“A Day in the Life” with Montréal Visual Artist Aralia Maxwell

Aralia Maxwell is a lover of colour and all things delectable. I had the pleasure of meeting Aralia at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University, where we both began our graduate studies in 2017. A fellow prairie artist and academic navigating through the fog. Always having a strong community focus, Aralia was a motivated organizer of many social events and group shows. The type of person who brings people together. Having worked collaboratively with her, I can speak firsthand to the vibrant energy that Aralia brings to projects and exhibition spaces. Moving to Montreal three years ago, Aralia embraced the challenges and excitement of a new city and art scene. Regardless of the community she is engaged with, Aralia is a boundless nurturer of creativity, an advocate for experimentation, and a mentor of emerging talent.

Aralia has established a visual language that is uniquely her own. A sculptural approach to painting that is ornate and unctuous in colour. Extruding paint through pipettes, Aralia’s process of building up layers feels organic and intuitive. The process is foregrounded in her practice, along with the implication of time, as these iterative forms flourish. The paintings themselves gesture, at varying degrees, to the body, crystal structures, patisserie, and manufactured landscapes; all while maintaining abstraction. Her acrylic forms are visually engaging, saturated with pigment, and translated in both macro and micro scales. Aralia’s practice playfully nods at representation, without embracing the formal conventions. Aralia has been the recipient of several national grants and awards. Her artwork has been exhibited in artist-run and commercial galleries across Canada. Beyond her artistic and scholarly accolades, Aralia Maxwell is a devoted educator, a low-waste maker, a fabulous baker, and a dear friend.

-Written by Chloe Kinsella, Arts Administrator, Writer, Artist

Aralia Maxwell
Studio portrait with works in process. Photo by: Hannah Alex Photography
Aralia Maxwell
Working in the studio. Photo by: Kyle Tryhorn Photography
Applying acrylic paint using a patisserie icing technique. Photo by: Kyle Tryhorn Photography
Coffee break with a treat from a favourite neighbourhood spot, Carlota Boulangerie
Recently completed works that were on display this April at the Plural Art Fair with Galerie Robertson Arès
Detail of an artwork created from recycled leftover paint
Aralia Maxwell
The best studio view in town
Aralia Maxwell
When not in the studio, I’m usually spending time in my balcony garden and baking for my loves


Which neighbourhood are you in?

I live in Petite Patrie with my studio nearby in Mile End. Proximity to good food, especially Jean-Talon Market, was key in choosing my Montreal home. I love my daily walks to the studio through Petite Italie … although there’s always a dangerous temptation to stop for cappuccinos and patisserie in the morning and a slice of pizza on my way home in the evening.

What do you do?

I am a visual artist, writer, and educator. Through my work, I explore evolutions in visual appetites. In my studio, I use tools typically intended for cake decoration to create abstract sculptural paintings. Thick acrylic paint is mixed and methodically applied to wooden supports. With careful gestures, small dollops of paint accumulate in fractal patterns which grow over days, weeks, months and, in some cases, years. As these sculptures slowly grow, their shape evolves and may evoke forms present in gastronomy, biology, geology, and/or astronomy. Through the process of making, there are inevitably leftover materials. Rather than discard, in my studio practice, I choose to treat “waste” materials as fresh ingredients to reimagine the construction of a painting. The remains of past work are saved and transformed through various paint and mould-making techniques. With my freshly recycled paint cubes, I am able to create new paintings, playing with grid patterns. In this way, a self-generating cycle begins and the possibilities are boundless.

What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am creating a body of work inspired by botanical geometry. I’m fortunate to be supported by a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts for this project. I have been spending a lot of time reading, sketching, and testing materials in the studio. Recently, I also completed an essay and artwork on the topic of paint materiality to be published in BlackFlash Magazine this late Spring.

Where can we find your work?

My work can currently be viewed at Galerie Robertson Arès, Galerie Art Mûr, as well as on my website and Instagram.


About Emilea Semancik 89 Articles
Emilea Semancik was born in North Vancouver. Emilea has always always wanted to work as a freelance writer and currently writes for the Vancouver Guardian. Taking influence from journalism culture surrounding the great and late Anthony Bourdain, she is a recipe author working towards publishing her own series of books. You can find her food blog on Instagram: