Get to Know | Tristesse Seeliger

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Alum Tristesse Seeliger (BFA, 1996) is a visual artist who lives in Vancouver and works out of her studio at The Arts Factory. Recently, Tristesse was commissioned by the Communications department at Emily Carr University to install a collage-based mural within the offices. We thought that Tristesse would be an excellent choice to kick off our Get to Know Series where we chat with alumni to get a brief insight into their practice and some wisdom they have to pass on. You can see more of Tristesse’s work through her website and Instagram.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Tristesse Seeliger and I am a project-based artist and teacher who is currently working in the mediums of collage and painting in Vancouver.  I have been exploring the idea of infinity through the use of patterns and tessellated shapes using maps as my source material. My paintings have used pattern as a way to discuss the multiverse, principals of mathematics and reimagine nation states. I am a mom of two children and wife to the designer and photographer David Crompton (BFA, 1999).

Describe your practice in three words.

Messy, angular, industrious

Territory 62 6' X 6' Mixed media 2018
What are you most excited about it your practice right now?

This year I have had a desire to fill my creative tank up by reading and watching films, collaborating with other artists and collecting ideas wherever I can find them. I am excited about a collaboration with an artist Karen Yurkovich who has a studio at The Arts Factory as well. Definitely interested in collaborations with other people as a way to continue to learn and grow as a person and an artist.

You created a mural on campus recently – it’s so cool. Can you tell us about your experience with murals, how you got into it and where we can find your work in the city

Thank you. I applied to the Vancouver Mural Festival in 2017 and was asked to do a mural for them that year. That is how I got into it. I put my name forward and much to my surprise they asked me to do the largest one of the festival that year. My style of geometric abstraction works very well on architecture. I highly recommend throwing yourself into a situation that makes you uncomfortable and is beyond what you know. If you are lucky enough to get an opportunity to do something like a mural it is an educational experience. I have done 2 other murals since then, one for Emily Carr, which is a collage, and then another geometric abstraction for a restaurant in the West End. Murals are a popular public art form right now and have a certain currency. This makes them a way for artists to make money and a name for themselves.

Territory 65 10' X 10.5' Map collage on the wall Emily Carr University 2019
Name one thing in your practice that you can’t live without?

My brain.

What role should creatives play in the community?

I am uncomfortable with the word creatives as I think that term is used to describe many people in design and tech so I will answer that question by trading in the word creativity.

Creative expression illuminates a plethora of different voices that enrich our own understanding of the human experience connecting us to truths about life. Just think about music and the role it plays in your life. Ask, how has music or art helped you know yourself better? I can name many a book, piece of music, painting or film that changed the way I see the world and myself. Artists can and should be used to create healthy and just societies by using the problem-solving skills they have. I don’t think science and mathematics is so different from creative disciplines like music and visual art and it is truly exciting when these distinct disciplines borrow from each other’s practices.

The Infinite Line Mural VMF 200' X 23" Vancouver BC 2017
What do you wish you learned in school but didn’t?

Knowing that there aren’t just one of two pathways to start an art career would have been helpful. I believed, when I graduated, that you had to either be a conceptual academic or a commercial artist. Knowing now that an artist can create the practice that best suits them as it unfolds has been very liberating. I don’t believe in scarcity of opportunity and so therefore as my art practice grows it can change and move into different arenas. With the current democratisation of tech and the ability to promote yourself and create your own business more entrepreneurial skills would have been useful in school as well. I hear that same complaint a great deal from practicing artists. I wish I had more business skills.

What advice do you have for those just beginning their career such as our class of 2019?

You are never too old  or too young to get started on something new. Take risks and make mistakes and then have the humility to keep going. You should get paid for what you do. Find a tribe of people that support and lift you up.

Featured image of Tristesse in her studio was photographed by Robert Wilson.