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Artist Interview Series: Crystal Noir and discovering the brush

Sometimes, adversity leads to discovery. A lost job can lead to a new opportunity or a lost wallet can lead to a new friendship.

For Crystal Noir, a pandemic lead to a chance encounter with a new passion.

A portrait of Crystal Noir

“I completely fell into painting absolutely unexpectedly, and I felt like I must have been a painter in a past life or something,” Crystal says. “Because I fell in love with it so quickly. I picked it up so quickly. And I just went at it full force, painting every single day for, you know, almost two years now, putting myself into whatever sort of program I could find … It really just fell in my lap, like a lockdown boredom thing.”

After being introduced to painting by a friend, she found herself at a dollar store, buying a basic set of acrylic paints.

“I got some stuff. I went outside. I painted my first painting. I loved it. I was like, ‘Wow! This is such a freeing experience.’ When I’m at the canvas, I feel so free. I feel like I’m home almost. It was like meditation. It was a very different experience than what I’m used to because I’m so used to the corporate grind, grind, grind. And it kind of snowballed from there.”

Her career in fashion and marketing is high-paced. Painting gave Crystal a new outlet not only for expression, but to relax as well.

A bottom half of portrait of woman and butterflies flying from  a heart above the woman

From those first days, Crystal has since transitioned to oil painting, finding it a better medium to express her combined style of expressionism and surrealism. She employs bold use of colour, distinctive imagery and symbolism in order to tell a story.

Her subjects appear with the top of their heads removed, just below the eyes. In place of eyes, symbols are used to emphasize the story she wants that particular piece to convey.

The stories she focuses on are those of Black subjects. A Black artist herself, Crystal says there is an absence of Black representation in art here in contrast to larger Canadian centres, such as Toronto.

“I go [exhibitions] here and I don’t see really any Black art,” she says. “Maybe there is, and it’s just a different exhibition and I’m not there for that. But in Vancouver specifically, I don’t see that. What I was back east, that wasn’t really something that you had to search for. You could find it. I find in Vancouver, it’s absolutely non-existent.”

And while representation matters in terms of the visibility of her subjects, Crystal is also conscious of making her art speak to a broad audience. She wants to create art that draws people into a larger discussion and does not inadvertently shut anyone out.

A man's portrait whose head cut off and a brain and a heart on a balance on the head

“When you’re a part of a minority group, you often feel excluded from things. And I don’t want, and I don’t believe that the response, when you feel that way, is to exclude people in return.”

Art has enabled Crystal to put voice to stories in ways she had not yet been able to. Having a career in the fast-paced, corporate world of fashion, art has become a new creative outlet.

And it has led to her first solo show. The exhibition, titled The Fifth Element, runs February 2022 at Art @Bentall.

“It’s so exciting,” Crystal says. “It’s a bit nerve-wracking because I’m displaying, I’m really showing myself now. I’m revealing myself. So, I think it’s going to be a very humbling experience. I think that I’m going to feel vulnerable to have my work on display. It’s a mixture of emotions.”

By Nathan Durec


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