Linds Miyo — Artist in Residence
“This is a means of acceptance, growth, and making myself whole. The black is showing. I’m not hiding.”
Meet Linds Miyo, Imprimo’s latest Artist in Residence. From her studio in Toronto, ON, Linds paints intuitive, abstract images that explore the balance between intention and that which is beyond our control.
Imprimo: What’s the view from your studio?
Linds Miyo: My studio view is currently a construction site, they’re building a lot on Sterling Road right now. From what I understand, my view will be maintained once the construction is done. They’re supposed to add a courtyard outside. I’ll still be able to see the train tracks, the GO station, and all the way out to Mississauga.
Imprimo: Is art a full-time practice for you now?
Linds Miyo: It is, and it has been for almost five years now. When I started, I did not have a studio. I didn’t have any idea of what this would look like. All I knew was that I wanted to paint. I had no idea how to actually make that a profession.
I’ve always painted. I have my first painting on canvas at home. I was eight. And it’s still a painting that I absolutely love. It’s still… it’s me, and you could recognize it as mine, which is a pretty funny thing. But that said, I’ve always painted sparingly — like one really good painting a year. I’m half Japanese, and in my family art is not a vocation. You have to do something else, and then you could do art on the side, or whatever, but it’s not a “profession”.
Imprimo: But it was an outlet?
Linds Miyo: Yeah, and it always came very naturally and I think one of my biggest fears getting into it more full-time, was… will this ruin it for me? Will I hate it all of a sudden if I’m doing it full-time — if I have to do it as a profession, will that somehow take something away from it? And luckily, that hasn’t happened. I still love it. I love it even more.
Imprimo: I think the idea that engaging with one’s artistic practice on a purely voluntary basis will take something away from it is a pretty common fear among creatives when it comes to building a business — or a profession — out of their work. Good to know it didn’t change anything for you!
Linds Miyo: It hasn’t. But you know, that’s a curious idea, right? So, I mean, I’m 45 now, so I’m not young. And I’ve had lots of lifetimes and careers before this, and I think starting at 40 has changed the experience of this. I don’t know what my experience would have been if I started doing this at 20, or even 30. But I think having those other careers behind me and having those experiences really allows me to experience this in a different way, for the better.
Imprimo: Do you find your previous career experience has informed your ability to turn your art into a business — whether in terms of your work ethic, or how you consider the production of art and monetizing something that has previously been a therapeutic act for you?
Linds Miyo: I started my career in magazines a long time ago. I co-owned an international travel magazine when I was 23. We were “the next big thing” in publishing, we sold a ton of advertising, and it was amazing. And then 9/11 happened, and the entire bottom fell out of the travel industry. That said, the type of traveller we were speaking to, at that point in time, didn’t stop travelling — those travellers actually got out there more, because things got really cheap. So it was a really interesting sort of experiment, I guess, to start publishing something at that point in time, that was hard copy.
(Holds up travel magazine) I just brought this into the studio, because I’ve been thinking about it while curating the show for the Artist Project. It’s cool to think “I did this.” I commissioned all this photography. I did all the creative direction. I did all the photo editing. I did all of it. And I didn’t realize how much I missed that creative facilitation, until I was curating for the Artist Project.
The reason I bring this up is that this still is, you know, the elevation of the printed page, and that was my experience, creating tangible things. So I began my career creating something tangible, and I feel that that carries through with art now. It’s interesting to think about in the context of how society has changed and how we relate to things in a very different manner. I don’t know that this could be started today, either — this was launched at a time when the newsstand was a big deal. You would go in, get a magazine — it was a big deal to get a magazine — and you would sit with it and really read it. It had meaning — that sense of finding your tribe.
I went on to work in other areas of publishing, and then into creative direction for advertising. But truly, my professional career has been focused on creating tangible things. I moved to Toronto and had some kids, and by the time I was going back into the workforce, everything was digital — and digital in a very disposable, low-quality way. I didn’t respond to that at all. And since I wanted to make beautiful, tangible things that people feel and hold on to, I found that the Toronto advertising market didn’t really respond to me either. That led me back to art, and making things that bring value and meaning, because I feel very strongly about that.
Imprimo: It does seem like there’s a real loss of permanence today. Things are largely faster, and more disposable by nature — both in advertising and the culture, writ large. It sounds like your path to ‘pure’ art was sort of a reaction to that.
Linds Miyo: I don’t want to make anything disposable, and I don’t want to participate in anything that is making disposable things. Even in the art world, there is still a lot of focus on “what’s gonna sell”. I just want to make the work that I want to make. It’s difficult sometimes, being an abstract painter and an intuitive painter, because I don’t know how the painting is going to look in the end. In the art scene in Toronto, at least, there are a lot of people that are professionally painting and their whole gig is having everything. Everything’s available in five different sizes, and five different colors, and that feels formulaic to me. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s not for me.
Imprimo: Is that something you feel is unique to the Toronto art scene?
Linds Miyo: Well, I don’t necessarily have an answer for that. But it seems more pronounced in the Toronto market because it’s so economically challenging to work in Toronto, to live in Toronto, and to show in Toronto. It’s expensive. And I think that that really colors what people are doing, because they only have a certain amount of space, and they only have a certain amount of time. And if you have to “pay-to-play” to get your work out there, then that limits the amount of actual creativity people are going to want to put into their work.
Imprimo: I think it’s admirable that you haven’t caved to the ebb and flow of whatever happens to be trending. You’ve built a business making what you want, when you want, which sounds like a creative utopia. I think it’s interesting that, while your work comes from a deeply emotive place, it also feels very “aesthetically relevant.” Have you always painted abstract or is that something you came to pursuing your emotional expression?
Linds Miyo: Thank you. It’s always been abstract, but I didn’t always know how to speak about the emotional expression. You get into this business, and you have to, like, figure out how to talk about it. And I was very much the person who would be like, well, look at it, what’s it mean to you? Do you think it looks good? I’m not gonna tell you what it means. When I had to find words to describe what I was doing it was like, whoa, where’d that come from?
For me, that’s part of the creative process. I do the work, then I look at it. And then I figure out what it means later. I’m doing things that I don’t necessarily have control over to begin the work. And then I am responding to what I couldn’t control, with what I can control, which is very much like therapy.
Imprimo: I know you self-identify as a survivor of trauma, which correlates very powerfully with this control dynamic that’s so fundamental to your process. Can you give us a more literal glimpse into how that reflects technically in your work?
Linds Miyo: So, normally, I start with chalkboard paint. It’s black, very oily feeling, and very viscous. I have minimal control over where it’s actually going to go. I can move it around, but it’s never gonna look exactly the way I want and there’s no way to make it fit perfectly within any given parameters. So if I’m putting this on a canvas, I put the canvas down, usually flat, and then I tip it. And gravity makes these drips. I really like the drips — the drips make me very happy. And then you can put it back down and like, let it dry and see where those drips actually end up. But that’s not a fully controlled process… And I don’t want to have full control, because you never have full control.
In a literal sense, the process is to put black on the canvas and paint over it. But with that process comes a sense of growth and change and evolution — there will always be this blackness happening in the background, and it’s about what you do with it. If I just did these pale, colourful abstract paintings, they wouldn’t really mean anything and might be really boring. It’s the texture and the contrast of that black that actually makes that colour more useful and more meaningful. I feel like that’s a metaphor for our emotions.
There were a number of years where I’d have black on something and not be able to tell you why that little corner is peeking out. But now I can, and I can talk about it. Traumatic things happened to me, that shouldn’t have happened. And I can say that it would be better if they didn’t happen, or that they were wrong, or that they weren’t my fault — all of that type of stuff — but they did. It’s a part of me; I can’t get rid of that part of myself, I can’t deny that part of myself, and I can’t just pretend it didn’t happen. So this is a means of acceptance, growth, and making myself whole. The black is showing. I’m not hiding.
Imprimo: The next questions come from our previous AiR, Benedict Carpenter van Barthold. First question — what should be taught in art school, but isn’t?
Linds Miyo: “What to expect” of the economics of art. It was a big surprise to me as a self-taught artist, that those that went to art school didn’t have any better measure of what to expect out in the art scene than I did. Whether it was how to work with galleries, what to expect from galleries — that galleries might charge you for wall space — nobody really seemed to know about or talk about any of these things.
Imprimo: Next question from Ben: if you could change one thing about the art world, what would it be?
Linds Miyo: Oh, that’s gonna get me in trouble. But my candid answer is, I wish there was more emphasis on talent. Toronto sometimes seems to have a hard time recognizing talent. It’s a small scene, and everybody is a little bit afraid of making a strong statement — to just have an opinion is pretty spicy in and of itself. So when you have an art scene that is largely pay-to-play, artists that are getting shown are often paying for it. That dynamic doesn’t emphasize talent, or showcase what’s really going on in the art scene.
Pay-to-play also changes how artists decide what to show. If you have to make money to break even, there’s an inclination to put out the most saleable thing -and that’s inherently not going to be the most interesting, experimental, or different art, that’s completely original and unique to our time. You get this, like, homogenization that happens because of cash.
Imprimo: Last question — you’re coming to this as a professional slightly later in life than some do. Do you think things would’ve been different had you started in your 20s?
Linds Miyo: In my 20s, I definitely took things more personally. And now I’m like, okay, this is my stuff. You like it? You don’t like it? You understand what I’m talking about? You don’t understand? All good. I’m not gonna stop. I’m still gonna keep doing it. This is my work, and it’s me. It’s mine.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity