Photo by: Rachel Pick


Vanessa Lam investigates the dynamics of form, space and the unconscious through collage and mixed media painting. She refers to Abstract Expressionism in her work through the use of gesture and automatic painting. It is an action-oriented process that involves a balance between chance and control. Although her mark-making may appear incidental, Lam loosely directs paint through the immediacy of brushwork and use of non-traditional painting tools. This spontaneity translates into her collage process. It provokes her to instinctively respond to materials for shape, texture, line and colour. Reciprocally, the element of juxtaposition in collage informs her creation of contrast through the placement of paint and the variance in mark-making in her painting process. It is this fluid movement between chance and control that influences her to examine both disciplines.

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Vanessa Lam’s latest body of work takes its inspiration from author Rebecca Solnit’s characteristic method of layered storytelling—specifically Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby, which weaves together an eloquent and elegant story about stories—in order to develop her own complex, intertwined visual narratives. Solnit states, “To tell a story is always to translate the raw material into a specific shape, to select out of the boundless potential facts those that seem salient.” Lam’s paintings, each of which takes its title from a line in Solnit’s book, likewise translate the material of her everyday observations of texture, line, shape, and the emotions they evoke into colour, form, and movement. As Solnit also remarks, “Creation is always in the dark because you can only do the work of making by not quite knowing what you’re doing, by walking into darkness, not staying in the light. Ideas emerge from the edges and shadows to arrive in the light, and though that’s where they may be seen by others, that’s not where they’re born.” Solnit is Lam’s guide within the darkness before she returns to the light.

This latest series is also a response to Lam’s interest in Abstract Expressionism as well as the shape-making derived from her collage influences. Her gestures intentionally contrast hard-edged geometry and organic forms with paint splatters. Lam’s intuitive process lends itself to spontaneity and the unknown. The title of the exhibition, “A Handmade Night,” references this process of embracing the unknown and is a follow-up to her previous body of work “There is Another Sky”.

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Mixed media painter Vanessa Lam creates dialogue between collage and expressive gestural painting. While pursuing a career in health care, she maintained an interest in art that began with studies at the University of British Columbia. Progressing this interest, Lam entered into Continuing Studies at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. She has sold and exhibited her work at artist-run and public galleries both locally and internationally.  Lam was awarded the Vancouver Regional Award and Grand Prize Award for the 2017 Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series. As part of her award, she collaborated with Artsy for her first solo exhibition in New York. Her work was also featured in Create! Magazine and Uppercase Magazine. Lam was recently an artist-in-residence at Takt Projektraum in Berlin, Germany. Her work can be found in private collections in Vancouver, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. She currently lives and works in Vancouver, British Columbia.