Julie Gladstone is a Canadian interdisciplinary artist well known for her abstract painting and installations, while also working in drawing, photography, sculpture and textiles. Her studio is in a 100 year old building full of crooked floors and weird rooms that used to be a Jewish hospital in the Annex in Toronto Canada where she also lives with her partner and daughter. Sometimes cardinals and hawks land on the branches of the trees outside the window while she is working.
Currently an MFA candidate in the Interdisciplinary Studio program at OCAD University, Gladstone holds her BFA with a major in painting and drawing and a minor in film studies from Concordia University. She has participated in artist residencies in Iceland and on Toronto Island and exhibited her work in solo and group exhibitions widely in Canada and the United States. A survey of her work was recently exhibited at the Department of Canadian Heritage, and she has received support from the Toronto and Ontario Arts Councils, the Government of Quebec, Artscape, and the City of Edmonton. Her first International solo exhibition produced with the support of the Judío David Melul Museum, in Béjar Spain in the summer of 2019 was followed by 3 month solo exhibition Return to the Fortress at the Museum of Jewish Montreal. Gladstone’s work has been featured by CBC Arts, Toronto Guardian, Toronto Life and the Canadian Jewish News.
Her recent series of paintings were inspired by family mythology and a quest to discover the medieval village in Spain from where her ancestors were expelled during the Spanish Inquisition after the current King of Spain offered citizenship to the descendents of the Sephardic Diaspora who could prove their ancestry. Following an artist residency in Béjar, Spain, Gladstone created a series of portraits and landscapes which operate simultaneously as disguises and camouflage. By integrating Medieval Sephardic and Kabbalistic iconography and the flora and fauna from her ancestral environment as a way to create metaphysical protective garments, for herself, her unborn child and as retroactive protective garments for her ancestors in the diaspora, she exhibited these works in the village from which her ancestors were exiled 500 years earlier. These works are a contemplation of the meaning of a homeland in an era of displacement, climate change and the disconnection from ones culture and land that comes from a diaspora heritage.
My studio is also a place where I read, write, play and listen to music, meditate and stretch in addition to painting. I begin my creative process by reminding myself that I live on a planet floating in outer space. I’m a visual and emotional sponge and I spend a lot of time walking in my neighbourhood and down by Lake Ontario. I look closely at my environment taking in different impressions, moods and patterns as well as observing my thoughts, emotions and the sensations in my physical body.
When I’m in the studio, I don’t work with any references. Sometimes I will write my dreams down. Sometimes I will open a book of symbols at random to pick a starting point. I allow all of the visual and emotional information to combine to create compositions that are both familiar and unfamiliar. Painting helps me to filter and process the information that I have taken in during the short term and the long term. I create series of work in which I invent my own vocabulary of mark making and symbolism. I also think about and reference classical mythology and Art HIstory
I take many photographs in the city, particularly of the natural decaying processes of concrete, and spray paint markings on things. I collect river and moon water, rocks, birds nests, flowers, plants, crushed plastic bottles and cans, and other interesting objects and bring them back to my studio. My grandfather was an archeologist and the director of a Marine archeology museum in Haifa, Isreal. I bring an archeological perspective to my collecting because of him.
I spend a few weeks every year at Gibraltar point on Toronto Island and on the Nicoya Pensinsula in Costa Rica. Being near water is meditative for me and helps to stimulate my creativity. I spent 6 weeks doing an Artist residency in Iceland. That landscape really influenced my work.
I see my paintings as metaphysical landscapes that explore the interaction between human beings, the five elements, outerspace, the dream world, meditative states, the urban environment, nature and water in all of it’s forms. I’m an abstract painter because abstraction allows me to explore the invisible realm and to show connections that are otherwise unquantifiable or unempirical.
I’m interested in art history and the origins of art making as a magic making practice and the ability of colour to have a healing or transformative effect on the body/ emotions mind. I like to explore a different magical function or possibility through each piece.
I see connections between my work and early mystic abstraction by artists like Hilma af Klint, Piet Mondrian, the later works of Lauren Harris, classical mythology, Romantic Landscape painting, Art Nouveau, Modernist Abstraction and 14th century icon painting. The work is a contemplation of the energetic basis of the universe, the healing process, inner alchemy and the intersections of personal and global ecologies.
Much of my past work has been about creating a contemporary expression of the Sublime, one which examines the human impact upon the forces of nature. By anthropomorphizing meteorological phenomenon such as rainbows and clouds my work explores climate change and extreme weather through the lens of archetypal mythology, metaphysical mapping and the alchemy of the urban environment.
Major bodies of work have included: Extreme Weather Magic Carpets, The Secret Life of Rainbows, The Sky is Falling, Adopt- An Extreme Cloud, Metaphysical Cartography and Infinity Pool. I’m interested in providing perspective on our current era of human made environmental change, and to suggest the intersectionality of healing of the individual with the eco-system at large.
All images on this website are property of Julie Gladstone and may not be used or reproduced in any form without written permission from the artist.