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5 minutes with: Brendan Fernandes

The York University alum and current darling of New York’s art scene isback in town to celebrate the release of his first published catalogue,until we fearless.

The York University alum and current darling of New York’s art scene is back in town to celebrate the release of his first published catalogue, until we fearless.

Not too many people are able to make a viable career out of the visual arts. How did you pull it off?
I think it’s about this idea of me really focusing on my art and making work that I wanted to be evocative. As an artist you never know what’s going to happen, and there’s always uncertainty, but I just stuck with it. This is what I do; this is what I love.

What do you think it is about your work that has propelled you into the spotlight?
I think I ask questions that a lot of people deal with, especially around identity and migration. I talk about my specific trajectory of being Kenyan-Canadian-Indian, but that story is everyone else’s as well. Many of us Canadians define ourselves as an immigrant and migratory culture.

When you create, do you choose something you think will resonate with people, or do you simply let your creativity guide you?
I always want my work to be evocative, but people also have different experiences and sensibilities of who they are, so I simply focus on what inspires me and hope that through that it will have some sort of resonance with somebody. And it’s art. Not everyone is going to like what you do, and that’s OK as well.

You’re based in New York where you’ve had huge success. Do you think you had to make the move from Canada in order to take your career to that level?
No. I think New York definitely gave me a new outlook because I think art communities are so specific. But at the same time, New York curators like the fact that I have a place in Toronto because it can be insular there. So I’m not just an artist in one space, I’m an international artist.

You’ve recently been named as a finalist for the 2010 Sobey Art Award. How did your family react?
My parents never questioned me, but maybe they asked themselves what does it mean to be an artist? Now they see all this success and they get so excited. My whole family is coming to the Sobey awards with me!

 
 
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