Interview by Tess Martens
Martens: We now know about your pursuits as a musician based on your past Culture Fancier interview; tell us about your visual art practice.
Szabo: I’ve always been a painter. I was trained as a painter and have made paintings for as long as I can remember. For a brief time though, I rejected painting. The hiatus was in part because I wanted to branch out but also resulted due to an increasing interest in the 3-dimensional realm. Here I discovered my love for found object. I began to scavenge for materials that were advantageous in their intended use but could also be repurposed or taken apart to create work. I learned to consider the interactive opportunities of a physical object and the space in which it occupies. While I made discoveries and manipulations of the tangible I eventually came to understand that I am also inevitably still a painter. Today, I produce work that often combines the act of painting and the use of objects.
Martens:How long have you lived in the work/live space, The Coffin Factory which is located downtown Toronto?
Szabo: I have been living in the Coffin Factory for three and a half years now.
Martens: What made you move to the Coffin Factory?
Szabo: After my undergrad, I lived in Montreal for a couple years. While I love the city, I also missed being close to home. So when I got a call from a friend saying he had found this incredible live/work space it seemed like an offer I couldn't refuse.
Martens: What goes on in the Coffin Factory and how is it important to you and other artists?
Szabo: The Coffin Factory is a hub for creativity. It is a space where artist can work freely, privately or collectively. There are many nooks and crannies of this crazy old building that I have yet to discover but as far as I know, The Coffin Factory houses visual artists, musicians, people interested in theatre, multidisciplinary creators -the list goes on. It allows the space for people to create but also show and sell work. But mostly The Coffin Factory is a community. It is a place for artists to support one another and flourish together.
Martens: Tell me about the paintings of The Coffin Factory. What inspired you to paint them?
Szabo: When we got our notice of eviction implying the doom of The Coffin Factory -condo development, I decided I wanted to commemorate it in some way. The most obvious venue for this seemed to be painting. So I began with constructing a portrait of the building. From there, I decided to collect objects from in and around the building, painting the background of their found locations as a way to preserve pieces of the space. The project as a whole feels fairly archival but also has become a therapeutic way to process the reality of the building’s near future.
Martens: What is your most memorable experience at the Coffin Factory?
Szabo: I am not sure I can pinpoint one specific event or moment. What I like most about The Coffin Factory is the character of the building and the sense of community it holds.
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All photos provided by the artist
You can spot Tess Martens performing with all her heart during karaoke night because she has to compensate for her singing voice or cracking jokes at a music open mic night. She is a performance artist and painter that exploits her vulnerabilities and humour. When she is not doing art, she is working with seniors. She recently received her Masters of Fine Art at the University of Waterloo. She now resides in Waterloo, Ontario. Follow Tess on Instagram.