Marina Roy

Marina Roy, Dirty Clouds, 2017, bitumen, shellac, oil and acrylic on wood, dimensions variable.

Courtesy of the Artist

I'm Marina Roy and I'm an artist living in Vancouver on Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil - Wathuth territory. I am originally from Quebec — Quebec City — and had spent time [on the] east coast of Canada. And West Coast, here for about 20 or so years. My artistic practice spans many media. I've been focusing more on drawing and painting, and video — mostly nature documentary — these days. But I've also delved into book arts, printmaking, sculpture, and animation. Lately my work has been focusing on issues around ecology and materials within the artwork. I'm interested in how, through thinking about the materials of painting or drawing, work can address certain issues. For instance, I've been working with bitumen and red iron oxide to deal with ideas around the origins of art, but also our creative - destructive tendencies as human beings, and trying to integrate some of those materials such as bitumen as a way of addressing those issues. The red iron oxide is a pigment that I'm really interested in because it was one of the first pigments that I guess “first humans” used in cave painting. And bitumen actually was also called asphaltum and it was used in Renaissance painting as a kind of way of blackening a background before working into the painting. So, both those pigments have a history within painting that I'm interested in.

The series, Dirty Clouds, it came out of a work that I had produced: a really large mural and kind of fountain piece that I'd made using latex paint drops. I would pool latex paint and I would draw bitumen and red iron oxide into the paint to create these morphic, kind of viral - like effects in the paint. And then I also painted this large pyramid out of tar. That was the starting point for working with that material more seriously on a large scale. But I've always been more interested in working on a more intimate scale — smaller paintings — I’m more comfortable doing that. I was approached by Ingrid Koenig and Randy - Lee Cutler about making something around the issue of antimatter. And I learned that matter and antimatter are something that is produced with the Big Bang, and it created this energy that created the universe. And now, as humans, we haven't really been able to find very much anti matter anymore, but it is the source of all energy in the universe. So I started thinking about this and how physicists have been trying to tap into creating antimatter as a new energy source. I was thinking that this sounded quite hopeful, but at the same time quite apocalyptic. And I was thinking about, Okay, so, the old energy source of bitumen is still very much within our lives. But trying to envision what this kind of new energy might look like in the context of the universe. So I started just experimenting on wood panel and through that process of experimentationfigured out a series of forms — the repeated motif of the worm,and these kind of explosive orbital forms, and almost scientific - like diagrams made into paintings — that would address those issues. And so, I'm again using bitumen and red iron oxide as some of the main color palette, but also some greens and yellows, and I tried to restrict the palette in order to create a kind of universe. So through making smaller experiments — I kind of just kept experimenting and working on them — until I came up with about 88 of them. I was looking at a lot of alchemical diagrams and one of the diagrams that comes up a lot (I think it's just post medieval, it might be even 16th or 17th century), there are a lot of hands coming out of clouds, which are supposed to be a hand of God. But I think of that, at that moment also, it was this kind of Cartesian motif of the human being the one that orders the universe, and this idea of — with the invention of perspective — suddenly the seat of perception is from the perspective of humans. The Nietzsche quote, I think the quotation is,“ You have gone from worm to man, and yet much in you is still worm.” I was always really taken by that quotation. I kept coming upon it when I was researching within the realm of animal studies (I was quite obsessed with reading up on all things, animal studies for several years). And then it stuck with me, and as you're researching you start realizing that there are other things that relate to the worm. Of course, the Vibrant Matter book [by] Jane Bennett; she talks a lot about soil and different kinds of worms, parasitic worms, and the health of the soil. And then this idea that the word‘ alchemy’ comes from‘ black earth’ and it comes out of Egypt being named Alchemia, which is‘ black earth. ’Then I was thinking a lot about the health of the soils and also this idea that micro organisms are at the foundation of bitumen, right ?

They're just millions of years of pressurized matter from organisms deep in the earth. And so, I was thinking about this idea of alchemy coming out of this idea of a kind of death : the death of all these organisms millions of years ago creating new life and new forms of energy. And then I was thinking a lot about how worms are thought of as kind of grotesque creatures and they’re this tube with a mouth and an anus. And I thought, Well, yeah, that's kind of what we have. And so, I like to think of the worm as a really fertile symbol for, maybe, a way that we can think like worms more, and not so much thinking of ourselves as higher beings, in the sense of what Nietzsche is saying. The virus has always come up in my work. I think it comes from growing up in a family where my father was a microbiologist. So, the virus and bacteria and the parasite have always been prevalent in my mind from him talking about it. I did work in a lab before— I was in biology before going into art — so working in a lab and thetic comes from, I think, my int eraction with bodily fluids and testing. I think that that's always there.

Feminism is probably the foundations of all my work from the beginning. And I think it was a starting point for me to think of all social injustice. I haven't studied ecofeminism enough, but there's always been, personally, a little bit of a hesitancy to go into equating land with women. But I think that, in many different cultures [there’s] the idea that women are stewards of the land and the waters. And I think that, in terms of nurturing, it's a really positive thing to think of how women have been excluded from history and the kind of impact we can make towards the future and towards the health of the planet. And so, I do see [myself], personally, having a responsibility towards that.