Arts & CultureCampus & City

‘Be a good heart in the art world:’ Ally McIntyre talks community and emotion

For painter Ally McIntyre, community and evoking emotion are crucial to her work.

This is the second article in a four-part series about Edmonton’s 2022 LGAAA Emerging Artist Award recipients.

With bold and assertive paintings, Ally McIntyre explores the effect of art on viewers and the meaning of art to the artist themselves.

McIntyre is a painter who specializes in acrylic mediums and spray paint. Her art communicates a story, which may not be obvious during the process — even to McIntyre.

“I tend to tell these stories using different reference imagery and mark making, but I really find the meaning later on in life,” she said. “I’ll come back and go, ‘okay, that’s what that was about.'”

“[My art is] sort of like a personal diary entry with what’s going on in my life, or what I’m thinking about.”

This intuitive process has led McIntyre to draw inspiration from around her, whether that’s other artists, music, films, or other parts of her life. Though she admits that she’s “a bit of a procrastinator,” working around deadlines, the urge to create still comes naturally. McIntyre even added that the process can sometimes be something she doesn’t enjoy, but responding to that emotion also results in painting.

A painting from Ally McIntyre of a wolf. There are red and black markings on the painting.

“It usually just bubbles up inside until a point where I need to get something out.”

Spray paint is a medium that McIntyre has used for years, even though the method is non-conventional when it comes to painting. She has used spray paint since she was an undergraduate student at the University of Alberta, recalling that she was inspired by Sickboy. Sickboy is a British artist who is notable for their graffiti work. Once she began to experiment with spray paint, McIntyre noticed that the medium gave a “grittiness that straight acrylic paint didn’t do” and the medium’s been under her belt since.

McIntyre’s art has travelled around the world — both in gallery exhibits and private collections. Her latest exhibit, titled Dog Day Circus, was shown in the Saatchi Gallery in London. Dog Day Circus documented McIntyre’s work from her undergraduate days at the U of A until 2017.

“They curated [Dog Day Circus] really nicely to tell the story,” she said. “There’s a lot of dichotomies happening because it was over such a [large] expanse of time in my life.”

“Every year something new is going on in everybody’s life. There’ll be different eras, represented in the show that were maybe a little more dark or a little more hopeful, or certain palettes.”

Living in London was a big change for McIntyre, who mentioned the diversity in arts offered in the city compared to Edmonton. As of right now, she’s moved back to Edmonton after feeling “homesick for the landscape back home,” something that is sometimes communicated through her work.

Part of having her work around the world has led McIntyre to appreciate different types of acknowledgement. She mentioned that it was “a really good feeling” and she was “overjoyed” to be recognized by the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards (LGAAA) Emerging Artist Award. However, this acknowledgement also comes from having pieces in private collections.

“It’s a surreal experience to have your art out there in various people’s homes or these institutions,” she said. “It’s another form of acknowledgement, [and] that just feels good.”

“There’s a lot of care that goes into the making of the works. To know that someone cares enough to invest in that is a real … good feeling all around.”

Five pieces from Ally McIntyre sit in a gallery room

With so many varying emotions around her work, McIntyre still feels that the connection between artist and viewer is a personal one, even if it isn’t always positive.

“I always say [visitors] can leave hating the work and that’s better than feeling nothing towards it or numb towards it,” McIntyre said. “I think it’s important for us to be challenged visually, and to suspend our own beliefs of what we see in the world.”

McIntyre is currently preparing for her next exhibition, which will be in Korea. She is also working on thank-you paintings that she is preparing for Roy Mills and Maria Whiteman, who teach in the U of A fine arts department and helped her with her LGAAA award application.

Finally, McIntyre said that having a supportive community is crucial to an artist’s journey and career and encouraged mentors and peers to provide advice, even when an artist’s work isn’t something they enjoy.

“I think having a community or having mentors that you can rely on as an artist, for me has made … a huge difference in my career,” McIntyre said. “Without those relationships and people to back you and support you, especially when times get difficult, it would be hard to continue. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support that I’ve received.”

“Leave the place nicer than you found it. I think no matter where you go, even if you don’t like somebody’s art, you still gotta find that ability to encourage them if they seek help or advice. Just be a good heart in the art world.”

Jin He

Jin previously served as the 2021-22 Production Editor at The Gateway. She also had a brief stint as 2022-23 Production Editor. She is in her first year studying pharmacy. If not sleeping, she can often be found supporting local artisans, obsessing over e-sports, and sporting some wicked earrings.

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