Thursday, February 12, 2009

Interview with Team Macho

q)Please introduce yourself.

a) Hello! We are Team Macho, an art collective

from Canada. We are Lauchie Reid, Stephen Appleby-Barr,

Christopher Buchan, Jacob Whibley, and Nicholas Aoki.

q)Where do you live and work?

a) For a few of us, that is the same place.

We have a very large semi-underground studio

in a poor area of

Toronto, Canada. Toronto is great. It’s a fun

and interesting place with lots to see and do,

but it is very Canadian, so everyone works

very hard and is quite nice.

q)How would you describe your work to

someone who has never seen it?

a) How do you describe any art to someone who

hasn’t seen it? Well… We work collectively

on large numbers of

very stylistically diverse paintings and drawings

that may seem very surreal and random on

their own but, when viewed as part of a whole,

reveal themselves to be a part of a much larger

non-sequential narrative.

q)How did you start in the arts?

How/when did you realize you were an artist?

a) Four of us met in college while attending a

program in Illustration. While we were there,

we decided that we did not particularly enjoy

the idea of commercial art in terms of how the

industry conducted itself. It was a little bit too much

like chickens pecking for little scraps of food.

We felt that we had a lot to say and didn’t want

to be restrained by art directors and publishers.

When we graduated we got ourselves a big studio

and brought on our fifth member and stayed pretty

much to ourselves for a time. A couple of us had been

self publishing our work for a while and it was seen

by a very different and forward minded gallery,

Magic Pony, who were very encouraging and

interested in what we did as a group. We pitched them

a show idea and they really liked it. We had our

first exhibition “Friends 4 Life” and it sold very quickly.

Interestingly, that show was attended by a few people

from the commercial sector and as a result

we found ourselves to be quite welcome in the

commercial world, but accepted on our own

terms as we were “artists” and not illustrators.

q)What are your favorite art materials and why?

a) We use a hugely diverse array of media in

our work including, watercolor, gouache,

colored pencil, graphite, acrylic, alkyd, oil, airbrush,

silkscreen, block printing, ink, and pretty much

anything we can get our hands on. This seems to

stem from our innate desire to experiment. We consider

every work we do to be some form of experiment.

When we started, none of us really bothered to agree

to any rules other than “Never be bored”.

q)What/who influences you most?

a) It may sound strange but we do. Because we work

as five people, there is an endless amount of

back-and-forth with a lot of joking, discussion, argument,

and compromise. We tend to view our artistic output

as something of a diary or journal of our time together

and all of the interactions that take place.

q)Describe a typical day of art making for you.

a) On any given day we will all be at the studio doing

something. Sometimes it might just be cutting paper

in preparation for something or using our wood shop

to make a panel to paint. Seeing as we work as

illustrators as well, it is important that someone

is always present to take calls and manage the email.

A typical day will find at least three of us painting

at our respective desks or easels, listening to an

astrophysics podcast or a German power metal band,

playing video games and running ideas by one another.

q)Do you have goals, specific things you want

to achieve with your art or in your career as an artist?

a) We recently were brought to Amsterdam for a

show with a very nice gallery called Sid Lee Collective.

They were very generous to us, bringing us to the

Netherlands and putting us up. It was a great experience

for us as four of us had never been to Europe before.

It really inspired us and made us realize the potential

for travel as an artistic goal. Traveling to the great art

producing countries and on some level contributing

to their conversation. None of us came from a lot of

money or anything like that so our goals are generally

to work hard enough to allow us access to the

things that we haven’t done yet.

q)What contemporary artists or developments

in art interest you?

a) Toronto right now has an amazing group

of emerging artists. Nicholas DiGenova, Andrew Wilson,

Melinda Josie, Ted Tucker and many more.

It is great to see such dynamic and exciting

art redefining what Canada, a country not

known for groundbreaking contemporary art,

can be capable of. There are also amazing things

happening in the squats of South London and in Argentina

q)How long does it typically take you to finish a piece?

a) That is a very difficult question! It depends on a

lot of different factors such as: who is working on it,

what size it is, which media, the concept, etc.

A large scale drawing with all five of us could

take anywhere up to four or five months while some s

maller work is done in few hours.

But the opposite can also be true.

q)Do you enjoy selling your pieces, or are you

emotionally attached to them?

a) We have always enjoyed making the work more

than having it. When we have shows, we often walk

around with our buyers and tell them stories about

what was happening when certain pieces were made.

It’s really fun and it helps people to feel confident that

what they have purchased is more than an exercise

in composition and color theory. We get to have our

time making it and enjoy it immensely when it finds

a home with someone who loves it fiercely.

q)Is music important to you? If so, what are

some things you're listening to now?

a) Music is extremely important to us. It is difficult

to make a playlist that will satisfy and not annoy

five guys with pretty different tastes but there

are some things that we can all agree on: Queen, Iron Maiden,

R.Kelly, Kylie Minogue, a lot of Post Punk or New Wave…

Actually seeing all of that together makes us

realize how bizarre our tastes are…


a)We all are avid readers but often can’t find

the time to read actual books. We usually listen to

audio books meant for visually impaired people.

We actually listen more to books than we do to music.

Lately, we have been listening to: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell,

several Star Wars novels, War and Peace by Tolstoy,

The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky,

Time Enough for Love by Heinlein, an amazing series

on the great books of literature from the Learning Company,

The History of the Oxford English Dictionary

(way more interesting than it seems!) and some

podcasts about space. We have a vast collection of

reference books and are always with one or two in hand.

We also collect books on our three favorite painters

(Velazquez, Sargent, and Vermeer) and read

and ponder them often.

q)What theories or beliefs do you have regarding

creativity or the creative process?

a)We have a very unstructured way of coming up

with ideas and very few limits either stylistically

or conceptually but one thing that we do believe

in is hard work. It is most likely due to our

schooling which was notorious for being incredibly

disciplined. Drawing and painting are hard to do

and it takes a lot of practice and determination

to be able to create an image the way you want

and in a way that works.

q)What do you do (or what do you enjoy doing)

when you're not creating?

a)We are all avid bicyclists. We try to be good boyfriends

and husbands when we have time off. Probably what most

people do most of the time.

q)Do you have any projects or shows coming up that

you are particularly excited about?

a)This year we haven’t booked anything as three of us

have solo exhibitions. We work extremely hard and

make a lot of work so right now we are taking time

to work on some prints of some of our early work.

It is a great way to revisit some of our past favorites

and allow people who like our work to get a chance

to own something affordable but still handmade.

q)Do you follow contemporary art scenes? If so, how?

What websites, magazines, galleries do you prefer?

a) We do and we don’t. We really like what is going on

these days and it seems that the web has allowed a huge

number of relatively obscure artists the opportunity

to showcase and sell their work. That is an absolutely

incredible and unheard of situation in terms of the history of art.

It’s exciting. However, we generally don’t have the time

to browse around and find new things. We try to go to

as many shows at the Toronto galleries we like

(Magic Pony, Katherine Mulherin, Paul Petro) and

never hesitate to buy something when we can.

q)What is one thing that you would like people to

understand about your art?

a) We would really enjoy it if people could view

our work beyond the cursory sense and see past

what is often perceived to be a veil of sarcasm or irony.

We feel very strongly about what it is that we do and what

we make and want people to be able to allow themselves

to drop the cynical pretensions that people generally mistake

for sophistication when making their tastes in art. It feels

as though for one to be a great appreciator of fine art,

one must cultivate a disdain for enjoying oneself.

We regularly use imagery that people tend to think is

wry or sarcastic but is, in truth, a very important part of the

visual cultural of regular people in North America over

the past century. Things that might seem laughable

and often are do not have to be considered in the same vein

as nut-shot humor or one-off jokes. It seems to us that the

reason that art remains as seemingly inaccessible to

people as it does lies in peoples' inability or lack of desire

to see the possibilities in the mundane or the tasteless.

q)Any advice for aspiring artists?

a) Yes indeed! Learn about what has come before and

what is happening now. Know the landscape of what

you wish to be involved in. Always be able to talk about

what you do but try not to very often. Be a responsible

and articulate artist and always try to add something worthwhile.

q)Where can we see more of your work online?

a)We have a collection of our work on our website as well as a Flickr account at


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