“fire, failure and fatty snacks”

My email to Toronto based artist Brian Donnelly went something like this: “Do you want to come on and talk about hand sanitizer, turpentine and burning stuff?” He said, “yes”. Turns out we also covered axe throwing, chips ‘n dip, “Degrassi Jr. High” and oh so much more! You can listen right up there under his painting titled “Pineapple Express”, or you can subscribe on iTunes.

As always, let’s kick things off with a few of my favorites:

Yep, this is where both the hand sanitizer and turpentine come in! These paintings are the result of years of experimentation, and a desire to explore the idea of “loss of visual information”. Nailed it.

Next, nudes from an earlier series {which ultimately evolved into the work above}:

Stunning work, but after awhile he didn’t feel like they were telling the story he wanted to tell. Time to push further, and take more risks… a constant theme for Brian.

Ok, his hair! Well, not his hair, but the hair on some of his paintings… LOVE. Now, just to be totally clear, he also paints men in this series but because I’m slightly obsessed with portraits of women those are the pieces I’ve chosen to show. Also, pink top knots are my jam. The first piece below {titled “Fountain of Youth”} is from 2014, the year Brian got really into painting detailed tresses:

Gorgeous! I threw in the bald guy so you could see what Brian was talking about re: the challenge of painting stubble.

Alright, well that was hand sanitizer and turpentine… now it’s time to talk about burning stuff. Enter “La Pucelle”:

The original painting burned completely, with only 19 prints left behind… each signed and numbered with the ashes of the original. Yeah. Add to that his story about Joan of Arc, aka “La Pucelle”, being burned alive at age 19 {hence the 19 prints} AND his ideas around making duplicates of work and voila, you end up with this show/series titled, “ORIGINAL COPY”. Brilliant! If you happen to be in Toronto you can see this show at Unloveable Gallery until the end of April. You can also hear Brian’s artist talk there on April 22. Grab a free ticket right here! {maybe he’ll bring sour cream n onion chips!}

Up next – “Reliquaries”:

Yes, they’re pins! I’m so curious to see where this goes. Somewhere? Nowhere? That’s the exciting part!

Ooh, and while we’re getting excited, who’s up for a little axe throwing?

Work in progress

A post shared by Brian Donnelly (@bbbriandonnelly) on

YES! All hail the University of Windsor and their artist residency because I’m pretty sure nobody else would say, “Sure you can throw axes on campus – where would you like to start?” This is a self portrait of Brian that wound up slightly, well, axed.

I had to bring this up in the Not-So-Speedy Speed Round. Degrassi Junior High… ok, it’s a Canadian thing. It also happens to be a fun/weird exercise in “being right” that Brian has made into a, um, hobby? This was a teen TV show in the late 80s/early 90s set in Toronto. When Brian isn’t painting, burning things, or throwing axes he likes to ride his bike around the city proving that he knows exactly where certain scenes were shot. All of his “proof” lives on his site, DegrassiPanthers.com. Here are a few of the THEN and NOW photos:

This makes me so happy. I haven’t heard the name “Joey Jeremiah” in decades!

And finally, a shot of Brian in his home studio:

Ah, yes… safety first. Thanks so much to Brian for sharing all of his funny stories, his process, and a new chips ‘n dip combo for me to try! Thank you as always to Saatchi Art for supporting another episode, and of course thanks to you for listening. There will be more art for your ear next weekend.

Other links:

  1. Sheridan College
  2. OCAD University
  3. Robert Bateman
  4. “Origin of the World” article
  5. Unloveable Gallery, Toronto
  6. Marni White {artist, and Brian’s partner}
  7. Stephanie Chefas Projects, Portland
  8. Venison Magazine 
  9. University of Windsor
  10. Brian’s Instagram
  11. “Pretty / Peculiar”, Alison Milne Gallery
  12. “That Night In Toronto”, Mayberry Fine Art


comments (5)

  1. Lee Boyd /// 04.15.2017 /// 3:42am

    Thank you for this, hearing the words of others artists and reflections on their own art worlds is a source of great inspiration and reflection. Brians animal headed series of work are what made me look a little closer (similar visual theme and subject matter to my own work perhaps conceptually coming from a different angle)
    Your seemingly effortless style of conversational interview hides a lot of work. I know your taking a much deserved break soon from the podcasts to refresh and regroup to find the direction you want to go with. enjoy that time I and Im sure many others will be waiting for you when you return. Have you thought about making 100th Art in your ear Live? so we can celebrate it with you?

    Many thanks

  2. the jealous curator /// 04.15.2017 /// 8:05am

    oh, that’s a great idea lee! i don’t know how to do it live… but i’ll get greg on it! ; )

  3. Beth Guipe Hall /// 04.19.2017 /// 7:57am

    I am finally caught up on all of the episodes of your podcast….I’m just a bit obsessed. When I heard you say that you might be moving on to other projects, I almost rear-ended the pickup truck in front of me. Luckily, he was still rolling forward a bit and you have discovered a way to take AFYE through the summer.

    Thank you for your site and podcast. I love them both.
    Please come to Indianapolis for a Girl Crush weekend….there are many ways to make that happen:)


  4. the jealous curator /// 04.19.2017 /// 8:07am

    haha! well i’m glad i didn’t cause an accident! ; )

  5. Michael Joyal /// 04.27.2017 /// 11:11am

    Degrassi! G. I. Joes! We Canadians are far too similar. Sorry! Thank you!

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