Zandra Stratford is a West Coast abstract painter known for bold, semiotic works. Her pieces lay a foundation of elemental earth tones; clay and cement greys and soil blacks, laying strata after strata of contrasting and ambitious colour as a counterpoint to industrial textures, and this overlaid with confident horizontal structures.
Preferring large canvases and panoramic birch panels, her work stands as an exploration of urban forms and our experience with the material of cities. Each interaction, point of surface contact or scuff, whether by design or by circumstance, is at once something removed, something revealed, and something left behind.
Her use of maps speaks to a sense of place, but it is at the same time indistinct, a kind of universal geography, the design of space within pre- existing space, and how our interactions – organic and emotional and spontaneous – collapse and become aggregate, integrated into pre- established patterns of traffic, structure, and flow.
Stratford briefly studied printmaking at the Victoria College of Art, after more than a decade’s experience as an advertising Art Director. This informs her work’s cadence, graphic sensibility and declarative confidence.
Her piece Gorgeous Filth #01 (2017) was selected for the prestigious Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London, the only resident Canadian to be selected for that show’s 249th year. Her proposal for a 20m installation is currently a finalist for consideration by the Victoria International Airport.
Her studio, in Victoria off the coast of Vancouver, is filled with the debris of signal - swatches and typographical elements, vintage textbooks and advertisements, spray- bombs and stencils and the ghosts of what someone, at some point, was trying to convey, like decades-old stray radio signals bouncing off the ionosphere to be captured serendipitously by a car radio at night.
I’m an urban person who, until quite recently, lived on a rural tiny artist-colony island, and yet what snags my attention as an artist is the crunch and grit of urban spaces – rust and concrete and all the structures which support human stories, and in a way end up telling them. So as I travel I collect references that speak to that accumulation of layers; graffiti painted over and showing through, flyers, the abrasion and interaction that always reveals as it removes and contributes. Slowly a narrative arises out of friction and contact, and I try to do that in my work.
As a modernist I juxtapose pastel colours combined with the gorgeous filth of texture, and old found collage materials, so the result is something that is aged yet contemporary.
Increasingly I’ve been working on larger pieces needing large spaces, and space to back up and observe them. That implies a prescience about display space and architecture which has a lot to do with managing negative space in 3 dimensions. Again it’s part of the discussion of how systems like buildings or streetscapes tell stories about people and fleeting interactions, and lets me stay with those stories for a while.