Since Adam and I moved into our home its remained a blank slate of sorts, in a gallery like fashion. Our stark white walls have been longing for the company of art. But I'm extremely particular, and I didn't just want to display the first print we came across. You should have a connection with the art you choose to display, or in the very least, it should draw out some sort of emotion or feeling. I'm hardly an expert on the matter (unless we count my attempted year of studying design at OCAD), but its the way I feel. I took up the suggestion of Hamish Robertson, Vanity Fair Editor, and publisher of the independent house Brown Griffin, and checked out the illustrations of Montreal artist, Erika Altosaar. And I became sort of enchanted by her work. L’Étranger is beautiful, haunting, fragile; her drawings really move me. "If I take my entire practice into account I'm dealing with a lot to do with femininity whether it's ornament or figure, but they carry a very different set of vocabulary," explains Erika, "They aren't portraits, or nudes, they're women or they are actions. L'Étranger was born out of blind contour drawings that I was doing in public spaces, documenting moments I had by sketching their outlines and the frames to their faces; their hair." I'm sort of tempted to bring a drawing to my hair stylist -- see, this is that wispy, low maintenance look I'm going for. But lightheartedness aside, I love that the faces are vacant throughout the whole series, allowing you to fill in the visual blanks.
Hamish initially approached Erika to contribute to his first issue of Afterzine. (Alexa Chung, Thurston Moore, Hannah and Landon Metz, Tavi and Peter Saville are among the contributors, so yes, it's pretty awesome.) "He's very level headed and so encouraging, the best there is in curating talent and taste," says Erika, "He suggested we work on a larger scale and produce a series of my drawings exclusively." And away they went with the collaboration. The presentation of the portfolio is interesting. It was Hamish's idea to publish the illustrations in an unbound tabloid style on 35# newsprint. "This way they aren't bound to a page, and can exist independently from the rest of the series," says Erika, "You can hang them up on your wall like posters or keep them bound like an oversized zine." I plan to frame four from the series, and hang them in our stairway.
Below, la grippe (left) and la chute (right)
Erika splits her time between Toronto and Montreal, where she studies fine art at Concordia University. Ask her what her dream job is and she'll tell you she'd like to be involved in creative art direction, or layout design. "But I could never lose touch with my studio career. Drawing on the computer just isn't enough," says Erika, "I need to get my hands dirty and feel the lines that I'm making. I like the permanency of a mark made on a surface. It's something you don't get with digital drawing and a quality of art making that I definitely place above everything else." It's pretty incredible to see her work already published and for sale at Desert Island in Brooklyn, Opening Ceremony in New York and Skylight Books in LA. "It's the craziest thing in the world!" exclaims Erika, "I first saw it in Brooklyn, and quickly ran out, and then I saw it in Opening Ceremony, and stuck around talking to some staff because they recognized me and it made it a little easier for me to see it on the shelf. It's just weird being faced with something you worked for, it's definitely a unique experience."
Stay tuned, as I plan to visit her studio this summer and see what future projects she is up to!
L’Étranger | Erika Altosaar
Editions: Limited to 500 copies
Each is numbered by hand -- get your signed copy here.