Artist Conversations: Sandeep Johal

Artist Conversations: Sandeep Johal

How can art help us question our perspectives and help us shine a light on our unconscious biases? How can it help us challenge and change the status quo? How do you see societal norms and sometimes rile against them? What makes you angry? What needs to be changed?

The – + ÷ = exhibition October 4 – 25 showcases work that comments on the current political climate, raises awareness and generates discourse about issues related to cultural identity and equality.

We spoke with special guest Vancouver-based artist Sandeep Johal about her art, issues she’s passionate about it, and advice for artists struggling to find their voice.

When was the first time that you recognized that you were an artist and when did you realize you could follow that dream?

“I think I’ve always known on some level, but it’s become clearer with each passing year. When I was a child, my mom kept me occupied with pads of paper and pens. I never stopped drawing. Although I’ve done art in one form or another my entire life, I didn’t realize it could be a viable career option until I had my son at almost 40 years old. After my maternity leave ended, I was presented with the opportunity to focus on art professionally with the full support of my husband. I’ve been hustling hard ever since.”

Who has impacted you during your life most? Who would you consider to be your difference maker?

“So many people have impacted me, but I’d have to say my my husband, Chris, and my best friend, Jesse. They’ve both taught me what unconditional love and friendship is, that life is full of peaks and valleys and each valley is an opportunity for growth, but most of all, they’ve always believed in me, especially when I didn’t believe in myself. They have supported me from day one and I am so thankful for their continual love and friendship.”

What issues are you most passionate about/What message are you sending people with your work?

“I care about a lot of things, but I’m most passionate about gender justice, more specifically, femicide. Every time I hear about another woman being assaulted, raped, and/or murdered, I feel a deep rage and sadness.

We need to dismantle deeply entrenched belief systems around gender from the inside out and rebuild a more equitable one. We cannot restrict women’s freedoms and continue to put the onus on women to stay safe by changing their behaviours. We need to make a cultural and societal shift instead and educate people to think of women as autonomous subjects, not objects, and educate men that hurting women is not ok and will not be tolerated.”

What advice do you have for other artists who might be struggling to find a voice?

“Three words: DO THE WORK! Make a commitment to your art practice and show up everyday. If you’re stuck, find a daily drawing challenge to do. Once you start creating everyday, you get better and faster, your ideas evolve and grow and your voice becomes clearer. You have to make a ton of crap to get to the good stuff – be patient and be kind to yourself along the way.”

What keeps you motivated to continue to create?

“I’m my best self when I’m creating. Rest In Power was a long time in the making and came from a place of necessity and honesty. It has received such a positive response that I’m motivated to continue creating work that matters to me because it really resonates with people and gets those important conversations started. I honestly believe art can save the world and that’s pretty motivating.”

What’s next for you? What are you working towards?

“I don’t know, but I’m open to the possibilities. I’m working towards creating a successful, multi-faceted, full-time art career that I can one day support my family with. But in the meantime, I’m just taking it one day at a time.”

What advice would you give your 20 year old self?

“If there’s something you want to do, do it. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t waste time. Be productive. Work hard. Value yourself. Put yourself first. Speak your mind. Create healthy boundaries. Always listen to your gut. Have fun.”

What’s your favourite colour, favourite candy, and what are you most afraid of?

“Green (but I hardly use it in my work), anything chocolate, and spiders (yuck).”

If you could recommend 3 other artists’ Instagram feeds that you feel are important to follow who would it be?

@tylerkeetonrobbins for the sheer amount of work he produces and his ongoing experimentation. Plus, his aesthetic is gorgeous.

@meerasethi for her east meets west vibe and telling thoughtful stories around identity through fashion.

@miss_me_art for being an unapologetic and fearless activist and feminist and creating work the makes you think, or at the very least, uncomfortable.”

Join us for the opening reception October 5 at The Gallery at The Arts Centre. Grab a drink and mix and mingle with the artists featured in the exhibition.




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