that memories can be preserved and by creating my pieces on such a large scale it makes the memories within the paintings really impact the viewer on an even stronger level.

Q: The fact that your pieces are comprised of outlines, as opposed to full-fleshed out images, is quite striking. What does this kind of imagery, where there is more openness for interpretation, mean in the context of your work?

A: By extracting purely the outline of specific images, I am showing how extremely fragile and easily manipulated our memories are. Within my work I strive to preserve memories of others, as well as leaving the images open enough for the viewer to obtain their own interpretation. While looking through the photos that inspired this body of work, I began to rationalize and fabricate thoughts that connect the images to experiences within my own life. By leaving merely the outline of the photos I am inviting the viewers to do the same. My work strives to evoke connections between people as well as giving the experience that I had when looking through the photos. The overlapping of the images as well as extracting the outline conveys the feeling that the images are merging together. This relates to how I rationalized my own memories to fit those of the photos as well as how images are constantly changing each time you recall them.


Water Amongst The Trees (6′ x 8′, 2015)

Q: How do you believe Xander’s body of work complements yours within this exhibition?

A: I believe Xander’s body of work complements my work as both of our works are on a larger scale. This gives a sense of cohesiveness to our works and joins them together. The simplicity of both works also ties them together. Xander’s work, like my own, looks almost deconstructed because the images and shapes have been stripped down to a pure form where they are able to stand out on their own. The fact that Xander’s work is mostly black and white compliments my body work within this exhibition because I generally use multiple bright colours in my work. This differentiation in colour pallet allows our work to stand apart from one another as well as being bound together by imagery and concept.

Q: As a young emerging artist, do you notice something in particular that your generation is bringing forward in the art scene that was perhaps not prevalent previously?

A: The generation that I am a part of is very new in sense of the access to technology. My generation is essentially the first wave of this large new technological era entering the world. This access and use of technology enables young people to be exposed to different forms of art and really understand what is going on in the art scene all over the world. My generation is also different because there is a lot more pressure and stress put on emerging young people. The world is always striving to grow and become more successful but being a part of the generation that is supposed to grow the world into a better place adds stress to many young people’s lives. Because of this emerging stress, the creative side of arts is heightened. Art is used as an outlet to express one’s feelings and so I believe that a new type of art is emerging within this generation. This new type of art is essentially relating to what makes you, as an artist, feel good and relaxed as well as creating a peaceful and calming environment with your art: allowing others to relax. I have translated this concept within my work as I have created a system that acts as almost a therapeutic, calming ritual while I paint.

Q: Who are a few artists that currently inspire you?

One artist that has continued to inspire me for most of my life as an artist is Anselm Kiefer. Anselm Kiefer was the first artist who really inspired me and essentially sparked my true interest in art. His work and writing inspired me to make works that were meaningful to me. Currently and more recently, however, some artists that have inspired me are Bjorn Copeland and Gwen MacGregor. From going to galleries and exploring the art scene in Toronto I have learned more about these artists. When something is inspiring I believe that you must feel something right after looking at certain works because that means the art has really touched you and made you feel something. I felt this specific inspiration after looking at both these artists’ work.


The opening reception for Xander Maclaren and Flora Aldridge’s duo exhibition will be held from 6-9pm on Thursday, March 3rd, 2016  at Project Gallery Studios (184 Munro Street). The exhibition will be on display until March 27th, 2016 and will be accessible by appointment only.