Corri-Lynn Tetz

Radical style overhaul
Painter heeds MFA call to experiment

Corri-Lynn Tetz l Photo: ARHPhoto Corri-Lynn Tetz l Photo: ARHPhoto

For someone who grew up with the wide open vistas only Prairie landscapes can provide, Corri-Lynn Tetz's preference for a small, private studio space in Concordia's Visual Arts Building could seem counterintuitive.

"I felt I could make mistakes and no-one would see them," says Tetz, now in her second year of the painting and drawing specialization. "I felt exposed last year, when we were all in a big open area and everyone could see what was on everyone's walls."

Tetz had returned to school after a long spell and it was a tough year on her confidence. "I think you get locked into things and you don't challenge them. Back in school, you begin to question," she says. (Not that she need have worried: among various accolades already under her belt was a Juno nomination for her artwork for the cover of a friend's album, Cloak and Cipher.)

She's since embraced the mantra that permeates Concordia's MFA program that graduate studies are a time and place to experiment, to push beyond perceived limitations. Tetz, who as a girl taught herself to draw with her Barbie horse as a model, found that her work is "absolutely" changing as a result.

You could say she's keeping the baby and throwing out the bathwater.

Towards a perfect world

The Alberta native is striving to shed the realism that has been her approach since she began making art, no doubt influenced by both the Western-themed paintings - landscapes, cowboys, horses in mini-Utopic renderings -- of her grandmother and the photoconceptualist movement popular in Vancouver when she studied at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design a decade ago.

She is, however, keeping the themes that have intrigued her for years: absurdity, where people place meaning, and the idea of hope.

"I'm now thinking about how to use the figure in painting in a way that feels contemporary and relevant, and alludes to the things I'm interested in. I want to improve how I handle paint rather than the way I can render an image," she says, noting that until recently she would draw by sections, perfecting each part before moving on to the next.

Corri-Lynn Tetz. Oil on panel, 2012. Courtesy of the artist. Click to enlarge. Corri-Lynn Tetz. Oil on panel, 2012. Courtesy of the artist. Click to enlarge.

While Tetz continues to base her work on photographs, her own or found ones, she's looking these days for images used in media. Housefire 3, for example, was inspired by a grainy photo she saw on Facebook.  (The painting earned her a place among the 15 finalists in the 2012 RBC Canadian Painting Competition.)

She's recently been focusing on media images of elite athletes in emotional states of failure and success, such as happen during the Olympics. "I've been thinking about the absurdity in society that so much pressure is put on what you decide to do in your life, and so much pressure is put on the idea of success," she says.

She may be skeptical about the idea of success, but she does have a perfect world in mind: "I want to be able to sell my work, to have shows I'm proud of, to teach a bit, to travel - to sustain myself with my art."

Story by Liz Crompton. Posted on January 13, 2013

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