Born in Waterloo, Ontario, now working out of Montreal, visual artist Vickie Vainionpää is weaving together painting and technology on her own terms. Creating naturally formulating shapes that curve and fold into each other much like our own cellular structures mimicking the relationship between human and material. One may see a disconnect from the machine and personal expression but for Vainionpää, it’s a fluid systematic process that has been her main focus in her work for some time now.
"Something that nature could dream up, but that remains alien."
Vainionpää has always been interested in creating. As a kid, the lieu of going outside and playing never caught her eye as her intrigue would be inside with a sketchbook and a pen. Ultimately, that intrigue would develop into a passion she would pursue. “I guess the moment when I seriously got into painting was in university. Up until that point, the tools I was using were pretty basic acrylics, inks, and craft paints. But in the second year, I took an oil painting class and it was such a foreign medium to me. I didn’t understand how to control it in the same way that I had been working with water-based paints. It was exciting and challenging, and still to this day I feel like I haven’t discovered all the intricacies of the medium.”
The process of her creations is layered. Using a 3D software, which she taught herself how to use and program, she generates random shapes and tubes each day at a random point formula which connects any given points in space and creates a line from that. Until numerous entire shapes are formed which overlay each other, Vainionpää then goes in and selects which random generated shape of her liking and paints them onto canvas. It is a process of trial and error. “I go back and forth between the canvas and computer a lot. In the beginning, I like to start digitally, and it takes me quite a while to settle on something I’d like to paint. I have an archive of hundreds and hundreds of renders on my hard drive. On any given day, I might feel like experimenting in 3D, learning a new part of the program, or I might feel like digging through the archive of forms and trying to make something out of them. I think I enjoy starting with 3D software because it’s the ultimate blank canvas -- there’s this virtual barren space with physical parameters that can be altered radically or subtly to produce different results every time. When I'm playing around on the computer, I am drawn to forms and textures that remind me of existing organic matter. Something that nature could dream up, but that remains alien.”
"Lately, I’ve re-ignited an interest in psychedelic drugs and have been listening to Terrance McKenna and Alan Watts lectures."
After selecting her chosen composition is when she’ll switch to the physical painting process of her piece. A big challenge for her is creating a certain texture on the canvas whether by hand in pooling solvent or something more chance-based. “I think it’s important to maintain the quality of the painted surface, so I’m currently working that out in my approach. I use raw linen, which is also a conscious choice; it contrasts the very smooth gradations of light and shadow, which I feel lends to this balance of organic/inorganic. It also is my way to participate and acknowledge the rich history of oil on linen, and connect my work to the network of painters that came before me.”
Although her shapes may be generated at random by a program, the inspirational process of her pieces is found outside and within herself. Taking photographs of other artworks and the natural world, getting up close and personal with other pieces in real life, studying how other artists use paint in their own compositions. Her work is constantly changing and Vainionpää is constantly learning and trying to expand her knowledge not only on her craft but in a broader sense of her medium which she works in.
“I find a lot of inspiration by listening to lectures online, watching documentaries, having conversations with my friends… also digging through old sketchbooks to remind myself of what my interests were when I first started making art. That one is really helpful. Lately, I’ve re-ignited an interest in psychedelic drugs and have been listening to Terrance McKenna and Alan Watts lectures. I think my work has always carried a sense of duality, but also harmony or oneness between themes like the Virtual /Biological, Micro/Macro, Experience/Perception, etc. That’s a direct reflection of what’s inspiring to me— how can we connect eastern and western thought, human and non-human…I’m super excited and inspired by the idea that there’s a fundamental connection between our exponentially evolving technologies and our advancement as human beings, in a spiritual sense.”
There is a worry about the line between the technical aspect and the free-flowing aspect and how far one could or should push that line to where it’s no longer a tool but an entire form of its own. But just as the bridge of technology and human life is becoming shorter and shorter, Vainionpää is keen but nervous a bit to see how far her work can go. But her message will always be the same and that is one of harmony between each shape in one piece each piece in her collection.
“It’s a natural flow, I’m always springboarding off of the last piece that I made. So if I recently completed something with a really complex texture or reflections, for example, I’ll switch it up and paint something more calming and minimal. There’s a balance of creative energy in that way. In terms of communicating what I’m trying to say, I see the entire series as a whole, with each individual piece playing a part of that larger project or message.”
"It also is my way to participate and acknowledge the rich history of oil on linen, and connect my work to the network of painters that came before me."
The future is looking bright for Vainionpää and you should keep your eye out. She is about to show two large pieces for Olga Korper Gallery in Toronto in a group show this October. As well as a residency at GlogauAIR in Berlin in April 2021. Which she’ll be at for three months to prepare work for her next solo show. As well as a duo show in Paris which is still in the works.