Spotlight on Patrick Hunter

Inspired by tradition, Patrick Hunter’s passion for art and community has taken him from a small village in the Red Lake District of northwestern Ontario to the city of Toronto. Patrick is a two-spirit Ojibway painter, a graphic artist and a web designer. His work incorporates indigenous visual art in unique and contemporary ways. He has created incredibly original pieces for Tapestry Opera’s 2018-2019 season. We spoke with him to gain an understanding for his creative process.

How do you begin your artistic undertakings?

My work always begins with a sketch of an idea. I find it really helps to have a “blue print” first, so you know when you’re done or close to being done a painting. Also, there’s generally music playing, or CBC radio on in the background, I love their content.   On the days where it’s simply 8 hours of painting over lines to make them opaque and solid, it helps to have a show playing on Netflix with 40 minute long episodes and 24 episodes a season.

As an artist, who or what inspires your work?

Nature, for sure. The colour combinations you can find in plants and animals is kind of mind blowing when you stop and take time to really have a look. As for who inspires me, honestly, it’s the people that buy the work. They bought the painting because the love that painting and it’s kind of the best feeling to be able to do that for someone.

Patrick Hunter working in his studio
Patrick Hunter working in his studio

Can you describe the meaning behind each piece of art you created for the Tapestry 2018-2019 season?

BRIEFS:

The idea for this design came about pretty quickly. It’s about the magic of new life. We don’t quite know what kind of seed it is, but it’s the beauty of what it can be. In the context of the show for Tapestry, it’s fresh collaborations that have come out of Composer-Librettist Laboratories. I think is going to be a wild and exciting show, because it’ll indicate what kind of shows Tapestry could be doing in the future.

HOOKUP:

This design took longer than the others. The content of the show is uncomfortable for anyone, and as an artist, I try to not paint or design things that have negativity in them. The design for this show ended up being a young woman who’s sort of trapped in her head about the things that are happening to her. My feelings aside, it’s important to talk about violence against women, which this show does. With the artwork I tried to create an image that would convey the moment of this young woman coming to the realization that she’s gotta do what’s best for her, and maybe her life moving forward isn’t going to have the people she thought she was going to have in it, and maybe that’s okay.

SONGBOOK:

In “Briefs”, it’s the seed that’s illustrating new fresh ideas and shows by collaborators. In this design, it’s a butterfly fresh from a chrysalis. The show is a masterclass of emerging talent so I wanted an image that would convey something beautiful and new.

Patrick Hunter

SHANAWDITHIT:

This one felt so interesting to create. There’s really not a whole lot of content that you can research about Beothuk culture aside from what Shanawdithit illustrates. It was neat to go through her drawings, to try and put yourself in her timeline, and see the things she illustrated through her lens. It felt like she was giving you an invitation to her life and experiences, so I illustrated a hand with a sort of, “come here”, gesture. I haven’t started painting that one but I think more will be revealed when I start that process.  

How do you incorporate your culture into your artistic practice?

Well, this is something that I think needs to be unpacked a little. I was asked one time when selling work at a show, “Oh are these Indigenous inspired..?” And my friend beside me said, “It’s not Indigenous inspired, it is Indigenous”. Having said that, I think some folks definitely are a little more culturally cognizant of how they do their work, but it can go both ways.

As an Indigenous person, I think that there’s a misconception that every move you make as an artist has to have a cultural significance. Sometimes, I’ve painted a piece just because it makes me feel good and I love doing it.

I’ve heard it explained as well that the paintings this artist did were gifts from the Creator and he would have to wait to see what the Creator would give him. Which to me, sounds so beautiful, but that’s his process and there’s lots of room for everyone here in the art world.

How do you challenge traditional art practices?

Traditionally, the Woodland art form uses a lot of distinct black line work. In the beginning of my painting career, I steered away from using basically any black in my art pieces. I still sort of don’t, most of the time. I wanted to separate myself from becoming a carbon copy of Norval Morrisseau’s work which can happen to some artists if they’re not paying attention. Don’t get me wrong, that traditional style is very beautiful and can tell great stories, but I also love the Canadian Group of 7’s work, so I try to incorporate Woodland and landscapes together into one.

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Hussein Janmohamed