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Aug. 19, 2011

Positive, funky and creative

Margaux Wosk’s work is up at Gaspointe Art Gallery.

Margaux Wosk is searching: for her way in art and for her place in life. Currently, the artist is part of a group exhibition in Vancouver at Gastown’s Gaspointe Art Gallery. Four of her paintings are on display as part of a new show, Summer Nights. When asked about Wosk’s work, Gaspointe gallery owner Alex Cortina said about the four paintings: “We could easily appreciate several things we were looking for in [Wosk’s] work…. Her use of color, as well as her figurative style, brings a breath of fresh air to the beholder.”

Vivid and unconventional, Wosk represents the younger generation of this city’s Wosk family, Vancouver and Jewish-community builders, philanthropists and patrons of the arts. “My grandfather, Sonny Wosk, opened Save On Meats,” she said proudly of the Hastings Street landmark. “Many of my family helped create Vancouver as it is today.”

Only a couple of years out of high school, the young artist lives in the Fraser Valley with her mother and spends her time trying to juggle her art career with the business of paying bills, a struggle she shares with many young artists. “I’m broke,” she told the Independent, without false embarrassment. “When I get my tax credits, I use the money to buy art supplies.”

That balancing act doesn’t deter her creativity, but the monetary restrictions inevitably dictate the smaller sizes of her paintings; she can’t afford the larger canvasses, so her work is more intimate and more immediate by necessity.

Dealing with adversity is nothing new to Wosk. “I have attention deficit disorder,” she said. “I’ve done art all my life, but my teachers were not happy. They didn’t understand when I doodled on my homework pages.… When I was in a school for special needs kids, my art teacher insulted my art. It hurt. I have to learn on my own terms. I’m self-taught.”

Her ADD doesn’t affect her creative process, however. Although she couldn’t stay alert in a classroom for long, Wosk paints in other environments, sometimes for hours at a time without losing her concentration. And neither her learning disability nor her financial straits seem to diminish the joyous spirit of her paintings. Just the opposite: her images are decorative like candy wrappers and multicolored like little rainbows, lifting the mood of viewers.

They have brightened the mood of their creator already. “I go through phases,” she explained. “Sometimes, weeks go by and I don’t paint. It depends on my mood and on the weather sometimes. When I’m sad, art often helps me out. It’s my therapy. I find solace and relaxation in it.”

One of the paintings on the gallery wall, “Sugar Rush,” is a charming mockery of a sweet tooth, a blend between a spunky cartoon and a moody impressionistic canvas. Next to it, “Tiny Island” reflects the natural beauty of the Fraser Valley: “I watch the mountains all the time. There are lots of crazy colors during sunset. Pinks and purples and all those curly trees,” said Wosk of the piece.

She finds much of her inspiration in nature, in everyday things around her. “It happens subconsciously. I see something; it enters my brain and comes out on canvas.” She has been painting in this particular style since 2008. “At that time, lots of emotional things were happening in my life. I needed to unleash my emotions, and colors are the easiest way to express myself.… I have over 150 paintings at home. I’m running out of walls.”

Besides visual art, Wosk frequently experiments with crafts. She makes magnets, brooches and pendants, each piece unique. She also decorates shoes, T-shirts and tote bags for her friends. Everything she touches is an exploration, infused with the young artist’s positive, funky energy. “I’m heavily into kitsch,” she said. “I love garden gnomes and pink flamingos, vintage clothing and the retro culture of the ’60s and ’70s.”

Although Wosk hasn’t had an opportunity for a gallery sale before, she has sold her art – often when she least expected it.

“I like sitting on a beach, painting. Once, I was at English Bay, and a girl from Barcelona saw me. She just had to have my piece. She emptied her wallet for it. I was shocked that my painting should have such an emotional impact on anyone. She wanted my art so much!”

Summer Nights is on at the Gaspointe Art Gallery ( until Sept. 9.

Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].