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.