Winnipeg Painter Wanda Koop thrives on colour

Wanda Koop launches new book that demonstrates how she approaches her painting.
Bay Blanket Moon 78" x 110.25"; 198 x 280 cm; acrylic on canvas (Bruce Spielman)

Wanda Koop is the title of a new book that physically seems small compared to many of her strikingly large paintings.

If you compared me to an opera singer, I could shatter a glass with paint and colour- Wanda Koop

As one of Canada's most important contemporary artists, Koop is known around the world for her impressive collection of work. Her paintings are represented by galleries in Montreal, Reykjavik, Shanghai and The Netherlands.

According to Koop, this latest book is not like her other books, which tend to be based on bodies of her work. The book came about after she went to the Miami Art Fair in December. She says the goal was to give a larger international audience an immediate sense of how she thinks in order to paint. 

"I'm a visual language researcher," she explained. "For my entire career as an artist I've been taking photographs and videos and small post-it note sketches off the evening news, or making drawings from a moving car. These are all short hand notes that I later transpose into paintings." 

Her new book merges photographs from the last five years, demonstrating how they influenced her paintings.

"If you compared me to an opera singer, I could shatter a glass with paint and colour," she maintained. "I've been studying colour from when I started making art seriously. Colour is what motivates a painting for me. Even if I make a sketch or a photo, I have to think in colour....I use colour very consciously."

After Koop painted Bay Blanket Moon (seen above), she came home and saw a group of homeless people.

"I know some of them because I'm familiar with the people in the area. After it poured one day, they abandoned their shelter," she recalled. "The next day the blankets were all strung up on the school fence. And low and behold there was this Hudson's Bay blanket. I felt quite emotional about it."

Koop reflects that living with dyslexia became a vehicle that drove her to a career in art. She said her report cards throughout school support this theory.

"Wanda should not do as much art," her teachers wrote. "...perhaps we should limit her art activity so she can concentrate on the more important subjects."

Thankfully, they did not.

Hear Wanda Koop in conversation with Oliver Botar at McNally Robinson discussing her book called Wanda Koop, on Tuesday April 15, 8 p.m. It's published by Fine Art Books.