Marie Fox is a figurative oil painter based in Fredericton New Brunswick. In 2015 she was awarded the Beaverbrook’s Studio Watch Emerging Artist Series, and 2019 after receiving a creation grant from ArtsNB, a piece from her work ‘Celestial Bodies’ was purchased from the Marion McCain exhibit. Her work is currently carried by Gallery on Queen in downtown Fredericton.
Austin Daigle: When you were starting as an artist, what directed you to oil painting, what about the medium appealed to you?
Marie Fox: I was artistically influenced by my grandfather. He exposed me to a lot of art books, as well as introducing me to the beauty of the natural world. He opened my eyes to the art of seeing, and to be fearless with the absorption and learning of new things. I was always drawing, observing, imagining. His family were either tapestry makers in Belgium or oil painters. It continues the Flemish reverence for oil painting that started with Jan van Eyck, so you can see a lot of that influence in my work, early 15th century and the very beginning of oil painting. Jewel tones, layered with translucent layers— that’s what drew me to oil painting. It was sort of like an ancestral thing, and I’ve always loved that era of art history. I went to art school briefly, the techniques they taught there with oils were not quite my style. Through learning and experimentation, I developed a technique closer to the Flemish manner through glazing.
AD: What are the major themes in your work, why are you drawn to them?
MF: The major themes in my work would be reaching a connection between body, spirit, and what is ‘beyond the veil’ of understanding. A lot of spirituality, coming to terms with the physical form but also subtly portraying realms that are unseen. I wouldn’t say it’s fantasy at all, it’s channeling possible different entities or spirits. I paint humans as otherworldly beings that are also connected with the land (nature is also very important in my work, connecting with ancestors). My European grandfather taught me to be fearless in taking up tasks, but my grandmother (Indigenous) instilled in me a deep reverence for the earth, and quiet wonder in creation.
AD: How has your work changed over the span of your career as an artist?
MF: When I started out, I didn’t have any grand ideas to be an artist, I just knew innately that I had to create, I had to paint. The way I was being taught was not the way I wanted to paint, so I found my own teachers in the old masters. I do not consider myself a painter like an old master, I definitely think I’m a contemporary painter. I’ve become more ambitious thematically, I’ve always started with a model and worked something out of them, something other-worldly, and have kept it very simple with a figure and a landscape. The channeling comes through the session with the model and through the act of painting. I don’t consider myself a portrait painter at all, If I were to paint you, I want you to transform into something else.
AD: Where you feature multiple studies of a model how do you choose your subjects, why do they do appeal to you?
MF: Often models find me. As a painter, I have developed an instinct for who I can work well with, and trust that they’ll be a perfect conduit to tap into what I need —it will be more of a conversation between the artist and the model. As for appeal? It is definitely distinct, yet intangible, near impossible to explain. A certain look in their eye, the way the light falls on their cheek, the way that they tilt their head, recognition and a bit of a spark usually happens. It’s hard to say what they are, not all of my models are the same.
AD: Where are you currently with your work and how do you feel about it?
MF: I’m finally heading in the direction that I’ve always wanted to, which is to work as a painter yet work as more of a director on a large scale. Painting is an intimate act on your own, but think of old-style paintings with giant scenes! I’m excited to venture off into my own interpretation of that.
AD: Where do you want to take your work, are there any ideas or themes you want to explore that you haven’t already?
MF: In my latest project —which I don’t want to give too much away (but I can give some)—I’ve been fortunate to work with a much larger amount of models and professionals, which has introduced new technologies and avenues to create. I feel more as though I’m a director of an entire thriving scene, a whole entity of sorts instead of just a few paintings. It feels right to me. The themes I want to explore involve larger landscapes, working with large groups of models.
AD: Where things are becoming more digital, do you find that effects your work at all?
MF: I think my work is best seen in person. Like a lot of work, the spirit that I focus on putting into my work is lost in digital images. It works against my nature to always post everything I’m working on. I don’t always want to be influenced by the outside world, you can get a bunch of praise for something that is incomplete and that can stunt you from going further into exploring.
AD: Does social media ever unintentionally influence your work?
MF: I wouldn’t say negatively— I am usually incredibly inspired. On Instagram I follow other contemporary artists, art history, fashion, and a lot from the natural world. I also keep up to date with what is happening in the world, current important political issues involving race, global issues. As artists, as human beings, we have to.