For several years, FLY has been following Kirk Sutherland‘s canvas stories painted in vibrant colours with shapes and swirls that draw the viewer in to create one’s own story and meaning.  FLY was first introduced to Kirk at Urban Gallery in downtown Toronto where he presented a solo show several years ago, and it was love at first sight! The large energetic canvases practically jumped off the walls, drawing gallery visitors in and engaging them in conversations with each other and with the artist himself.  FLY recently checked in on Kirk and asked him to share his thoughts on his work and arts in general…..

What (or who) first inspired you to take up a career in art?  For me it was never a matter of being inspired nor have I ever considered what I do as a career. Everyone comes here with a life purpose; some may never know what that purpose is and others do. I recall from an early age I inherently followed what was naturally instinctive to me. I was inventing, creating and building things almost unconsciously. There wasn’t a logical reason, it was simply a process and something I had to do.  Making art is an extension of who I am, call it a mission from my higher self.Where did you study or are you predominantly self-taught?  I graduated from OCADU from The Faculty of Experimental Arts where I studied for 4 years intensely. I was there during what could be defined as the Golden Age of OCAD. Between 1987 to 1991, I studied under some of Canada’s masters: trailblazers like Graham Coughtry, Gordon Rayner, Paul Sloggett, Dan Solomon, Jim Tiley and Robert Hedrick. I was also honoured to spend two years studying colour with Francois Thepot who gained an international reputation as an artist, designer and color theorist. In my opinion he was cut from the same cloth as Joseph Albers. Through his guidance I quickly realized that there are no limits to the element of colour.You have such a vibrant & colourful palette – are there certain colours that “speak” to you or guide you across the canvas?  I tend to paint with chords, not notes. My old professor Paul Sloggett coined that phrase. What I mean is there are so many hues within each colour.  Every colour, shade, tint and tone has its own identity. Every colour has a unique chromatic DNA. The process of working with colour is more aligned to the synergy one may have in a romantic interaction. In reality every color has purpose and meaning and each one holds equal importance, whether subtle and introverted or extroverted and intense.  You experience synesthesia which enables you to use all your senses when tackling a painting – can you explain what that’s all about?  Having synesthesia is a neurodivergent reality So my brain does not function like a neuro-typical brain does. As far as creating and painting is concerned, I find myself in a balanced position between the conscious plane of existence and the more ethereal. My creative process is partially choreographed and deliberately linked with a need to surrender control to spontaneity, intuitiveness. It’s much like a merging of classical compositional practice with the unconscious realities of serendipity and the unknown. My paintings dwell in the realm of the unseen and metaphysical where innovation and ingenuity are paramount. With this being said I purposely seek to feel a degree of discomfort for the purposes of not becoming predictable.Obviously, Covid shut down in-person gallery exhibition opportunities – how did that affect your working habits?  Covid didn’t really affect me directly because I’m an introvert and I generally spend long periods of time away from people. It didn’t really matter to me, in fact, I was quite comfortable the whole time. Shutdowns probably helped to eliminate any distraction which may have existed, hypothetically speaking. I work and live alone in a quiet space where originality exists as well as my enormous need for independence. I do have a lot of empathy for the many galleries and businesses that didn’t survive the lockdowns.2023 resulted in several high-profile shows for you, what gallery events are planned for Kirk Sutherland this year?  I’m anticipating a few shows in Toronto this year. I will also potentially be collaborating in a couple of projects which, at this point, are only in the conceptual stage of development. I have great gratitude for whatever is made available to me.

Any advice for emerging artists looking for career inspiration?  My greatest advice is to educate yourself and become a student of art history. There is no such thing as pure creativity, everything has an origin and we must be influenced. It is also vitally important to observe the world and be true to yourself, because there are only two genres of art – honest and dishonest. Also be willing to experiment and take risks. For true art is not meant to be decoratively precious, but instead it’s an extension of who we authentically are within. Lastly, believe in yourself and overcome the challenge of self-doubt, because art making is a purely solitary act. Only create art that you want to see!

If you would like to learn more about Kirk Sutherland, visit his website at:  And follow him on IG & Fcbk (linked via his website)