Sandra Chevrier was working as a sushi chef in Montreal before she decided to dedicate herself full-time to a career as an artist. Fortunately she made the correct decision at the right time, and her career has taken off, with new shows lined up for the next two years. During the busy Art Basel week, we sat down with her to find out more about her artwork and discuss her current show at Above Second Gallery, which closes on May 7th. (Catch it now while you can!)
When people first see your work, do they assume that it’s a male artist, not a female artist?
Yes, because comic books – it’s more a male thing.
Do you think women in general, and men, have a different eye for your art?
I do think so. From what I’ve heard, of speaking with women I know, I think women are more drawn into the eyes, like the emotional side of it. The guys are more into looking through the story behind the comic books. It’s a lot of memories from childhood for them… it’s something that they were passionate about that comes back.
Was there another subject matter that you were doing this type of process with before you moved to super heroes?
Yes, I started this “Cages” series, it was just like raw brush strokes on the face, I would paint a portrait and then you would have the contrast of large brush strokes on top, like they were trapped in a cage or in a prison. I stopped the series for a year because I wanted it to evolve, but I didn’t really know when. And then randomly – because I was not into comic books before – I often go to flea markets, and I just ended up buying some comic books, the Pop-art feel of it is interesting, the colors, the story, so I thought that it could be great. I just tried some studies on paper, and people really loved it.
There’s a lot of complexity in the hair and the eyes. There’s a lot of things that can draw you into the paintings…
I’ve always worked very aesthetically to draw in the spectator, but I also want it to mean something. When you take the time, then you understand what the message is behind it.
How about when you were a kid? What did you draw or paint?
I don’t think I was any better than other kids my age, but I would sit in my room and draw. I think I got more serious when I was about 13 or 14, we would go to galleries and museums, and that’s when I understood that I could do this for a living.
Did your family help expose you to the option of art as a career?
My father is a collector. He was the one bringing me to the galleries. It was probably because of him that I made this kind of revelation.
I had a similar upbringing. I think my parents are still disappointed that I’m not an artist! (Laughs)
But it’s a scary world though. I’m not sure my parents really thought that I could really live out of my art. At one point it’s a hobby, but it’s hard to define if it’s good enough, there are so many artists out there, and in Montreal, the art market is not there. It really started in Europe. In Norway, where I started to make connections. My first show was there.
If I gave you a piece of paper and asked you to draw something, what would you draw?
When I started to draw, the only thing I would draw as a teenager were eyes. It was not complete portraits. It was eyes. Now I don’t have a lot of time to draw, I usually start on the canvas, that’s how I got my experience as an illustrator and a painter, is that I used to draw all the time. I don’t know why, I was always into portraits.
Do you doodle at all?
I work twelve hours a day on my paintings and have a son, so I don’t have the time – I would love that because often it’s when you just doodle – it comes with instinct a lot – and something happens and then gives you an idea.
So one thing I was curious about – social media – how does that play a role now with art? You’re on Instagram and Facebook, how do you feel about that? What are your experiences with it?
My work is known because of social media. I’ve been on Facebook for a few years, and that’s really how I got the attention of the gallery in Norway. They saw my work on Facebook, and it builds up. I think it’s the best route for an artist.
What do you think of Instagram?
Well, it’s the same thing, I started to use it a year and half ago, and it’s better than Facebook. I’ve gotten a lot of attention from celebrities and people that I’ve been able to reach out to. It’s just amazing the power of social media.
I’ve seen some really crappy artists who have a lot of followers… what does that say about our society?
I don’t know, well the nice thing is that there’s a lot of people that don’t have time to go to art galleries or museums, or they don’t take their kids. I think this is a way that art finds its place.
What are your personal feelings on street art?
I think there’s a difference between a mural and street art, that someone doesn’t feel like they’re limited in what they can draw. You can not just do a mural and do whatever you want. So there’s a difference there.
I have mixed feeling about it myself. When it’s sanctioned, it loses a little bit of its…
The energy, the instinct of the artist, the time limit, you don’t have four days to do your thing – yeah it’s really different, the messages are different. It’s just two things apart I guess. A lot of people hate to see graffiti in the streets – I actually like it. In Montreal, it’s like one over another over another, and it becomes a texture.
Do you have a favorite medium?
I really love watercolor, because you can control it, but not totally. And there’s a fluid side of it.
Do you listen to music when you do art?
I do! I need it. I really like old soul vinyls, like Nat King Cole and I’m into more dramatic music.
Does having a kid affect your art?
It’s really because of my kid that I got into it more seriously. I was working as a sushi chef before I got pregnant, and then I made the choice to not go back to work because I knew that I wouldn’t have the time to do it. I thank my son for giving me the courage to try it. Because I would probably have a side job still. My son is six, but he’s been a critic of my work since he was little.
O.K. besides knowing how to make sushi, what other strange skills do you have?
I’m a very weird stuff collector. I go to flea markets every week and I buy stuff every week. My apartment is kind of a museum. I like to pick up things that have a history. I have a lot of animals that are made of I think it’s like aluminum. (Like a rocking horse?) I own a lot of these. I’m building my own universe. It’s nice to have something unique that nobody else has. When you find something it’s like treasure.
So what’s next for you?
I have a lot of shows coming up. I’m booked til the end of 2018. So yeah, that’s what I will be working on for the next few years. I would also like to start doing more murals – get out of my comfort zone, and travel.
Sandra Chevrier solo exhibition
Les Cages / The Echo Of The Crash, Bam, Pow!
Above Second Gallery
9 First Street
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
The exhibition closes on Saturday, May 7th.