About Art interview with Bree Hyland


Bree Hyland is a Canadian artist based in Halifax whose work addresses themes related to the feminine psyche. Her paintings and drawings address female identity, social norms, oppression, sexuality, spirituality, the artificial and natural world. A show of her recent works, “Her Impossibly Gentle Hands and Blood-Red Fingernails” premiered at the Grace Jollymore Joyce Arts Centre in Tatamagouche. It was Hyland’s first solo show after graduating from NSCAD in 2014.

Why do you make art?
I think this can be a difficult question for artists to answer, because it brings up questions around what IS art? Do you have to be aware that you are making art, for it to be considered art? I bring this up because I can remember making pictures from a very young age. One in particular stands out because it wasn’t the usual expected drawing made by a child. It was small drips of ink. Once they hit the paper, the ink spread through the paper grain and made these star like marks. I repeated this dripping on the paper in a very conscious way, making sure none overlapped and that the arrangement was pleasing. This piece was framed by my dad and went with him to every office he occupied while working. This drawing was done before I was in public school, before I was told to respond to something in particular. So was that art? Or did my art start when I decided to go to NSCAD in 2010? I make art because it is the way I work out ideas. I am a visual person. I learn a lot from looking at images. If you don’t like what you see, then you have no choice, you have to make your own visions real.

How do you work?
I have a studio in my home in Halifax NS. I make drawings, usually quick, contour drawings in marker when I have an idea for a image. This is something I do continually so I don’t forget, like taking notes to remember information. I use oil paint and canvas, sometimes wood. I establish the direction I want the painting to go in, with many revisions, scarping away and building up layers of the surface,before the paintings feel complete. I never really know how each of the paintings will go. Usually, what I imagine will work doesn’t, and then I have to figure out a way to continue. This can be a struggle,finding my way through a painting, trusting that I will know it when I see it, and until that happens, I keep working on it.

What themes do you pursue?
I create paintings that address themes related to the feminine psyche. My work explores undervalued notions of intuition, emotion, mysticism and domesticity, weaving together archetypal imagery, art historical motifs, and popular culture, through the female gaze.

Professionally, what are your goals?
Within my work I aim at representing a new outlook on feminism or gender consciousness, helping to expand the category of womanhood so that anything is possible within it. I am a part of a generation who’s concerns are different from the predominant value systems that are based on economic development alone. A new wave of people are speaking out against the lack of diverse representation, raising issues around gender and cultural conformity, or standardization and it’s relationship to power. I want to work on representing and addressing this much needed shift. I want to show women as charged figures in the pursuit for autonomy, a visual expression of a current form of resistance. I want to continue to work hard, to one day show work nationally and internationally and to be considered a ‘good’ artist, not just a ‘good artist, for a woman’.

Where else can we find you?
I’m just starting to get a website together www.breehyland.com I also created a small business of crafting natural perfumes and holistic skincare services. This is what I spend my time on when I’m not in the studio. More info here www.barrestudio.ca