Artist Joanna Turlej searches for the perfect piece of paper. Collage motivates her. After years of painting with watercolours and acrylics, she attended a workshop on collage in 2014 and hasn't looked back.

“Now it's collage big time for me,” says the local artist. “Finding just the right piece is a small victory that drives me forward to continue until a final result is achieved.”

Using high quality paper from fashion magazines, Japanese papers and tissues, she creates unique works of art that she seals with several coats of varnish to prevent damage and allow for cleaning.

“I'm a chess player, I see in my mind a few steps ahead of what I'm looking for ““ a particular colour which I may or may not find in the magazines and then I paint it on my own papers. That's the way I think ahead in my art,” she explains.

Turlej exhibits her work in juried shows like Toronto's Artist Project, a contemporary art fair, February 18 to 21, 2016 at the Better Living Centre, Exhibition Place. “I was really thrilled that I was accepted the first time, it's not easy to get into because a huge number of artists apply,” she says.

The Oakville resident is displaying about 15 mixed media paintings including her signature piece, Versace Island, a 36-inch by 48-inch collage on canvas. “It's usually hard to think of a title, so when I finish a piece I look for some text,” says Joanna. “In the mountain it says Versace ““ that came from an ad, so I call it Versace Island. That's very inspiring. I would never have thought of some of those titles if it wasn't for text being present.”

During the summer Turlej participated in Art Monaco 2015. “It was a fantastic experience for me and I had great exposure to collectors from all over the world,” she says.

Close to Turlej's heart are issues like saving the environment and wildlife. After watching David Suzuki's documentary on oil sands and the caribou, she created a series of paintings, paper on canvas, while attending a McMichael Gallery workshop. One collage, Caribou Country will be part of a two-year travelling exhibition, Progressions V, starting at Oakville's Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre, through March 21, 2016. On a trip to British Columbia, Turlej fell in love with red cedars. “They were magnificent and that was another series for me,” she says.

Most of the artist's work focuses on landscape or floral images, but she created abstract pieces, Too Much Wine and Coffee, and Night Vision, for Nuit Blanche's 2015 Insomnia Salon Soirée at the Red Head Gallery. “For that, I created collage on board and left exposure to the wood.”

Before becoming a full-time artist, Turlej was a graphic artist and web designer. Currently she works on ArtWorks Oakville Association's website and their communication. She also teaches composition at the Oakville Arts Society.
Turlej is very active in the art scene. She's an elected member of the Colour and Form Society, 63 years in existence. To be considered, she went through two juried shows and committee approval of her collages.

Joanna was also accepted into OSA (Ontario Society of Artists) founded in 1872, Canada's largest continuing arts society, an honour as their roster includes renowned Canadian artists. Her work is on display at the New Members' Exhibition through January 8, 2016, at Toronto's John B. Aird Gallery, 900 Bay Street.

“Collage is my way of expressing myself. It's paper that I paint ““ that's how I describe my art!”
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