Friday, December 4, 2015

Austin Lee

Image courtesy of the artist and Postmasters Gallery

Me and My Dad, 2015 
Image Courtesy of the artist and Postmasters Gallery

IJ: What’s intriguing about your current solo show at Postmasters is that each painting is different from the next, and yet there’s cohesion, your voice is present throughout the exhibition.

AL: The aesthetic is important in some ways, but that’s not the only thing that matters. There’s always something more that’s underlying.  

IJ: You’re also conveying a wide range of emotional states within these paintings. Our emotions change from moment to moment, similarly to the way your paintings in the show change from moment to moment.

AL: Yes, I would agree. That’s a good way of looking at it.

IJ: Would you say that these paintings are self-portraits?

AL: Most paintings I make are self-portraits I’d say. Even with the stranger paintings that I don’t fully understand, part of me is still there.

IJ: That’s interesting because you’re calling the show, “Nothing Personal.”

AL: I made all these quick drawings for a digital sketchbook with Spheres publication. I wanted to make it a really raw book of drawings made without thinking, similar to a real sketchbook. I ended up using the drawings as starting points for the paintings, and as I worked through them I realized that they were all still connected to who I am even thought I was trying to escape that.

IJ: Something that you do is you take these classical themes, but you reinvent them using your own voice and the digital tools you have at your disposal.  You reinterpret the mother and child theme, as well as bathers, among many others.

AL: Those are just things that I experience. I’m not necessarily reinterpreting it through art history; it’s just showing human experiences. That’s the more interesting part, what is it like to be alive right now? As far as the digital aesthetic, that’s just how I think about drawing, it’s a natural tool to use. The way we see is so related to the culture that surrounds us.

IJ: We can’t escape it; it’s all around us.

AL: I often think about how a drawing looks in 3D modeling versus how a drawing in Photoshop looks. If there’s a new computer program that I can experiment with, that aesthetic will come into the work. I want to investigate how we are creating images today.

IJ: That connection you were talking about to the human condition, more than art history seems to be present in your mother and child painting.  There’s something about it that reminds me the horrors of motherhood found in Louise Bourgeois. Like Bourgeois, there is an element of nurturing, but it’s also so grotesque.

AL: I didn't want this painting to seem grotesque. I don’t have to plan something for it to happen, and for me that’s the most interesting part. I wanted to make that painting really sweet, but it didn’t come out that way.

IJ: It’s more psychological that way. As artists, I think we’re more aware of the fact that we don’t always have full control over what comes out of our hand. I think it’s really boring when artists have everything planned out beforehand, and there’s no room for spontaneity and improvisation.

AL: That's the whole point for me, the excitement of something new and finding out what the next painting will be. It would be super boring if my paintings looked how they looked five years ago, I don’t think I would bother making them anymore.

IJ: You also spend a great deal of time taking into consideration the installation of your paintings, which I think is really important. For many painters, the installation becomes an afterthought.

AL: That becomes another way to connect things. Each painting is its own thing and I make them all individually, but through looking at them altogether that begins painting this other picture. It’s like connecting the dots, and I’ll begin understanding what I was thinking in this larger way. It creates a more open-ended experience, where one painting will open something up for another painting, or make you think about something differently. They’re just always adding to each other.

IJ: There is a sense of openness to your work; you allow a lot of room for various interpretations to take place.

AL: When I’m making a painting I’m sharing one way of looking at something, but for me, I love when someone else brings some new thinking to it, and they tell me something else that they thought when looking at it. There’s no right or wrong way, they’re just different thoughts.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Matthew Craven

The content of Matt's drawings and collages address an intricate web of interrelated ideas. Alternating between using his hand and found images, Matt delves into the way we construct meaning and belief, our conflicting longing for permanence in a temporary world, as well as the inexplicable complexity of our existence itself.
Working on the backs of vintage movie posters, and cutting out photographs from old textbooks, imbues Matt's work with an awareness of time. There's both a fragility and tenacity to these beautiful worn pages; although easily destroyed, they have somehow managed to withstand decades.
A sense of intimacy results from each of these images being cut by hand. The presence of touch makes the work personal. There is something Sisyphean in Matt's continual quest to fill these pages with innumerable images of artifacts. This isn't the appropriated, photo-shopped, quick fix that we are so used to seeing. Although a critique of originality and authenticity emerges, the ideas that Matt presents us with aren't the ones that we necessarily anticipate. Baudrillard saw the simulacrum as devoid and emptied of all meaning, and theorized that the more times an image is reproduced the more removed it is from its initial content and symbolism. In contrast, for Matt, the simulacrum is a point of entry to engage with meaning and to tap into a nonlinear history of belief. By presenting us with these reproducible, yet disparate objects, Matt presents us with a platform on which to consider the way in which the human impulse to create, construct meaning, and the need to worship has remained consistent throughout time.
There is a feeling of reverence for these creators of the past who are no longer alive, and an attempt to connect with their humanity, in both the collages and drawings. In this piece, WEAVE, Matt references and reinterprets both textile patterning, and early iconographic language. The multifaceted drawing alludes to Chinese symbols, Egyptian hieroglyphics, Assyrian script, and the pagan alphabet.

Jung was the first to realize that archetypes are both universal and instinctual, existing throughout all cultures and time periods. Later on, Joseph Campbell took on Jung's findings and investigated common threads between myths throughout the world. Similarly, Matt finds parallels between varying epochs and civilizations, calling attention to our common similarities as human beings rather than our differences. No matter how much beliefs and cultures shift over time, our existential situation remains the same.
This excerpt from Campbell's The Hero With A Thousand Faces, especially relates to what Matt seems to be getting at:                                                                                                                                                                           Full circle, from the tomb of the womb to the womb of the tomb, we come: an ambiguous, enigmatical incursion into a world of solid matter that is soon to melt from us, like the substance of a dream. And, looking back at what had promised to be our own unique, unpredictable, and dangerous adventure, all we find in the end is such a series of standard metamorphoses as men and women have undergone in every quarter of the world, in all recorded centuries, and under every odd disguise of civilization.

To add to this sentiment, here is a passage from William Barrett's Irrational Man, explaining how a shift in how we perceive our existential situation occurred in the last century, and how that change was reflected in Modernist art:
                                                                                                                                           Reality, too, reveals itself to the artist not as the Great Chain of Being, which the tradition of Western rationalism had declared intelligible down to its smallest link and in its totality, but as much more refractory: as opaque, dense, concrete, and in the end inexplicable.

Regardless of what we believe, we as humans have a tendency to ascribe meaning to our lives and we all subscribe to ideologies in one form or another. Freud viewed art as another form of religion, and it definitely has its parallels, in that it is a belief structure that defines its values, and also relies heavily on faith. Even science must depend on faith, which is a theme running throughout Alan Lightman's incredibly engaging book, The Accidental Universe. Lightman uses the multiverse theory as one of his example of how physicists apply faith to their thinking. The multiverse theory is the idea that other universes exist outside of our own universe, a likely hypothesis, but not one that can be confirmed. Although an atheist, Lightman is not dismissive of religious thinkers, since he realizes not only that none of us really have all the answers, but also that we all rely on faith to navigate our way through this world. Here is an excerpt from The Accidental Universe, explaining the significance of faith in our lives:
                                                                                                                                           Faith, in its broadest sense, is about far more than belief in the existence of God or the disregard of scientific evidence. Faith is the willingness to give ourselves over, at times, to things we do not fully understand. Faith is the belief in things larger than ourselves. Faith is the ability to honor stillness at some moments and at others to ride the passion and exuberance that is the artistic impulse, the flight of the imagination, the full engagement with this strange and shimmering world.