Reigning Art Battle National Champion Yared Nigussu Talks Shop Before the 2014 Nationals

The 2014 Art Battle National Championships are next Saturday, July 26th, where Canada’s top 20 painters will compete for the title of Art Battle Champion.  

We caught up with last year’s National Champion, Yared Nigussu, to hear his thoughts on Toronto, art and how he prepares to compete.

What do you find interesting, notable or cool about Toronto?
I love the energy of Toronto. This is the city to be in! I love to be with my friends in Toronto, there is a lot of affection. I am just here to enjoy being here and now.

When you are travelling, where do you draw your creative inspiration from? 
I love faces and this is a perfect place to observe different faces. In Toronto the faces are very confident. It’s something different to paint. 

When you are looking at faces, what do you look for?
Every single face has a beautiful form, and interesting shapes. I see each face as a painting, and I imagine it, I think it, and I paint it. The eyes are the first thing I look for, they’re the centre of emotion. You know, I don’t look for the standard perspective of beauty; each person is beautiful, and I want to see their eyes. 

What does it feel like to paint for an audience? 
I feel nervous. It’s not just a safe thing to paint in front of people. I feel naked and exposed, and that I have exposed myself to the audience. I don’t even know what the result is going to look like! But it’s a good feeling, and a great challenge. What I like is that it creates a question in people’s minds. The artist’s objective is provoke, while the audience is asking, ‘what’s going on here? What is he trying to do?’. When they see me paint, I want them to think ‘ART!’ At that time they are not in the museum, and it’s not clear what they will think.

What do you mean by ‘I want them to think ‘ART!’?
I feel that as a professional artist, I carry the meaning of art. In this case, it’s a performance art. There is more than one meaning of art. The people who can connect happiness to different kinds of art, those people are going to have a special experience.

You visited the AGO today, what did you think?
Today I wanted to just experience the art for the first time, to experience it as a sort of therapy. As I walk around there, nobody knows me and I can see through new eyes. 

Who is the strongest competitor in Art Battle?
Keita Morimoto (laughs). I love this guy. He is so talented. He has skill, and knows about colours. He is very into art. As an artist, according to the brushstroke of another painter you can tell, and I can tell, that this guy has it.

How are you feeling about the competition this year? 
I am not in the state of mind of beating someone, I am here just to enjoy. I know what to do, and I will do my best to win.

*Art Battle has told us there is a special ticket offer [$10 off] this Friday from 9am – 2pm; use the code CANADA at ANY ticket master outlet, or online.


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