Sandra Yuen MacKay

Artist Bio

As a seasoned artist, Sandra Yuen MacKay's focus is acrylic paintings. Illuminated by fresh colours, they are as inspiring as her story. She is a Canadian-born Chinese living and working in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She became interested in art at a young age influenced by her father who was an architect. Despite turbulence in her teen years, she went on to attend Emily Carr College of Art and Design, and received a Fine Arts Diploma from Langara College and an art history degree from the University of British Columbia. After a major health relapse, she rekindled her interest in art, and currently paints over 40 paintings a year.

She was the recipient of the Courage to Come Back Award and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for overcoming severe adversity and giving back to the community to become an artist, writer and speaker on mental health issues. Her artwork is in the VGH/UBC Hospital Foundation collection and private collections in North America.

Sandra's work has been exhibited at the Federation Gallery, Fragrant Wood Gallery, Silk Purse, Port Moody Arts Centre, CityScape Community Art Space (North Vancouver Community Arts Council), Eastside Culture Crawl, Federal Courts, Sheraton Wall Centre, Havana Gallery, University Women's Club of Vancouver (Hycroft), Vancouver Outsider Arts Festival, Gallery Gachet, Vancouver General Hospital, The Gathering Place, and other venues.

In her floral series, Sandra is influenced by Georgia O'Keeffe, Claude Monet and many others. She states, "Painting is a way of life, opening my mind to possibilities and sharing my personal vision of optimism and hope."

Artist Statement

My art practice has always been a way to communicate emotion, perceptions and ideas stemming from an overactive imagination, fluctuating moods, and hypersensitivity to others. In the past, my process tended to be cyclical, fuelling a diverse, complex, multifaceted approach to genre and subject matter. 

Currently I am working on a floral series which borders on abstraction. They are a response to living in a time of conflict and uncertainty, symbolizing healing, transcendence and transformation. Their abstract qualities relate to idealism and the suspension of thoughts and beliefs that I experience living in two worlds, the sane and the fictional.

Starting from reference photographs, preliminary ink or pencil drawings of the subject, I then translate the image to canvas, refine and apply acrylic paint in transparent glazes, dry brush and solid areas. As I continue to develop this series, I focus on colour, fragmentation of the picture plane, line, form and tension.

Also over the last few years, I also created a City Life series about alienation, anonymity and the isolation of living with stigma. It's paradoxical to be surrounded by people, but alone in the world. People, buildings and the environment of the surrounding rugged landscape and clear skies encapsulate daily living with a sombreness and stillness that is so Canadian. Some pieces incorporate mixed media, introducing text as a conduit to interpret meaning. Some of the later paintings are scenes of people in leisure activities, reminiscent of social milieus of contemporary culture much like paintings of Renoir and Manet in the late 19th century. 

Influenced by Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso, I also began The Raw Edge series, an abstract approach to inner turmoil, fear, angst and temperaments. Parts are polished, corners left unfinished, raw like life itself. The fragile juxtaposed against the hardness of a concrete jungle. Jarring forms express anxiety and discomfort. Some works show movement through repetitious lines. Images appear within the abstract causing one to ponder. Titles are an entry point into the works.