Interpreting the Symbols in Ally McIntyres work

Ally McIntyre is a Canadian artist currently based in London, UK. After graduating in Painting and Sculpture from University of Alberta in 2013 she exhibited in several exhibitions including at Latitude53, NEXTFEST Emerging Artists Festival, and the Works international Art and Design Festival with a major sculptural installation in Edmonton’s City Hall. She then completed the MA Fine Art course at Goldsmiths University of London. In 2014, she and Gabriel Molina, a Chelsea College of Art graduate, collaborated on a 440 ft mural for her hometown. She was awarded the Jealous Prize 2014/2015 and Hix award 2015. Ally has created two unique cards for our Guaranteed Postcard Lottery at Moniker Art Fair.  Katherine Stewart caught up with Ally ahead of Moniker. 

Wolf Inverted 

Wolf Inverted 

I feel that your art is heavily imbued in surreal symbolism - numbers, letters, animals - could you talk us through some of the most prominent symbolisms of your work and their meanings to you?

Symbolism naturally floods itself into the work as part of my process. I try not to overthink it at first, but then start to notice patterns. For example, when birds, moons and stars pop up in my work they tend to be overseers to the scene that’s unfolding, representing nature as an active presence. Sometimes I will also get stuck with a number or word while painting, and putting it down will relieve me of it. Most of the time the interpretation of the symbols, and of a painting, comes afterwards (days, months, years), I will look back on it and see the correlations between that time and how I was dealing with present issues and concerns.

What about your move from Canada to the UK, did it affect your artistic output and creation? Does your art express any particular affiliations to your home country or to your travels? 

My move from Canada to the UK definitely affected my artist output and creation. When I first moved, the work was so much about isolation and density and reflected my adjustment to the culture. Then the work evolved into something very personal but very critical as a result of the environment at Goldsmiths. Then when I moved to the countryside, the work became so much about nature and the environment I was in. When I realised that though, a switch turned off, and now all I can paint is the opposite! It seems pretty deliberate. There are particular affiliations to my home country, with reference to the animals, jackrabbits especially, my hometown has so many large jackrabbits!

You’ve previously mentioned that through your art you often focus on breaking down the ever-present dichotomous relationships in our society - for example the male/female or human/animal binaries. Do you feel that you were able to continue exploring this dimension of your work through your art on a postcard?

I was able to retain the human/animal binaries in the work for Art On a Postcard. I inverted the colour of subjects I had already painted, which I have been dying to experiment with! The idea of the binary was pushed materialistically in this work by eliminating my colour for its negative inverted underbelly, and the cut-out puts a further focus on the binary of human and animal. 

Large scale art has often been associated with the male artist. As an artist who is fighting against this stigma, what did it feel like to create a piece of art on a drastically smaller scale? Was there still scope to subvert these patriarchal limitations? 

It was a huge challenge for me to work on a smaller scale. I struggled doing something which would allow for my artistic language to translate well. After many trial runs, I figured it out. There is definitely the room to take on those limitations at this scale, it just is a different space- it really is just about doing and accomplishing without thinking about limitations.

I think many of us who are fascinated or enchanted by art would be familiar with the act of buying a postcard of our favourite work after leaving a gallery or museum. Would you agree that there is something humbling about the postcard format? Considering that it is often one of the only ways for many of us to ‘collect’ and remember art works that we love. Have you considered the way viewers might interact with your artwork on a postcard? 

Robespierre Inverted 

Robespierre Inverted 

I agree there is something so humbling about the postcard format. I have a huge collection of art postcards at home, there is something so intimate about the postcard format. Especially nowadays, collecting something tangible, to hold, feels so precious and valuable, it's for you to experience and not about other people. Some of my fondest gifts I have received were just postcards with a little note written on the back, I love them. 

There’s something very particular about the physical nature of the work on a postcard, it can be passed from hand to hand, shared with ease, like a book it can become a vessel for shared memories and self-identification. How do you think people might identify with your art works?

I hope people can identify a presence to the characters on the postcard and experience them as little tokens in their life.

What made you want to get involved with Art on Postcard? Did creating a piece of art for a cause - in our case raising awareness for hepatitis C - effect your artistic expression in any way?

Creating a piece of art for a worthy cause allowed me to turn off my normal mode of working, I approached the whole experience without my painting ego, allowing me to tap into a different creative expression that I haven’t explored in a while. 

Lastly, we'd love to know what the next big move in your artistic path is? Have you got any exciting exhibitions or collaborations lined up? 

I have veered away from the nature symbols in this next series, maybe because I became too self-aware of them. My next big move is so much about materialism and denial! I have a solo exhibition, Dog Days, coming up this October 5th, 2016 with Jealous Gallery in Shoreditch. Please come along!