Your source for art news from the AGO and beyond.

Presented by Signature Partner

Following white rabbits

Ahead of her upcoming AGO Art in the Spotlight conversation, Canadian-Dutch painter Dana Slijboom talks about her passion for painting familiar animals in unique ways.

Image of a painting with black and white bunnies all over, with bands of colour in the background, sky blue at the top, then soft pink, bright green, soft gray and earthy brown at the bottom.

Dana Slijboom, Just a Bunny Girl, oil on canvas, 50 x 62", 2021

On Tuesday, April 27, Canadian-Dutch artist Dana Slijboom will join Renée van der Avoird, AGO Assistant Curator, Canadian Art, for an Art in the Spotlight conversation about her practice. Slijboom’s uniquely hybrid creative process starts with digital drawings before transitioning to oil or acrylic paint. Her works incorporate archetypal imagery and bold graphics, as well as a distinctive use of colour and composition. 

We connected with Slijboom to chat about rabbits, digital sketching and her upcoming projects.        

AGOinsider: Can you talk a bit about your interest in archetypal wildlife, like snakes, swans and white rabbits? What inspires you to include them in your work as a recurring theme? 

Slijboom: To a certain degree, the animals I use come to me intuitively. Sometimes my interest is sparked by a particular trait that I know about an animal—like how bunnies rampantly reproduce—but, more often, it is based on how they look. The inherent flexibility of a snake, for example, might become the subject of a painting because of how easily it can be manipulated into interesting compositions. At other times I select animals based on their familiarity. The rabbit is a good example of this because of how iconic its likeness has become. I also tend to work minimally, often hollowing out my subjects, so recognizability is a quality that I favour. In general, I try to balance my intuitive curiosity in these subjects with my awareness of their “loaded” nature as symbols. I am intrigued by how much of a subject remains even after much of its likeness has been removed through oversimplification. This is exactly why I revisit the same animals over and over: the endless play of discovering how many ways a subject can be both represented and interpreted.

Dana Slijboom, A Snake in the Grass in Your Garden at Home

Dana Slijboom, A Snake in the Grass in Your Garden at Home. Oil on canvas, 32 x 28”, 2020.

AGOinsider: You start most of your paintings as digital sketches. How specifically do you think the digital aspect of your creation process informs your style of painting?  

Slijboom: A lot, though I don’t like to admit it. Sketching digitally makes me feel like I’m somehow cheating because I skip the process of creating painterly studies or sketches by hand before starting the actual painting. When I began drawing on the computer, it felt like I had to go through an unlearning of all my existing art techniques and ideas. I was bad at it, but I was having fun, and there was something about the naive, pixelated paint brush that I fell in love with. There is an energy in the pixelation that continues to inspire me. Sketching digitally also feels more casual (and less daunting) because the sketches stay on my desktop, instead of taking up space in my studio. In my experience, this method also lends itself to a lot more experimentation in picture making because the control you have digitally is real. I’m a perfectionist, so being able to adjust an image over and over or to permanently erase something you don’t like is optimal. I truly fuss over colours for hours. Command Z and Paint Bucket forever.

AGOinsider: A lot of your work contains uniquely repetitive patterns that feel reminiscent of fabric prints or wallpaper. Have you ever considered transferring a piece onto either of those media? 

Slijboom: I have definitely thought about working in these media; fabric and wallpaper design have been great sources of inspiration for me. For now, though, I think I’ll continue with the paintings, and wait for the call from Gucci or Ikea.

Dana Slijboom, 20 Oil Spill Swans

Dana Slijboom, 20 Oil Spill Swans. Flashe on paper, 11.5x8.75", 2021.

AGOinsider: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects, exhibitions or other endeavours you are excited about? 

Slijboom: I have a solo exhibition with Zalucky Contemporary coming up in Spring 2022, as well as a public sculpture in the early stages of development. Beyond that, you will find me in the studio.

Art in the Spotlight: Dana Slijboom is a free event happening live via Zoom on Tuesday April 27 at 4 pm. Register now!

Be the first to find out about AGO exhibitions and events, get the behind-the-scenes scoop and book tickets before it’s too late.
You can unsubscribe at any time.