INTERVIEW: Curtia Wright

Toronto based artist Curtia Wright works in a variety of media yet her palette of bright and bold colours remains throughout her captivating portraits.

Can you describe your studio routine?


Currently I am without a studio, so my practice has been slightly minimized; existing in the corner of my living room. It is a great space as it is full of natural light, small desk and supplies but it’s restricted how large I can go and amount of oil medium I can use at once. Normally, I like to start my days off early, around 8am and treat it like a 9-5 work day. I find my brain is most active in this time frame, I max out around 6/7 now-a-days. Right now I’m working on much smaller works on canvas board in oil which will serve as studies until I secure a studio space.

Can you tell us about your subject matter? What draws you to focus primarily on portraits and figurative imagery?

I feel most comfortable communicating narrative through the figure. The figure can ostracize or bring an audience closer; dependent on their proximity to the figure’s identity. I find this very powerful.

You work in a variety of media, from pencil crayons, digital rendering, oil paint and ceramics. Throughout all your work, bold and compelling colours are used to tell a story. Can you speak to your range of materials and use of colour? 

I am quite attracted to bright (especially neon) colours and have been since I was very young. I believe there is a connection to the intensity of hue and its immediate ability to alter mood. I use colour in a way to trigger such an alteration and can use this to overwhelm or subdue an audience.

There is a strong sense of light in your work, in the rendering of your subjects and also literally in your installation of paintings and sculptures. What does light represent or mean to you? 

I think that it is very natural to be drawn to light. For example, every full moon I need to announce it to the closest bystander and welcome them to gaze at it with me, I think that it’s an extremely powerful force of nature. I view light in painting the same, even more so since it is an imagined light that the artist manipulated to serve a function in the piece. Light to me is warmth but also a sort of anxious energy.

What book, movie or video have you read/seen recently that has influenced your work? Why?

I have been reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison using an E-book reader which I started at the beginning of the COVID-19 lock down. It had been on my list of books to read for a while now. I still haven’t finished as I’m horrible with committing to one book but have found parallels between my life and that of the characters in the book. No work has been made in response to this novel, but It has made me think of the parallels within existence, like a sort of doubling. The idea of seeing your reflection in another body totally separate from your own. Toni Morrison also has a beautiful way of describing scenery and the personality of her characters which I find quite inspiring when thinking about defining the intricacies of the backgrounds I depict in my work and paying close attention in building up a subjects personality via visual signifiers (working out details in clothes, hair, posture, make-up etc).


To see more of Curtia's work, check out her website and follow her on Instagram.