Earlier this week we debuted Roxy Peroxyde as the face of our collaboration with MURAL, and with good reason. Following our usual mantra, we needed to find some local talent to commemorate this event with us and Roxy is just that. As a self-taught painter, Roxy has established herself with a signature style, having her work being shown in galleries across North America and Europe. Read through the hear about her journey and her thoughts about the art world as a whole.
OTH: You’ve been painting for quite a while, had your work shown in Canada, the United States, and in Europe, and yet you haven’t talked to too many outlets or shared too much about yourself. Do you purposely try to keep a low profile in regards to your personal life?
Roxy: I purposely try to keep a low profile, I have a feeling I’d scare everyone off if I didn't, and I think it is better to leave room for people to think whatever they want about me or my work. It’s much more interesting that way.
Roxy Peroxyde, The Scream, 2021
OTH: As a self-taught artist, was painting something you thought about pursuing and practiced as a kid, or did you slowly find yourself gravitating towards it throughout your life?
Roxy: Well, I always kinda wanted to be good at drawing as a child. I really liked going into details and trying to make a drawing as life-like as my skills would allow me.
It’s kind of weird, cause I studied art in cegep for about a year, and it wasn't really what I was expecting it to be. You touch on everything but they don’t teach you the basics of it (art). They’re just letting you do whatever, and I was just like, I’m just gonna do that on my time instead and practice exactly what I want. I felt like it was a huge waste of time, kinda… I wish I did continue just to have the degree. Even for things like art history, all these things, they’re all interesting to know and be educated about, but apart from that, yeah… I wasn’t really interested in school.
But I guess everyone fantasizes about being an artist, but I didn’t more than anyone else. It was mostly when I had my daughter I was like, I can’t be a waitress for the rest of my life so I need to practice something that could eventually pay off, and become a career, so I started painting. Not too seriously, like sometimes I was breastfeeding in one hand and painting in the other, just as a way to pass time. Then as the years passed I did it a little bit more until I started getting a little bit of attention here and there. Then once I was actually able to make a little bit of money from it, I dropped bars because they were becoming the end of me by that point. When I was 30, I said "Okay, I can’t do this anymore." and I just tried to focus on that (painting) only.
OTH: When you first started, you just had a new child, you were also working in bars, all while trying to start living a whole new chapter of your life. A chapter that not many people have the courage to move forward with. You touched on needing a better yourself for your daughter, but were there other reasons as well? Was that drive to become a better artist a big part of that?
Roxy: I wouldn’t describe that drive as courage, I just think its my dumb self and the way I think. Like when I had my daughter at 20, I was like “Oh yeah, I can totally do that (parenting)”. It’s a bit of naivety rather than courage… it comes more from ignorance. I just managed, and I guess luck was a bit of a factor, but I think you just have to not quit. It’s only about 4 years ago that I took the leap and started painting full time, and it’s been about only a year now that it’s really catching on. If you want an easy path, art is definitely not for You. I was working 3 days a week in bars, and 4 days a week in the studio. Life will throw sticks in your wheels, and shake you around, and you just gotta push through. I think that applies to anything really.
OTH: Since you started in 2008, your style has obviously evolved, as all artist’s do. What do you think really brought you to adopt the style that defines your art? While art is typically held to high standards, and as you’ve even mentioned, often gets pedestalized, you’ve taken a more humorous approach. How did you find this style over the years?
Roxy: Well, at first when I started painting, I thought I had to do things a certain way. Like be serious about it, and feel like the work has to have meaning, I had this whole romantic idea of what art is and I think eventually I was just like “Fuck that.” I’m not gonna give in to it, I’m just gonna do whatever I think is hilarious or weird or whatever. I didn’t shy away or try to check any boxes, and I ended up creating those weird, funny, sometimes gory paintings. I like it when people think they’re funny cause that’s one of my goals actually.
OTH: You really started to post your first paintings online back in 2014, though they weren't from the very beginning. Was it around then you had already decided “Fuck what the rest of the art world thinks, I’m gonna do what I wanna do.”?
Roxy: I really fully tapped into that IDGAF mindset recently, I'd say around 2020. The work I’ve been doing through the pandemic is when I really tapped into what I’m most known for these days. But before that it was mostly very introspective. It was never about the world but more my own interior world and how I felt, so it was less about the things that I noticed and more about whatever I noticed in myself. They were sadder paintings, in my opinion.
There’s been a huge shift even with the color and the subject matter and all that. I got rid of a lot of limiting beliefs I think. I got rid of the unnecessary noise, the self critiquing. I learned how to be much nicer on myself and also to just not give a fuck kind of. Not to expect anything or for people to like my paintings, but just to just do them purely selfishly and just make art I would want to see in the world.
I think it’s a common mistake artists make, they want to check all the boxes that define what an artist is, but even the old masters had humor and were not always serious about their subject matter, and if they were they wouldn’t shy away from adding some really dark shit. I admire that and I think modern art has lost touch with what art is supposed to be.
OTH: You can definitely see that from how you’ve answered these questions. We love seeing this vibe of nonchalant-ness. You couldn’t care less about what people think about your paintings, because you’ve really just got to a point where you ignore the rules and what the art world is supposed to think. Your work is very unapologetic.
Roxy: Thanks! I really appreciate that, that’s the best compliment you can give me. That’s what I’m trying to do with my paintings and if you’re saying that that means I’m doing a good job.
OTH: There’s an underlying theme of social media and technology in a lot of your recent works. From the use of cell phones in paintings such as “Revelation 21:4” and “Abyss”, to the Twitter reference in “The truth shall set you free” and even the NFT pendant in “Luke 23:34”. Do you think there’s something to be said about our current generations' involvement and dependence on these modern technologies?
Roxy: I try to be a neutral witness and just hold a mirror up people’s faces. Not in a judgy kind of way but just as the way I would see the sky and then paint a sky, I won’t paint it red if it’s blue. No one can ignore the internet and social media anymore, it’s here to stay and it’s taking a lot of collective brain space.
From left to right: Revelation 21:4, The truth shall set you free, Luke 23:34
OTH: For younger artists in Montreal and everywhere else who look up to your work and may think of you as a mentor, what kind of advice or guiding goals would you give them?
Roxy: First of all, you have to try so many things before you even get close to what’s going to work for you. Just push through the criticism, but also don’t fear it. Don’t be afraid to explore many, many styles. Of course you’re going to end up sometimes doing work that looks like another artist, good ideas kind of live collectively in our subconscious, but until you find your voice, don’t give up on the process and just push through. Be so good that nobody can actually argue with you. Be undeniable.
OTH: Was there ever a point where after you put that last brush stroke you were like, “This is it.”? Although as an artist you’re always evolving, was there a painting that you did recently where you thought this is the culmination of my efforts?
Roxy: No, I’m never satisfied. The last painting I did, I’ll see only the flaws and I’ll always try to do better on the next one but I’m always gonna hate the last painting I’ve done, and that’s what keeps me going. I never sit in front of my work and think “Oh yeah! This is it, well done!” I feel like in order to leave room for self improvement, you have to be critical, but not mean to yourself.
OTH: Could you walk us through the whole process behind your ideation and how you’re sometimes turning classic paintings into a more comedic and modern interpretation?
Roxy: It’s quite simple, I basically just look at a painting and ask myself what would the painting be if it was staged today. I can be like “Okay I’ll take that Botticelli and go fucking crazy on it.” and I’ll do something weird with it. So that really helps keep the creativity flowing, because I just look at art and I say I’ll redo that and modernize it. Like with Venus (The Birth of Venus, Botticelli 1485-86), how would she feel today? Would she be taking the pill? All these ideas are kind of coming to me. There definitely are some underlying messages but I keep those up to interpretation. I have my own idea, but it’s not my place to tell you what to think of it or what to think in general. I find it far more interesting to hear what someone else has to say about a piece than exhibit my own internal monologue on the internet. That, I will always keep to myself.
From left to right: Your unsolicited dick pics, Lucretia
OTH: A lot of your paintings when you’re recreating these traditional themes, you pick and choose different people. Are these all your friends? Do you reach out to these people?
Roxy: Yeah. Rarely they reach out to me, I mostly reach out to them. More often than not they’re already following me on social media, and then I see them online or at a party and I say like “Hi, I’m a painter, would you be interested in…” and it’s always a bit creepy to do that, I hate it, but it’s part of the job and I think the models really like it also in the end. They often become close friends.
OTH: Does the process start with a picture?
Roxy: Yeah I always photograph them. I’m a bit of a control freak, so I literally do everything. I do their hair, the make up, clothing, the photography, everything. My reference pictures almost always look exactly the same as the paintings, except the painting is a painting.
OTH: You've mentioned once in an interview that you refer to your paintings as reflection of yourself, and you speak about how you’re using them as a tool to depict in a sense what is happening in the world. Could you maybe expand on that a little more?
R: By that I mean that they are a tool I am using to depict my own sense of reality. They are not me, but they are how I make sense of the world. Maybe I’m being too abstract there but in a sense, they’re sort of all me, but not me.
OTH: You’ve spoken about how a lot of your paintings are conceptualized from past experiences, and you’ve briefly spoken about some of the hardships you’ve gone through to end up where you are today. Has it become almost therapeutic to turn these events into art or do you simply look back on those times and use them as ideas?
Roxy: Yes, my earlier work was definitely an attempt at understanding and healing myself. That was the purpose of that series I titled “Kill your darlings”. I metaphorically buried my old self. I was basically dating someone with narcissistic personality disorder for several years. It took a while to reestablish who I was in my own head when someone made it his mission to destroy that “self”. But I feel like my therapy sessions are over, and I can finally enjoy myself freely without feeling a need to include all that darkness in my work. My current boyfriend had a major role to play in my healing and growth. Meditation and psychedelics also helped.
OTH: Your artist name, Roxy Peroxyde, we have it here that you’ve mentioned in the past that it comes from a song called “Peroxide” and how you used to dye your hair with peroxide, but how do you feel about the artist name today? Do you feel like it still applies to this point in your career?
Roxy: It just kind of stuck with me, and eventually it was too late to change to my real name. And in the end it’s way catchier than Roxanne Sauriol Hauenherm, so I kept that for my Instagram at least. Even at shows and exhibitions, they call me Roxy Peroxyde which is fine, I guess. It’s just catchier. I don’t know what to make of it to be honest.
OTH: Do you think at any point you’d want to move away from that name?
Roxy: Nah I don’t think so, It’s fine. You know how people get tattoos... I’ve never got any, so it’s kind of like my one tattoo that’s going to stick with me for the rest of my life kind of thing.
OTH: Off The Hook is always very much about highlighting art, culture, and music, especially locally for the last 20+ years. In the local scene in Montreal, or even across Canada, who’re some local artists that you’re keeping tabs on?
Roxy: As in emerging artists? Yeah. Well firstly can’t mention Montreal without mentioning Sandra Chevrier, Miss Me and Stikki Peaches which I all met and am “friends” with, they’re basically living legends here. But since you’re asking, I have a soft spot for OG Zoltan Veevaete which I recently acquired a piece from and is insanely underrated. He’s not emerging, he’s represented by several galleries here, which in Montreal, I myself am not. He used to date my best friend's big sister when I was like 15. He’s a super cool guy and his paintings are way cooler than mine. He likes to mix technology and old masters a lot, it’s a perfect weird blend of elements. If I had to give someone a shoutout it’d be him.
OTH: You mentioned Zoltan is represented by galleries that you’re not. Is this one of the goals you strive to achieve?
Roxy: Well I have galleries, just not in Montreal for some reason. I don’t know. I think maybe people are a bit scared as I’m kind of ungovernable like I said. It’s hard to tell me what to do. But even my market isn’t here. I don’t even sell my originals here so, I don’t even think it would make sense. I sell 99% of my originals outside of Canada. I don’t know why, I just haven’t found a gallery in Montreal or anywhere in Canada really. But I have one in New York, one in Germany, but yeah… weird. I kind of like it. I don’t hate it.
OTH: Why do you think you think you're finding more traction elsewhere?
Roxy: I think that Quebec has trouble recognizing its local talents and are complete snobs when it comes to art. It's as if we have a chip on our shoulder and want to look smart at all cost, even at the cost of the success of our own culture. It's not uncommon to only see artists appear on talk shows right after they made it big internationally but were almost purposefully ignored right before that, even if everyone in the business was well aware of them. It's as if they're trying to keep a monopoly or something, that's also why you always see the same 12 people on talk shows, as if Montreal wasn't literally infested with brilliant minds and artists
OTH: Before we let you go, we're curious to know what you have lined up for the near future.
Roxy: So I'm releasing 4 brand new paintings with Guy Hepner (New York) in July, I have a group show coming up at Hashimoto gallery in LA this August and then another one in October at Mortal Machine Gallery in New Orleans.
Roxy in our collaborative OTH x MURAL Tee