Saskatoon based visual artist, Todd Gronsdahl, talks to us about his art and influences as we feature his latest collaborative project.
Has being in art school changed the way you think about art?
I don’t really consider myself in school. I took a printmaking class to use their print lab. From what i have experienced it’s a pretty artificial environment compared to the real word and how art really works. I could see why people have trouble succeeding after art school. Kids are so fostered and aren’t taught how hard they need to hustle. I went to a workshop about submissions and one of the kids was complaining that the Francis Morrison Gallery has a waiting list. It just showed me that these kids aren’t taught about galleries and their process. There is no waiting list. A jury or curator programs work. You have to be happy to get a submission reviewed and if you’re lucky you show your work in two years. That gallery rejected me twice.
I have been lucky though, that there are so many people around me who have gone through school and have taught me how to see my work and how to question my work. So I already understood the process.
How have your travels influenced your art, such as visiting Spain and living in the Cayman Islands?
Living in the Caymans was like hitting pause on my life in every way. Before I moved there I was doing lots of commissions and skating lots and partying and stuff, and then i moved to an tiny island with no art scene at all. This was before the internet and fecalface and flickr and all the other was to stay in the loop. I took a job which I hated and worked it 55 to 60 hrs a week. So when I wasn’t working I was skating or drinking beer and art definitely took a back seat. I did a piece for a show, and i built a parade float in two years. That’s it.
When Megan and I got back we didn’t really take a breather. We just jumped into business and we built that solid for three years.
When we had built Sushiro up a bit we went to Spain for 5 weeks and that definitely sparked everything since. At the time (2002/03?) I kind of didn’y know any of the graf dudes anymore, like all the train guys, and i didn’t relate to the stuff Troy was doing in art school or his art homies. So when I visited, Barcelona they had crazy different graffiti styles and the whole poster and stencil thing had completely jumped off. And since i was, and am ,an art history neophyte, it was just so rad to see the masters stuff in person and all the big galleries in Madrid and the Guernica piece. i didn’t even have a sketch book with me but I came home with all these little scraps with sketches on them.
Where did you come up with the sphinx head motif and what does it signify?
That came from the Spain sketch pile. It was my favourite from that group of art work and I’ve continued to have success with it, so it keeps popping up. It’s like my pen name.
What do you think about graffiti as an art style when its taken out of its street context?
I think it’s best in public. It’s like skateboarding in the street vs the skate park. The work can be more refined but it also becomes self conscious and less dangerous or raw.
You co-own Saskatoon’s premier sushi bar, Sushiro, and have recently turned its walls into a gallery space; how have your customers reacted to the change?
They love it. A lot of our customers are young and open people so its a good place to show risky work. Also relationships have grown out of the shows. Jacob Semko met his dealer through his show there and Adrienne Stimpson (Mendel Curator) first saw my work there.
You have an up-coming show in Saskatoon’s biggest art gallery, the Mendel; how does exhibiting your work at a major art gallery differ from being free to curate it yourself in your own gallery space?
Not much has happened with the Mendel show. It’s coming up in November so I assume the hoops will start popping up for me to jump through. On the other hand Adrienne explained to me he likes my art work and trusts me and expressed that he would support whatever I decide to do. As far as Sushiro, I haven’t fully taken advantage of the space. i have kind of been using it as project room space, where I can put up what I’ve been toying with and to see if it will work. As a side note, Troy and I were talking about art vs. making music. His claim was if you make an album, you can get it out one way or another, make a cdr for instance, but if you make art work for the gallery, you have to find somewhere for it. So the benefit of the Sushiro gallery is I can make art work that no one wants to show but I can still get it out there.
Is art fun or frustrating?
Both, I can get fully stoked on something and if it comes out poorly or unsuccessfully It’s frustrating to waste that time.
Other stuff like the sphinx screen prints are just fun.
What artists are you looking at these days?
Locally, Matt Feyld and Benjamine Hettinga, Julie Morstad in Vancouver. Lots of the old skate artists who made the leap like Jeremy Fish, or Jim Houser.
Do you listen to music while you make art? If so, what?
Nomad/Epid, Pip Skid’s funny farm, Bird Apres, Thesis, Tenacious D
What are your favourite restaurants/pubs in Saskatoon?
Naturally, Sushiro Sushi Bar. O’sheas is my drinking hole, but anywhere with a patio during our brief summers
What is your favourite beer?
Cold, or free
What do you usually eat for breakfast?
That’s a funny question but the same thing everyday. Brown toast, peanut butter and Coffee