Saskatoon born Stephanie Mah is finishing her last term at the University of Saskatchewan. The proof is in the detail when you look at her work and with every medium there is a crispness to the final art piece. Exploring avenues of consciousness and identity for her grad show, Mah will have you looking beyond the paint on the canvas–analyzing your own sense of self and wondering "who am I?".
What's integral to the work you produce?
Though my focused themes have changed through the years, all my work (screen prints, drawings, paintings) include a certain attention to detail that is really important to me. I love the process and care that goes into articulating every detail to evoke a sense of emotion in my work.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
The best art related advice I’ve ever been given was by Jen Mann when I spent this past summer in Toronto working with her. I was experiencing a pretty severe artist block that had been ongoing for almost a year. She said the best way to get over artist block is to stop putting pressure on your self to make art and to live life and enjoy experiences. I’ve been advised by others to push to make art through artist block and it’s never worked for me. Artist block is the worst. It’s miserable and makes me feel like I’m a shell version of myself because so much of my identity is related to my artwork and being creative. It’s been the most impactful advice that I’ll remember for the rest of my art career.
Do you work better alone or with others?
I think it’s really important to be a part of some kind of community, and I love surrounding myself with others who are passionate about what they are pursuing but I am definitely someone who works better alone. Group shows are fun when I am responsible for my own piece, but my expectation of my work calibre doesn’t allow me to enjoy collaborating with other artists on a shared piece. I am really private with my ideas and don’t like sharing until I’ve started because I believe that there’s a degree of subconscious idea duplicating once something is verbalized.
Does your “landscape” shape who you are?
I definitely believe that your landscape, whether it is environmental or relationship related, influences who you are. I know that I wouldn’t be the same person if I hadn’t experienced certain relationships or events. My personal experiences that were unfavourable at the time definitely had the most impact on my sense of self and I think it’s important to remember that.
What themes are you pursing in your grad show?
I am exploring the concept of conscious and subconscious identity and how personal experiences and various relationships influence my sense of self. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting and journaling about my past year and my feelings through relationships and past events that have helped me sort through my feelings and create concepts for my new work. All my paintings are extremely personal and hold significant meaning to who I am as a person.
What has kept you going through your education?
The mindset that I am responsible for creating my own opportunities and being heavily involved in extracurriculars has helped my undergrad be worthwhile. I spent a lot of my degree leading the Visual Arts Student Union and working at the student newspaper, which has given me experiences that are invaluable to my character and future career.