Artist Brad Pasutti in his Victoria studio. Don Denton photography

Artist Brad Pasutti in his Victoria studio. Don Denton photography

Victoria Artist Brad Pasutti Explores The Subconcious

Painter creates art that straddles the border between dreams and reality

  • Oct. 15, 2018 9:30 a.m.

-Story by Angela Cowan

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

Behind creeping ivy and sprawling holly bushes, at the bottom of an octagonal tower in a house built well over a century ago, artist Brad Pasutti creates labyrinthine paintings that straddle the borders between dreams and reality.

Figures blend into unusual architecture or fade partly into translucence, while disembodied hands and limbs provoke that surreal sense of disjointedness often found in our subconscious minds.

The artist himself is soft-spoken and reserved as he moves through his home. Walls covered to the inch with pieces from local artists, shelves of figurines and models from classic works of art and his husband’s astonishing mermaid collection speak to the couple’s passion and dedication to the world of visual art.

He sets down a cup of tea and takes a chair in his studio next to a four-foot-tall painting, glancing at the piece.

“I hope to achieve some qualities of the dream,” says Pasutti of his work. “Dreams were very important to me. It’s so different than the waking world.”

In dreams, we jump from thought to thought, flitting between ideas that don’t always have a clear connection. Stare at one of Pasutti’s larger-than-life pieces in person and you’ll find your eye roaming from detail to detail, unable to focus on any one thing for long. It’s a reflection of the chaotic state of our slumbering minds, but also the wandering nature of daydreaming.

It’s what Pasutti calls the “polyphony of being” and relates to how people can be out in the world doing ordinary things, but our minds are constantly moving from one thought to the next, propelled by memories, the things we see, conversations we have, even music we hear.

“I want my paintings to be about what’s going on in people’s minds,” he says. “Very few people are just in the moment.”

Pasutti’s formal training started with a three-year honours diploma in sculpture from the Kootenay School of Art, completed in 1979, after which he achieved a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Victoria in 1983. He was greatly inspired by Hieronymus Bosch, as well as Escher, Picasso and others. His original goals included researching conservation of artwork, but the intricacies of the science took him too far from the art itself.

“I realized I wasn’t into the sciences,” he says. Though fascinated by lay science, the details of conservation “seemed too removed from the actual process of doing art.”

The “geeky” side of painting continued to appeal, however, and the actual construction of the pigments attracted his interest. With his newest series, Pasutti has been experimenting with different mediums to mix with the oils to “see how they behave.”

Linseed oil, a common base in oil paints, can be “light and flowing or heavy and viscous,” he says, “and that has a huge influence on how you’re working.”

“The technological or geeky part is a whole different part,” he says, becoming animated as he talks about the ingredients used: casein, egg, plant derivatives. “The actual handling of paint, I want to explore that too. They don’t teach you that in school.”

But before he even begins work with his hand-ground colours, he starts his process by taking hundreds (if not thousands) of photos and then cutting and arranging them digitally to form a draft image he’ll work from.

Artist Brad Pasutti in his Victoria studio. Don Denton photography

His newest works-in-progress explore youth and wonder.

“I saw a small bush hedge that had a little dip down into the grass,” he says of his inspiration. “Childhood sees those as magical spaces. I wanted to capture childhood.”

After enlisting the help of his great-nephew and niece as models, Pasutti is now in the digital draft stage, discovering the stories the images tell with each click of his mouse. Though, there’s no guarantee the final piece will look anything like the drafts, he says.

As often happens in creative pursuits, the project takes on its own personality and the images “kind of grow” as Pasutti begins to work with actual paints.

“Once I start painting, it becomes an object, and there’s a dialogue between the works,” he says. “I’ve had works where what I started with…almost none of that actually ends up on the painting.”

And unexpected figures sometimes creep in as well. In several of Pasutti’s works, familiar faces from one of the artist’s favourite pieces, Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, kept appearing as he worked, sometimes to his chagrin.

But “the painting has to go in its own direction, and sometimes it surprises you.”

Inspired by a family with great respect for the arts, Pasutti has been exploring different perspectives since childhood.

“My father was a poet and a writer,” he says. “He used to bring art books home all the time. And my uncle went to art school. He was like a big brother to me.”

They encouraged Pasutti to explore his natural inclinations to view the world on a slant, and helped sow the seeds for his work to come.

As a child, Pasutti would walk around his home with a mirror pointed at the ceiling, seeing how the world was turned upside down. And from early childhood he would often dream of being in the depths of a labyrinth, having found secret doors in his home, or hidden floors and spaces.

“I was always so happy,” he says. “I enjoy just wandering.”

These days, Pasutti lives every day in his art. Inspiration strikes while walking the dog, wandering library stacks, even working on his iPhone.

“I’m always working,” he says with a laugh. He still dreams occasionally of labyrinths and secret places — his love of a complicated unknown as strong as ever.

ArtartistBoulevard MagazineBrad PasuttiCanadian artPaintingSurrealism

Just Posted

file photo
UPDATE: Leduc RCMP, Millet Fire Department and more on scene at serious multi-vehicle collision

Traffic is expected to be diverted for several hours and alternative travel routes are recommended.

File photo
Leduc RCMP request assistance to identify armed robbery suspect

Leduc RCMP are searching for suspect involved in an armed robbery at the Leduc Giant Tiger.

Alberta is now below 3,000 active cases of COVID-19, as the province reported 2,639 Wednesday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer below 100 active COVID-19 cases for first time since March

69.7 per cent of Albertans 12 and over have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

Premier Jason Kenney says the provincial government is doing everything it can to encourage Albertans to get vaccinated. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Travel prizes added to Alberta’s vaccine lottery

More than 40 travel rewards available for those who are fully vaccinated

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Green party Leader Annamie Paul speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Paul has survived another day of party strife after a planned ouster shifted course, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power ahead of a likely federal election this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul blasts ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’ party execs who sought ouster

Fallout has continued, with two of the federal council’s members resigning

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and U.S President Joe Biden shake hands during their meeting at the ‘Villa la Grange’ in Geneva, Switzerland in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)
Biden says meeting with Putin not a ‘kumbaya moment’

But U.S. president asserted Russian leader is interested in improved relations, averting a Cold War

Most Read