Alison Fleming: Delta Florists, Hamilton, 2012, oil on panel, 16 x 12" Art With Heart auction
|Alison Fleming: Rotman's, Toronto, Last Day, 2012, oil on panel, 8 x 8" (detail)||Alison Fleming: Beauty Box, Hamilton, 2011, oil on panel, 8 x 10" (detail)||Alison Fleming: Artist Material, Melbourne, 2011, oil on panel, 8 x 10"|
|Alison Fleming: Elm Creek, Manitoba, 2011, oil on panel, 8 x 8"||Alison Fleming: 5am Commuter, 2012, oil on panel, 10 x 10"|
Vernacular architecture has always been an interest of mine, but I started getting obsessed with it about five or six years ago. I initially began photographing – and eventually painting – small and/or abandoned businesses that I’d seen when travelling in other countries, but then I began to see the city I lived in and the buildings I’d taken for granted in a new way. Walks and streetcar rides suddenly became extremely interesting, and previously unexplored areas to the west, north and east of my usual stomping ground revealed themselves as far richer architecturally than I’d initially assumed.
People may not see stores from an aesthetic standpoint, as it can be hard to decontextualize a shop from its setting, what it sells, or its sheer familiarity, and appreciate it purely for its visual impact. What I find interesting about older business are their uncontrived mixtures of building materials, architectural add-ons, faded advertisements, dated fonts, and most importantly, the cumulative evidence of the selling tactics and caprices of the shop owner.
Unfortunately, a great number of the shops I’ve depicted have been demolished or overhauled beyond all recognition – sometimes within months of my painting them. Many of them were already on their last legs as a result of the way that commerce in general has changed, as well as the shift in the types of businesses we see on the main streets of urban centres. I hope that my paintings make people notice buildings that they might otherwise walk past - and think about their neighbourhoods and cities.
Alison Fleming grew up in Winnipeg and currently lives in Ottawa, where she paints and works as a decorative arts and paintings restorer. For the last few years, she has been concentrating on a series focussing on buildings, primarily older shops, and has recently begun another series on natural history specimens and artefacts in museums.