Friday, July 7, 2017

Tara Juneau By Kate Stone

Grow, oil on board, 20 x 30"
In a room full of their most recent artwork is the best place to meet an artist, and it was at her one-man show that I had the privilege of meeting Vancouver Island artist Tara Juneau.  I had moved from Toronto to an area with a completely different art scene—much smaller, and seemingly much less interested in oil painting, realist art, or figurative work.  During my time on the Island since then, I’ve realized that Tara’s prodigious talent is all the more impressive because of the relative isolation in which she has developed her craft.  The excellence in her art is the result of an incredible intuition for her medium and a powerful voice which forces its way out in each and every painting.

My respect for Tara’s work comes in part from knowing her personally and learning about the obstacles she faces to creating work.  Not only does she have a solvent allergy, which is a game ender for many painters, but she has returned to school to pursue a career in the sciences. Art-making has been relegated to the scant times during the year when she can steal a few consecutive hours and days for a project—in between studying and carrying out her responsibilities as a single mum. 

Self Portrait, oil, 20x16"
Stone:   My favorite paintings of yours are your self-portraits, and anyone who has spent any time getting to know your work will notice that it is a subject you return to again and again. Sometimes the work is clearly a self-portrait; other times you have cast yourself as a mythological figure or a character acting out a narrative. Can you talk a bit about your artistic intention and process?

Juneau:  I guess my intention is mainly to make a painting that is pleasing to look at. Mythical females are a subject I seem to return to repeatedly. They are dramatic, powerful and often taboo. Using myself as a model is just a convenience. I always show up on time when I am available to paint and I know what pose I am looking for. And I don’t mind the company.

Doing self-portraits from life is probably a bit like maintaining a yoga pose for an incredibly long period of time. When painting ‘Andromeda and the Blue Sky’ I basically did one body part at a time, using mirrors set up around the studio. It was painful. There are parts of the painting I wouldn’t consider done because I got to the point where I didn’t want to crouch in that pose anymore.

Stone:   If you could give one snapshot of your experience being a female artist—something that probably wouldn’t have happened if you were a male artist—what would it be?

Andromeda and the Blue Sky, oil, 39x24"
Juneau:  Having my physical appearance attached so closely to what I do. Given the fact that I do a lot of self-portraits, that is understandable, but say, for instance, I post a picture on Facebook of my work. It could be a painting of anything, a tree, fruit, a skull… there will likely be some comment in there about what I look like. There is a little experiment I would like to run one day: to make up a fake artist name and persona, but male, and see how my work or the persona are treated. It would be interesting.

Stone:  In spite of the workshops you have had with Anthony Ryder and Jeremy Lipking, you have for the most part developed your method and vision in isolation in rural Vancouver Island. What are your thoughts on being a painter in a part of the world where there seem to be few figurative realist oil painters and few people who can even begin to understand this style of work?

Juneau:   Keep at it. For some reason artists (I’m not sure if this is a local thing or global) feel the need to put down realism. I’ve heard people who do abstract art say that they mastered realism and moved on, or that it is easy and boring (their skills always show otherwise). There is nothing boring or easy about realism. It’s hard! Even if I lived twelve lifetimes, I couldn’t master it! These people are delusional, don’t listen to them or engage them in conversation. It just makes you the person arguing with someone whose ego is bigger than their skill and you should be spending that time working at your art.

Stone:  Can you talk about your beginnings in painting? Did you have any important artistic influences early in your life?

The First Eve, oil, 30x30"
Juneau:   When I was about eleven my best friend and I found some oil paints in her mother’s storage space. We started playing around with them and I just couldn’t stop. Soon I got my own supplies and went at it. My father owns a house in Nanoose Bay, you may have driven past it, and it had a horse field next to it. I filled many a canvas with terrible paintings of horses grazing near the large oak tree, bald eagles hunting rabbits and sunsets on the calm bay. A little later on it was Leonardo DaVinci.  Not only was he an artist and scientist, he was a left-hander with quirky writing habits like myself. I loved the other worldly, soft faces of his figures, the way you could see where he had changed a line and not bothered to erase the old one. He will always be a source of inspiration to me.

Stone:  How has your personal life affected your art, and how has your art affected your personal life?

Juneau:   I process my emotions through painting. Painting somehow opens up a part of me that would not be expressed otherwise. It feels like there are two people living inside me sometimes; the person who lives the daily life is so different from the one holding the paintbrush. I still haven’t learned how to reconcile the two into one person. I think some of the people in my life have been in love or infatuated with one side and not the other. That has been a painful realization.

It is difficult to go long periods without painting. I definitely don’t process my thoughts and feelings as well in ordinary life and I need to paint eventually. Art has added a whole other dimension to my life. It has brought some really great and interesting people into my life (like you and Dave). It adds a richness to my life that makes it so…extra. It’s extra satisfying, extra sexy and extra challenging.


  1. Mind blowing art works no words to explain it - See my blog page and give me some suggestions to improve my skills all kind of comments are welcome

  2. Tara Juneau, The Focus Gallery is looking for you.