84 Anne-Marie Kornachuk

Anne-Marie Kornachuk is an award-winning realist painter from Lakefield, Ontario in Canada. She paints extremely realistic images of women in motion, wearing flowing, shimmering dresses, as well as highly detailed portraits of horses. Ann-Marie even measures each horse to paint it the exact same size on her canvas for a 1-to-1 ratio, enhancing the experience that this horse is right in front of you. Anne-Marie has won the Director's Choice Award (2017) from the Int. Guild of Realism and a Prize of Excellence (2000) from the Florart Int. Exhibition in Japan, as well as earning multiple grants. Besides painting, Anne-Marie Kornachuk loves riding horses, and trains them in the sport of dressage.

'Weightless: Bloom 2,' 2012

Anne-Marie grew up in Winnipeg, and got her BFA from Concordia University in Montreal. In her interview with Klassik Magazine (2018), she says she discovered her interest and talent for art a bit late:

"I was late to making art. I was a jock when I was a teenager and dropped art class as soon as it was allowed. I was first interested in photography in my last year of high school. I had to take all the other “art” parts of the class in order to do the photography section. I discovered that I had a talent for it. It wasn’t until my second year of university, when I was finally allowed to take photography, that I discovered I didn’t have the temperament for the medium. Drawing and painting suited me better."

'Weightless: Bloom 3,' 2012

As a painter, Anne-Marie Kornachuk enjoys painting in sequence, dedicating years of work on each subject she chooses to paint. Over time, the paintings line together, creating a form of animated short, the story and joy of a woman dancing in a white bridal dress. The dance becomes a metaphor, a way to approach life, despite the darkness all around. Anne-Marie references this chaotic setting with the titles she gives her works, in this series referencing the madness of Alice's adventures in Wonderland. Marriage becomes like running down a rabbit hole, the wedding reception a mad tea party. It's an apt comparison, but you don't really think about it when you see the sheer beauty of the dance, and all the glowing colors of the dress. It's the same enjoyment you get from a Van Dyke portrait of royalty, or a Vigée Le Brun, only here there's the added mystery of the figure and her story. We don't know where she is, or who she is. The faces of these women are almost always missing or obscured - although her most recent works have started including the face, giving her women an identity. But for most of these paintings, the woman could be anyone, and that's on purpose. These are symbols of womanhood and femininity, and speak to a common, universal experience.

'Weightles Tsunami' 2013

On her website, Kornachuk talks about these gorgeous flowing dresses:

"I see a kind of operatic drama in the beauty, complexity and rippling energy of the fabric, as if the fabric is alive with the hidden internal dramas of the figure. These internal dramas speak to me about everyday experience, where one manages various quiet struggles with more or less success. The fabric also offers tremendous visual interest for me, as well as an opportunity to consider colour and form. My figures straddle the lines of rigidity and confinement, perhaps societal expectations, internal pressures, as well as beauty, seduction, luxury and sophistication."

'Weightless: Down the Rabbit Hole 1' 2012

"After I choose an image for its thematic potential, my focus changes to the execution of the painting. I am influenced by Baroque painting and sculpture, and so the drama and dark theatricality that I love in the Baroque influences my choices, and the way I paint. I am also profoundly interested in understanding and then depicting substantial form on the flat surface. I work in thin layers, building the form with each layer."

'Weightless: Down the Rabbit Hole 2' 2012

For Klassik Magazine, Anne-Marie discusses how she finds inspiration:

"My inspiration comes to me at unexpected times and from any source. The beauty of the sky is a constant inspiration for me- Nature’s massive all encompassing canvas, although I never have the urge to try to replicate it. One of my reference photographs might strike me and stick with me, and then I will paint it. If some other kind of image or idea inspires me from an outside source, I will take reference photos that are my own spin on it. For example, I was walking down the street while visiting Vancouver a few years ago, I looked up and saw a weather vane that was of a horseback rider sitting backwards on a horse doing extended trot. I found that so interesting that it sparked an entire series."

Having said that, she lists her biggest artistic influences as: Caravaggio, Gentileschi, Bernini, Rembrandt, Velazquez and Gerhard Richter. She says of Carravaggio (Klassik, 2018), "in university I used to stare at photos of his paintings with longing. I knew I would never own one, and I’d be lucky to see one, so I made up my mind that I need to learn to paint like him. I began painting fabric then."

'Weightless: The Mad Tea Party 1' 2012

She goes on to say:

"As I become older, I find my work is less “message oriented” than it used to be. I like ambiguity and subtlety, and I am most interested in what the gesture of my model might speak about. I am not painting portraits. The complicated nature of the fabric serves as a metaphor for entanglements, or inner drama. The point of view is intentionally intimate, putting the viewer in the space of voyeur or participant. I leave it up to the viewer to decide what is happening in the paintings. Underlying all of this I am presenting what I think is beautiful."

'Weightless: The Mad Tea Party 2' 2013

Anne-Marie's portraits of horses offer a stark contrast in terms of movement. She generally paints them in still, stoic poses, moments of reverie, when you might normally brush their hair or offer a treat. She presents them up close and to exact scale, just as you would experience them in real life. She says on her site:

"To me, horses embody beauty, power and expressiveness, as well as vulnerability, intelligence and instinctiveness. I choose gestures and expressions which can speak about emotion and experience. The massive size of any horse is undeniable and has the ability to inspire awe and humility at the same time. The equine portraits I paint are made to exact scale. With these paintings I am bringing a life-sized horse into a human scaled space. I find that the effect can be both startling and fascinating. . . . to me, the essence and complexity of a horse can speak in poetic terms about the human condition, and this is ultimately what I wish to portray."

'Ripple Effect', 2015

"I paint because I need to, my world feels right when I paint. I love the activity of painting, the mental space it allows me, the problem solving, and the continual learning that comes with painting. I have a need to create things and I use painting to meet this need."

'Robin's Egg', 2015

As to an artist's role in society (Klassik, 2018) she says:

"Artists are a gentle force in society, presenting the beauty, the ugliness, the imperfections of being human. People choose to look at it or not. But at least someone is putting it out there. Art also serves as a historical document of the time it was made, which makes it incredibly valuable for future generations."

'Suiker Spin', 2015

Anne-Marie has been kind enough to agree to an interview here about her work. My first question was:

1. When I read that you measure each horse with calipers, to paint them to exact scale, I felt that this, in combination with your incredibly detailed and accurate drawing skills , fits the definition of hyper-realism. What's your take on this? What do you tell someone who says it looks like a photo?

"I actually don’t see my work as hyper-realistic. My work is fairly tight but I know other painters that are much tighter than me, who I would put in this category. I don’t paint each hair in other words.  If someone says my paintings look like photos I say thank you. I know it is meant as a compliment."

'Sunburst', 2018

2. Why is it so important to you to take this highly realistic approach to painting?

"I enjoy making things look real. I remember my first experiences of painting representationally and being thrilled when I stepped back and it looked real. I couldn’t believe it!  I still kind of feel that way, but not as intensely. It just makes sense to me to work this way, and I really enjoy the process of truly understanding the form of what I am looking at. But I love other ways of painting. I’ve tried but it’s kind of like trying to wear a style of clothes that don’t suit you, it just looks weird to me. I’ve never been one of those artists that can work in all kinds of different ways and styles. I envy those that can."

'Mandala', 2014

3. You painted a series on the motif of a running bride. I'm curious where she's running to? Is this like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride?

"The Running Bride is just running, having fun. My model had a great time romping around in my wedding dress.  I leave it up to the viewer to decide what they think is going on. I wanted to capture the dress and body in motion. I loved the interesting forms of the dress, the colours, and the metaphor of a wedding dress and all that means. There’s a hint at sexuality.  It works on many levels for me."

'Ivory 1' 2019

4. Your series Weightless also seems to involve a young bride in a voluminous white dress. I'm curious if this is about marriage as well. What is your opinion of marriage? I remember one of my professors Stephen Locke once saying, 'Marriage isn't an answer to society's ills. It's one of the root causes of society's ills.'

"The Weightless series is the follow up to the Running Bride. I am the model in this series. I ran around our yard and my husband took the reference photos. This was interesting- the collaboration- his view of me in the photos. In my experience marriage has been great and it keeps getting better, but it is a leap, just like any commitment. The idea of the adventures of Alice in Wonderland was an inspiration for this series. The unexpected journey is very interesting to me."

'Bloom', 2018

5. You answered about the role of art in an interview (Klassik, 2018) that artists hold a mirror to the world - whatever's beautiful or ugly. Yet, you've never painted anything ugly. If you were to do so, what would it be?

"Painting ugliness- good question. I am interested in painting horses that don’t have what I call “perky” expressions. So if I was to paint something ugly it would be an angry horse- teeth bared, pinned ears, horses fighting, going after each other. Dramatic stuff.   Something like that. I might do it. But it would probably still be beautiful even though disturbing."

'Blue', 2019

6. You dropped art in high school as soon as you could. Did that have more to do with you or the school? What was your opinion of the program at the time?

"I dropped art in school after grade 8 when we were allowed to. In retrospect it’s clear the school didn’t value art very much. I was in a catholic girls school at the time and I didn’t find the art teacher very interesting, or what she talked about. I wasn’t religious and I was a teenager. I loved the drama/English teacher though (Miss Shaw), and immersed myself in that until grade 10.  It was more meaningful to me, exploring human emotion and dynamics, story telling, that way. I went to a public school from grade 10-12 where I became totally introverted when I was in a co-ed environment. It was at that school that I took grade 12 art and my life changed."

'Ivory 2', 2019

7. What do you admire in the work of Gehard Richter? I know he's painted both realistically and abstractly. Would you ever paint abstractly?

"Gerhard Richter is a genius painter! I love both his realism and abstract works.  I really wish I could make abstract work. I’ve tried, but it comes down to it not looking right to me. I think it’s very hard to make good abstract paintings."

'Adam's Rib', 2009

8. What advice would you give to young art students?

"I always tell young artists to persevere. The other thing is that being an artist is incredibly hard and not to do it unless there’s truly nothing else they want to do. I have had dark times where I wondered why I paint. I allowed myself to consider doing something else several times but nothing else made sense to me. I just can’t imagine doing anything else.  Before I was painting full time, any time I wasn’t painting felt like a waste. Without this kind of conviction I don’t think I could have stuck with it through the tough times. And that leads back to perseverance. It takes years to get good at anything, half the battle is just keeping at it, day after day, practicing, developing ideas and skills. Learning how to deal with art galleries etc, the business of art, is an important aspect of it too. But that’s easier to figure out."

'Running Bride 2', 2011

9. What do you tell someone who thinks art doesn't matter?

"It doesn’t bother me if someone thinks art doesn’t matter. It’s not up to me to convince anyone of anything."

I'll just add, with Anne-Marie Kornachuk, the answer to this is already in her work - it speaks for itself. Each painting is a commemoration of beauty that speaks to the power, importance, and necessity of art.

'Purple Heart', 2018

'Rather Be Kiddin', 2017

'Winston 2', 2016 

'Sonja', 2016

'Sternchen', 2016

'Tête-à-tête', 2018 

'White Horse', 2016

'An Itch To Scratch'. 2018