An interview with Jacquie Comrie, an acclaimed Toronto-based multidisciplinary artist whose installation Colour, Health, Hope is featured on the National Art Centre’s Kipnes Lantern during the 2020 holiday season. Centred on colour, this vibrant, visually powerful work was created as a tool for wellness and hope during a difficult time.
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How has the pandemic affected your work?
It’s been a pretty challenging time, in every aspect of my life. But as an artist it has really opened up a new realm for me. I’ve been able to channel all my feelings, and everything that has happened, into my work. My art has been a true medicine to me during the pandemic.
What was your reaction to receiving this commission?
It’s the first time I’ve done anything like this. I’ve done a lot of digital work before, but never anything this large-scale and with projection. I was interested in doing something like this. The world works in weird ways sometimes! I’m grateful and very excited to see what it will look like on the Lantern.
How did you become interested in colour?
I was born and raised in Panama. Culturally, it has been a huge part of my life. Panama is full of colour – the beach, the ocean, the sunshine. But it isn’t just visual. It’s the people. It’s like a carnival, there’s a sense of energy, vibrancy. But when I came to Canada at the age of 16, I had a huge culture shock. There wasn’t much colour in Toronto. It was February and everything was grey. And so to come from an environment that was so vibrant, so colourful and full of life, it affected me a great deal.
How do you see the relationship between colour and mental health?
I’ve been pretty open about my own challenges with mental health. For many years I didn’t have the proper resources or proper support. When I was at university, I was going through a hard time, I was battling anxiety and depression. I started studying the psychology of colour, and I started to treat myself as a case study. As an artist, I always used colour because I loved it. But then I started to use it more purposefully. I saw how it affected me mentally and physically, as well as my emotional health. I started feeling better. I noticed a real difference in my mood. I wanted to be an artist for a very long time, and I knew that I wanted my work to have a social impact. So mental health became that impact.
Out of all the colours in this installation, do you have a favourite, or one that speaks to you the most?
Turquoise is a really soothing colour for me. Out of all the colours it speaks to me the most. It has a certain frequency, it makes you think of water, of calmness. It calms your heart beat. I also relate to purple. It represents wisdom, enlightenment. It’s the colour of creativity. It’s such a regal colour.
What do you want people to experience with this installation?
We’re in the midst of such a crisis. People have lost so much, including myself. There has been such a lot of pain, and people have lost lives. I want this work to be the entrance into a new year of hope. I’m expecting a baby, a baby boy, in a few weeks. He’s going to be here any minute now, and I’m going to become a mother for the first time. So this work is an homage to him too.