Art & Culture

Artist Profile: Amy Shackleton

AFTER A NEIGHBOUR shared Amy Shackleton’s video of her artwork online, it went viral and attracted more than one million views.


AFTER A NEIGHBOUR shared Amy Shackleton’s video of her artwork online, it went viral and attracted more than one million views.

“In 2011, I created a time-lapse video to document the creation of Terraced City, says Shackleton. “I made the video to accompany my solo exhibition in Toronto and posted it on YouTube,” she says about one of her early “brushless” paintings.

The response took the artist by surprise. Her inbox was flooded. Shackleton appeared on CTV’s Canada AM, received requests for interviews from as far as Poland, and sold a number of paintings, including the piece featured in the video.

Shackleton – a gravity artist – uses squeeze bottles and gravity to create her unique artwork. Using liquid paint, she drips, pours and layers as she rotates the canvas creating organic artwork like: Through The Trees (Toronto + California), Cornerstone (Toronto + Vancouver) and her recent triptych, Greenhouse Effect (Colorado + New York) that sold to a UK collector before she completed the piece.

Shackleton developed this process over a period of three years; first by dripping paint, and using paint brushes and tape for concrete, architectural elements. As the artist became more experienced directing the flow of paint, her technique took another turn.

“It was then I realized with more planning, calculating and layering I could eliminate the use of a paintbrush altogether,” explains Shackleton. “Now, I have more control than ever. My work evolves with each piece I create, and I am still discovering new things.” Shackleton has a love of nature and urban landscapes that is evident in the subjects she captures: tall buildings, waterfalls and trees. “My work references opposing forces – the technique (control vs. spontaneity) and the subject matter (architecture vs. nature),” says the artist that graduated from Toronto’s York University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

Through her paintings, Shackleton hopes to encourage people to work with nature rather than against it. “As climate change continues and extreme weather events become more frequent, questions about our future – be they utopian or apocalyptic – are made more urgent.”

Her exhibition, Light Show was inspired by natural and artificial light experiences she had during trips to California, New York and Toronto. She featured sunlight, for example, because of its significance in sustainable building projects.

The environmentally-focused artist has travelled across Canada to every province and territory; she walked on sea ice in Nunavut and hiked through the mountains, coast to coast, in search of inspiration for her largest painting, a 53-foot-long panorama of Canada called, The Great Canadian LEEDscape. LEED, an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an international rating system that encourages sustainable buildings.

“This painting combines the great Canadian landscape with LEED certified buildings: those that incorporate green roofs, rain gardens, solar energy, geothermal heating/cooling, or urban agriculture,” she explains.

The installation of The Great Canadian LEEDscape. Photo by Jean-Michel Komarnicki.

Among Shackleton’s goals was to create a dream studio. When she moved from Toronto to Oshawa, she renovated her 600-square-foot garage to create a spacious home studio large enough to house two wall easels totalling 32-feet of linear space. The slanted 14-foot ceiling on one side allows her to rotate some of her larger works of art, including The Great Canadian LEEDscape.

This year marks the first time Shackleton exhibited her work at The Artist Project Contemporary Art Fair (February at Toronto’s Better Living Centre). Paintings ranging from 30-inches by 30-inches to 45-inches by 60-inches were exhibited. Art enthusiasts and collectors visited her booth for an interactive Augmented Reality experience of a painting in a time-lapse video.

Future exhibits include a solo show at the Art Gallery of Northumberland (AGN), in Cobourg, Ontario in the summer of 2021, where the artist will exhibit paintings with the subject of climate change across Canada including the Northumberland County area.

“I am honoured my exhibition proposal was accepted for a solo show,” says Amy. “Utilizing interactive elements and engaging components, my work will present intellectually stimulating visual creations that illustrate real life national challenges, while aligning with the AGN’s mission to engage the individual/community in inspirational and educational arts experiences.”

One of the artist’s proudest achievements is her involvement in a national traveling exhibition she organized in collaboration with the Elaine Fleck Gallery. It marked her first solo show in a public gallery and museum when her paintings were displayed at Evergreen Brick Works (Toronto), Visual Arts Centre of Clarington (Bowmanville), THEMUSEUM (Kitchener) and Maison du développement durable (Montreal).

Shackleton garnered the First Choice Award from the jury for her painting, Strong Roots, when she competed against 41 other Ontario artists in McMichael Gallery’s En Plein Air Painting Competition capturing Kleinburg’s lush landscape. Strong Roots was on exhibit alongside the other award winners from November 17, 2018 to January 6, 2019, at the McMichael’s Creative Learning Gallery.

Strong Roots (Kleinberg)

Shackleton understands the importance of inspiring school aged children, as she’s living her childhood dream of being an artist. She gives workshops to students allowing them to try their hand at gravity painting, as they create their own artwork with her assistance.

Since her first video went viral back in 2011, art teachers have created lessons and workshops inspired by her gravity technique and students research her for their art projects. Shackleton continues to use social media – Instagram, Twitter and Facebook – to share her work on her gravity technique. Since December 2017, they had more than 15 million views.

“Many fans have told me to never stop creating, and I won’t,” she says. “I have felt an overwhelming surge of love from people all across the globe and I’m so thankful.”

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