UnderCover: Artist Interview with Agatha Fast Doerksen

In this UnderCover interview, we chat with Agatha Fast Doerksen, that artist behind the cover of Dora Dueck'sAll That Belongs.

Agatha Fast Doerksen piceditsmaller1. Looking at your portfolio, it is clear that you have an affinity for collage and mixed media artworks—what drew you to this form and medium? 

Early in life I did ceramics which is a very tactile medium.  I enjoy the feel and sensation of the clay in my hands. I also created sculptural works out of metal and found objects.  I have always been drawn to the “feel and temperature” of the material - fabric, metal, paper, glass. When I focused on painting as my primary activity, it was natural to embed things I had collected.  Having traveled extensively, I had memory-bits from many places. Incorporating them was like embedding the energy and memory of that place into the art work. It interests me whether the embedded items are detectable to the viewer when the piece is finished.

2. Where do you find the materials that make their way into your artwork? Do the objects you collect dictate the piece you create, or do you begin with a vision and find materials to complement it?  

I have always collected bits from my travels and everyday life.  I will see an expired butterfly with beautiful wings spread out, a rusted bent nail no longer of any practical use, a book so stained it is no longer legible, fallen flower petals, and when snail mail was more popular I gleaned the stamps from envelopes. I search for material that best illustrates my autobiographical themes of redemption, memory and visioning of a personal mythology. 

3. Can you tell us a bit about your Lola Series and Gertrude, the piece that graces the cover of All That Belongs, and how it came into being? 

The first and original Lola appeared on my canvas in 2016 unexpectedly and with a giggle.  She had an air of innocence, blue hair disheveled amid a backdrop of graffiti, with a crudely fashioned crown and dragonfly in her hair.

GertrudesmallerThe Lolas that followed (all with individual feminine names), have been playful, audacious, and unpredictable.  My Lolas have come to me in night time dreams and day time reveries.  Each has a story. Mai Lola in bed with her fish has been a repetitive dream - an enchanting dream where fish and humans take care of each other. Gertrude Lola was all about the encompassing embrace of family and community; with a sense of security and love and also of exhaustion when there’s nothing left to give. Thus the perfect time to braid Franz Kafka’s poem into her hair:

You don’t need to leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Don’t even listen, simply wait.
Don’t even wait.
Be quite still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you.
To be unmasked, it has no choice.
It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

Lola is shy, perhaps naive.  Lola is emotional.  Lola is full of character, loyalty and the absurd. She is surrounded by her love of nature   It is no coincidence that Lola appeared as the social and political events of 2016 were unfolding……amid the chaos and alarm of “what was to be done to save us all from these larger than life events which had no apparent solution?”  Perhaps in part an explanation of why their eyes are closed.  There was a comic relief of sorts as the Lolas continued to appear, unbidden and in the most bizarre of circumstances.  Each with an intention and some ray of inspiration.  

In my studio practise I always have multiple paintings in process.  The Lola paintings would often be the ones I did for fun - spontaneously and between larger more considered projects.  I would get this thought (in my head) that I should stick to my “plan” for other works. Like an easy habit, I kept painting the Lolas for the enjoyment they gave me.  Not so long ago, I realized that in a most definitive way that The Lola Series had become a stand-alone body of work. They were almost all on square surfaces, all were female, all had closed eyes, all rich with collaged items of personal significance, and all in acrylic medium.  These paintings have been enormously fun and given me many ah ha moments!

4. Is there a certain time of day during which you work best? 

I have learned that disciplining myself to show up in my studio daily, usually mid-morning after other routine chores have been taken care of, and working until late afternoon and the sun has set is an ideal painting day.  I especially love the long hours of full sunlight I enjoy in Zihuatanejo. With the best lighting conditions, I feel I have a chance to prepare the best color palette and make my best paintings.  

5. How do you continue to challenge yourself and push the creative limits of your art?  

While I work I listen to podcasts, music and stories on the internet.  There is so much information readily available to both stimulate and use to research topics for my work.   I love to visit galleries, read, watch films. So there are the external things I learn about the world and how to improve techniques and experiment with other approaches.   There are also the amazing things I have experienced in my life which emerge through my work. All I have to do is to show up to continue and share my work.

 

Agatha Fast Doerksen La Luna 32x32 acrylic mixed media 2019smallersmallerAgathaFast Petrole Hahn mixed media art resin on wood panel 36x36


Agatha Fast Doerksen grew up in a Mennonite family on the Canadian prairies and studied Fine Arts at the University of Manitoba with a major in painting. An avid traveller, she has lived and worked in Mexico, India, Germany, and the USA and currently makes her home in Waterloo, Ontario and Zihuatanejo, Mexico.