Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Interview by Amy Borkwood

I first came across Julia Hepburn's work at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition this July and was intrigued by her dark, fairy-tale-like scenes of anthropomorphic creatures, dark woods, and hidden rooms. Her work - multi-layered and intriguing - compels the viewer to read each piece as you would a story, finding clues and plot-twists along the way. I asked Julia some questions about her work over the last month, to see what inspires her to make each haunting piece.

Julia Hepburn

Can you tell me a little about yourself? Where do you call home, what do you do?

I am originally from Mississauga and I went to school for fine arts at McMaster University. At the moment I am a full time artist. Prior to this summer I worked part time as a waitress to make ends meet, but I had a good summer art wise and am presently able to just do art which is amazing.

When did you first become interested in creating art? Specifically, how did you become interested in the diorama-like works that you're currently making?

I've always enjoyed making art of one form or another. My mother went to OCAD and so I think I inherited her talents. When I was young play-dough and Lego were my two favorite toys and so I think it just grew from there. My 4th year of university is when I decided to make a full go of the diorama style and I've been doing it ever since.

To be honest I think there is something magical about small things. It's a fascination that I think a lot of people have as young children but it's not something they get to explore very much as adults. I want to reconnect people to that sense of possibility, that there is another world different from our own that is full of new rules.


Can you tell me a little about the process of your work?

When I first start a piece I have a loose idea of what I want it to be: a mood, a general structure, a theme. I never do any sketches because I really rely on the work evolving as its being made. The majority of the time if I plan something out it will not turn out that way, so I figure why plan. It comes together little piece by little piece. Sometimes I'll spend a whole day or more on one component and then completely scrap it. I know a work is done if I want to look at it all the time. If something is wrong with it I won't be able to look at it for any length of time without feeling the need to change it.


What inspires you to make a specific piece?

When I was in school I always felt pressure to produce "meaningful" work, something that addressed an important issue such as prejudice or body image, none of which I really cared enough about to make it feel sincere. Since my fourth year, when I started making the dioramas, I made the decision to make aesthetics my main priority - I just wanted to make something that I was interested in looking at. I've really begun to realize that meaning and purpose appears in art whether it's conscious or not. The work I produce today completely reflects my state of mind as well as my concerns and questions about the world and my place in it. So, I guess my inspiration comes from my hopes and my worries.

How do you see your work evolving?

I try not to think about where the work is going to go because it worries me a little. I can only assume that eventually I will have to change what I am doing if I want to stay 'relevant in the art world', but I'm happy doing what I'm doing right now so I don't like to think of not doing it anymore. As you can probably tell by my aversion to planning sketches I'm the sort of person who likes to be surprised by what’s coming.


Do you find yourself inspired by any local artists/makers?

I am the worst when it comes to investigating what’s going on in art around me. To be honest, sometimes I purposely try to avoid it just because I worry that someone else’s great idea will inadvertently show up in my next piece. Honestly, there have been times when something comes together so easily and so well that I wonder if it’s because I've seen it before and just can't remember.


Amy Borkwood is a bookbinder and freelance arts-writer living in Toronto. Her bookworks can be found at her online shop, Nightjar Books.


Anonymous realtor in Toronto said...

Finally I found some information on this event. I wanted to go see the gallery for myself but work didn't allow me to do so. Lucky I came across your page. Although I'm more interested in movies and cinema going, I can't resist to stop and stare at such masterpieces every time there's an opportunity. I'm proud of the fact that such an artist lives here in my lovely city, Toronto. :) Take care.

12:42 p.m.  

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