Ashley Anne Clark is a multi-disciplinary artist working with themes of wilderness, animal life and the raw elements of nature. Her mixed media drawings and video installations are inspired by colours and line formations that are found in the wild. Ashley has exhibited her works at a number of galleries, studios, and festivals throughout the maritimes such as The Dunes, Art In The Open, and the White Rabbit Arts Festival. Her work has also been exhibited everywhere from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Vancouver, British Columbia and many places in between. Ashley has also exhibited her works abroad in Europe and the United States. She has also been the recipient of a number of arts grants and has served as a juror on a number of arts and cultural boards on Prince Edward Island.
I know you moved around quite a bit growing up, can tell me a bit about your background?
I grew up in New Glasgow, PEI, but I also lived in Thailand, Norway, South Korea, and the United States. These days I’m back and forth between PEI and Cape Breton.
Did you study art in any of those places?
I ended up studying art in Montreal at Concordia, where I received my MFA in Art Education. I was taking lots of drawing and sculpture classes. It was a great way to break art down and dissect art and to learn about materials because those are super important to me. It really drove me as an artist to learn to appreciate other people’s styles and other people’s choices in material and design. I think when I was in art school, I was just doing a lot of exploring. My art is more defined now. But in art school, I was still experimenting with different materials and ideas and forms.
You won Visual Artist of the Year at this year’s East Coast Music Awards. How did getting that recognition feel?
At first I thought I didn’t win because they didn’t call me to get an acceptance video. In my mind I thought there’s no way I won because everyone had acceptance videos saying ‘Thanks for the award’ this and that. And I was like, there’s no way I got it because they never messaged me. But then they announced my name and it was like….Wow. I was just super pumped to be nominated because it was the first time I had ever been nominated.
You’ve also been creating cover art for fellow ECMA nominee Kinley Dowling for quite some time now. How did that collaboration come about?
I think Kinley and Dylan Menzie were the first few people that kind of asked me to do something and it just grew from there. I’ve always been into album art as a kid and I’ve been really drawn to memorable album art. I like the aspect of taking an album and trying to visually represent it. Working with musicians is kind of interesting sometimes too because they have all these images in their head. So it’s like their baby. It’s kind of a process that can also be insanely frustrating. But like, usually, when I’m frustrated it ends up like being better. Sometimes it’s difficult doing design work, because I have less control. Sometimes it can be hard to try and get the image across that they have in their mind.
There seems to be a wildlife theme throughout your work that focuses on nocturnal animals. Where did that idea come from?
I’m passionate about promoting the lives of animals around the world and conserving wildlife and protected areas. I aim to portray each animal as a living individual with their own thoughts, emotions and personalities. I enjoy incorporating materials from nature within my work to be able to directly link them to the wilderness and encourage a greater appreciation for these places. I find that I’m inspired when I’m in nature. I’m constantly seeing things in nature that resemble themes in art. So for me, I’m searching for materials and finding them in places that I love and incorporating that into the actual work because I think it actually brings people back to those wild places.
You’ve developed a style that’s uniquely your own. That’s something a lot of artists struggle with but have difficulty achieving. Do you see yourself straying away from your signature style as you move through your career or is it more of a ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ type of thing?
I’m not worried about getting stuck doing the same thing over and over because I feel like I am still getting new ideas. And there’s still things that I want to do, I just see myself on a journey to do the bigger things. I think that whenever I do decide to move away from it and I do different things, there’s still aspects of me in the new pieces that kind of link to my other work, whether it’s with different materials or different content. There’s something that connects it all together and that could be my process or the way I like to use ink or the materials or whatever I’m choosing to use.
How did the pandemic affect your career?
It affected me just a bit in terms of sales for retail stores. I’m used to working at home and alone so a lot of my work just continued as normal. A lot of the stores ended up creating online stores and people were buying my works online. So they were selling my pieces online so things were still moving just not quite as fast as they normally would. But it was a welcome break. I’m ready to do the same thing after Christmas. I’m done. I’m taking a month off. It’s just so good for your brain. I know I need to shut my brain off for a while. It’ll be nice to just be able to explore, to be able to have time to come up with new ideas and not feel like I have to run to do the next thing.
I saw on Instagram you were behind the camera a lot as of late, what have you been up to?
I’m doing a video project based on a river that’s growing sick over time due to pesticides. So it’s starting out as a healthy river then as the video progresses it changes and shifts as it becomes more polluted and clogged with oil and seaweed. The video will be projected onto a giant wall and changes and moves gradually. It’s not something you’d sit down and watch, it’s more of a passive experience.
What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
I’m working on another album cover and after that I’m probably going to start creating for some of the markets in anticipation for Christmas. So the month and a half leading up to it I have to just build inventory. So that’s what I do. I just make a bunch of different pieces. And then sometimes in between shows, I’ll have to make a few real quick.
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