studio visit w/ AKIN artist Kayla Polan

Posted by Stacie Ant, June 12, 2017
Kayla Polan

"I think my work is meant for perverts and social workers " - AKIN artist Kayla Polan has a unique gift of creating the most pervy looking food in the most stunning way. Her work melds feminism and popular culture to look at contemporary ideas about sexuality, domesticity, queer identity, autobiography, and consumer culture.We went to Akin collective to visit Kayla in her studio.
Super excited to have her participate in Akin/ Pixel & Bristle pop up series. Meet Kayla in person at the Drake Hotel on June 15 and Drake One Fifty on June 17.


How would you describe your work?

My work melds feminism and popular culture to look at contemporary ideas about sexuality, domesticity, queer identity, autobiography, and consumer culture. My practice is multidisciplinary but engages mostly with painting, sculpture, and printmaking.

I think my work is meant for perverts and social workers (laughs). But it’s simultaneously totally pleasant and approachable through my use of humour. After graduation I worked at a sex shop for a short time and a customer told me, “You look like you could be working at Sears selling vacuums,” and I thought this was the perfect descriptor for me and my work.

Kayla Polan

What inspires you? How did you develop your style?
A lot of my work has been inspired by something I heard. I have a list in my phone of random sentences and words that friends, family, or random passersby have said. A phrase can be stuck in my head for years until I do something with it visually. If anyone ever found this bizarre list I’m sure they’d be very confused as it’s all completely out of context and makes no sense as a compilation of anything.

Art wise, I’m more inspired by sculpture than I am by painting. I recently met with an art student who was hoping for some advice, and they had asked me if I could recommend any painters for them to research. I realized that I actually only know a handful of painters, like Holly Coulis or Matthias Weischer, but the list is very small. It’s probably not great that I don’t actively research work in my own field, but I’m just not that inspired by painting. I mean I love the act of painting itself, but I always skim through the painting sections of museums. I really enjoy illustration, sculpture, and new media work. I think Tibi Tibi Neuspiel has been my favourite artist now for a couple years.

Kayla Polan

I’d say my style is quite illustrative. It has developed to what it is now through many periods of struggle and self-doubt where I had thought to myself “I wish my style was more free.” In school many professors told me that my style renders painting totally pointless as I could’ve taken a better photograph or done an easier performance. When you think about it, painting only really makes sense when it’s abstract, because the conclusions you’re trying to reach couldn’t be a better photograph. So for some time I tried to do what I thought looked “free,” which resulted in really ugly work including some really forced looking abstract paintings. I could’ve easily taken a small spray gun filled with my urine to the work I did in that time. But on the other hand it was good because I was actively outside my comfort zone and I learned what I don’t want to do. So I finally got to a point where I was totally lost and didn’t even know my own name and I decided to stop rejecting the approaches that came most naturally to me and work the way I wanted to. My style has always instinctively been clean, controlled, and somewhat graphic. My paintings may not have a lot of movement or passion or whatever but I really like that my work appears kind of cold. And I think it actually works with some of my current themes, it cools the subject matter down a little.

Kayla Polan

What's it like being a part of AKIN collective?
I love my studio space with Akin. Until now, I’ve always been a person that likes to work alone but it’s actually been really good for me to step out of my comfort zone and work in a large shared space. I appreciate the conversations and feedback from visitors walking by and from artists working in the space. Some of them are artists that I’ve looked up to for years. And many of them are full-time artists as their only source of income so they’re a motivational bunch to be around. Plus it’s great that I now have the opportunity to participate in print fairs and pop-ups fairly frequently through Akin.

What kind of stuff can we expect to see during your pop-up at the Drake?

I’ll be selling a variety of original screenprints and linocut relief prints. I’ll have archival giclee prints of many of my paintings. Visitors can expect a large variety in the scale of the prints, some small and some quite large (but no need to come prepared as I’ll be equipped with some relatively indestructible packaging). I’ll also have some tote bags, enamel pins, hand-drawn stickers, and small-scale oil paintings. I’m going to attempt screenprinting on sweatshirts before the pop up but I make no guarantees that I succeed (ha! who knew screenprinting on fabric was so difficult?!). I’m really looking forward to seeing some new and familiar faces at the pop-up!

Kayla Polan

Are there any shows or projects you're looking forward to in the near future?

I have a group show coming up in June at Bunker2 Gallery that I’m really excited about. And another group show at YYZ Artist Outlet in July, as the conclusion of the YYZ Lab Residency that I’ve been part of since 2016. I’m also going to be in a web series “Art Works,” a remake of the classic show Art Attack made by Madeleine Co in partnership with OCAD University and CBC Arts. And then after the summer I’ll have a couple months where I have no commitments, and I can’t wait for that time to just experiment and start fresh. I have a couple new series’ a brewin’ in my head that I think will be quite different from what I’ve been doing this past year. I mean it’ll be a natural transition but I’m ready for a change. I’m going to explore some new processes in printmaking, sculpture, and performance.

Kayla Polan

Posted in: Art

Tags: akin collective  art  drake one fifty  pop-up  the drake hotel