The Proust Questionnaire: Wanda Koop
The Proust Questionnaire started as a Late Victorian parlour game, aimed at revealing key aspects of a person’s character. While still in his teens, author Marcel Proust answered a similar series of questions with such enthusiasm that, when the manuscript containing his original answers was discovered in 1924, his name became permanently associated with this type of informal interview.
Photo © Tanya Peters
Wanda Koop is one of Canada's most distinguished artists. Her painting career spans four decades, and includes over 50 solo exhibitions across Canada and around the world. Her work is represented in numerous public and private collections, including the National Gallery of Canada and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which jointly organized a major survey of her artwork in 2010–2011. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including honorary doctorates from the University of Winnipeg, the Emily Carr Institute (now University) of Art and Design, and the University of Manitoba. She is a Member of the Order of Canada and founder of Art City, an inner-city art centre in Winnipeg.
Your earliest memory of art:
I was born with a paintbrush in my mouth.
When you knew this would become your vocation:
When I was eight.
Your greatest influence:
Early repression, coupled with my dyslexia.
Occupation you would have chosen (other than art):
I’d be a musician, an astronomer, or work at an animal shelter.
Favourite pastime (other than art):
Photographer William Eakin, and approximately one hundred others.
Favourite writer and musician/composer:
I have thousands! For writers: Wallace Stevens, Margaret Laurence, Michael Ondaatje, John Ralston Saul, Miriam Toews, Anton Chekhov. For musicians: Florence and the Machine (amazing!), Glenn Gould and Gavin Bryars (for when I’m painting), Neil Young, Joni Mitchell (very influential for me as a young artist), k.d. lang, Buffy Sainte Marie, John K. Samson (the voice of Winnipeg), Leonard Cohen, and Alejandra Ribera (oh my god!).
Favourite colour, flower and bird:
I’m a flower-o-holic; I love all birds, and I’ve spent a lifetime studying colour—this is too big a question.
Favourite smell and sound:
The smell of my dog, Hubble, and the call of a loon.
My grandmother’s long chestnut braid that was cut off at her death and brought to Canada from Russia.
Favourite environment or landscape:
The neverending sky of the Prairies, grand water vistas, Riding Mountain Parkland, Tokyo, and New York City.
Until this year, winter!
Favourite expression, catchphrase, proverb or word:
“The cat’s pajamas” or “It’s not rocket science.”
Avarice, greed and lack of generosity.
Perhaps openness to new ideas, creatures and cultures.
My ongoing frustration with technology.
Your definition of happiness:
Being alive, well, and engaged with the world.
Ideal place to live:
Here in Winnipeg, until this winter.
A recurring dream:
That I’ve died and gone to heaven and everything there is perfect; but then I realize that I’m actually in hell because perfect is so boring.
For an Art City in every neighbourhood.
Aspirations before you die:
To keep on observing, translating, and making art until my last breath.
To me art is:
Evidence of the human spirit!