I moved to Los Angeles in 2014, after 11 years as a New Yorker. During those years, I went to graduate school, began and finished a career, learned to love opera, and mounted my first fine art exhibition – a crowd-sourced photography group show that was simultaneously a fundraiser for the nonprofit where I was a board member. What I never did in New York City was paint. At the time, my relationship to painting was purely as a viewer, standing a respectful distance away, wondering how in the world they did that. Who would have thought that three years later, at the instigation of my Los Angeles painting professor, the indomitable Barbara Kerwin, that I would find myself pursuing a graduate degree in painting?
Our first-year MFA group show was titled “Twelve,” for the 12 of us that started the MFA in Art program at Claremont Graduate University this past August. The works I created for the show were made with oil pigment sticks, built up into a thick impasto texture by smashing them onto the canvas with a palette knife and mixing colors alla prima. The paintings are about the loss of meaning and culture through the generations and across the seas. Words, behaviors, rituals become hybridized, sometimes beyond recognition, when transplanted to a different environment, just as language and writing change over time, eventually past the point of intelligibility. Each of my paintings starts with a Chinese calligraphic text, drawn in black, that becomes obscured through layers of superimposed texture and color, ending in a very different visual experience compared to the black and white text that “birthed” it.
The largest painting (60 x 48 in.) is titled “Outremer” (French for “ultramarine”). The cool colors and coral-like shapes evoke underwater life, but the title also refers to the French territories in the South Pacific (called “outre-mer” in French, meaning “overseas”), that were visited by Gauguin and others interested in the decidedly un-PC idea of “primitivism,” and also where France has conducted a large number of controversial nuclear tests. Thus, in addition to the Chinese text being washed away “underwater,” the painting’s title also alludes to aspects of modern world history that some might prefer to be swept under the rug.
Each of my paintings starts with a Chinese calligraphic text, drawn in black, that becomes obscured through layers of superimposed texture and color, ending in a very different visual experience compared to the black and white text that “birthed” it.
Patricia Chow is a Los Angeles-based artist whose abstract paintings engage the intersection of Eastern and Western cultures across time and space, and the hybridization and reinterpretation of meaning. She is currently a first-year MFA student in Los Angeles, CA.
After four decades in painting, American artist Francie Lyshak has a deep knowledge on her practice. A woman-artist who has a lifelong approach to learning, finds nature and it’s varying stages influencing her work. The artist examines nature also with photography. It seems, as if those pictorial notes would transfer into her paintings with subtle poetry and movement. In this interview, she discusses her career, love of painting and the meditative approach to being with her art. Remarkable is how the artist views art as a career, also in psychological terms as a radical act. Francie Lyshak’s recent paintings, which examine movement and gestures, will be on view until April 27, 2017 in the Carter Burden Gallery of NYC.
Firstindigo and Lifestyle: How did you find yourself doing painting? Where did you grow up?
Francie Lyshak: I will share with you two central memories that are at the very early roots of my art career (before it begun):
I am in Detroit, Michigan, in a single family home with a nice yard. I am a small child, somewhere between toddler and latency age. I am sitting in the mud, alone making a mess and enjoying it totally.
In the second memory, I am 18 years old, attending my first art history class. As I watch the projected images of works by modern artists, it is suddenly clear that making paintings is what I need to do with my life. I began to paint was when I went to a summer art school in Paris around the age of 19. I haven’t stopped since that time, except for one year in Boston in the early 70’s. After that point I switched from abstraction to figuration.
Firstindigo and Lifestyle: You have an exhibition opening now at the Carter Burden Gallery in NYC, tell more about the theme of your paintings in the show?
FL: These paintings focus purely on the physicality of painting, of paint, painter’s tools and the interaction of the painting surface with light. The use of a palette knife can be a violent destructive attack on a painting’s under-layer. A flowing brush mark can be evidence of the painter’s sweeping gesture. The painting then becomes a stop-action image of what was either a waltz or a wrestling match between the artist and the medium. It is painting without any intention other than leaving the physical evidence of its own dynamic birth.
Firstindigo and Lifestyle: What is really interesting is that your career spans for four decades, and there can be so many changes that fit into that time frame. Did you start with figurative or representational art?
FL: In my early work, my visual language was a figurative and a metaphorical narrative with strong feminist overtones. This work lasted for two decades in the 1970s and 80s. Animals, humans, dolls and toys populate these paintings, each one describing the psyche captured in a critical moment of time. Influenced by art therapy theory and practice, their emotional rawness challenged the viewer to contemplate disturbing aspects of life that are typically overlooked or avoided. After years of these explorations, I unearthed evidence of my own childhood sexual abuse. With the support of the late Ellen Stuart and La MaMa/La Galleria, this work resulted in a one-woman exhibition in 1993 narrating my own trauma recovery through my paintings. The series of paintings with accompanying prose was published in a book in 1999 entitled, The Secret: Art and Healing from Sexual Abuse. This exhibition provided me with a release from the narratives of the past. After that show, my work changed slowly but radically, moving towards landscape, then abstraction.
Firstindigo and Lifestyle: How did you choose painting and photography, how are they similar or different to you?
FL: I am a painter. However, I believe that no matter what medium an artist chooses, they cannot escape their artist’s sensibility. That means that we cannot help but consider the aesthetics in our environment. Also, we cannot help but be creative. It is a kind of compulsion that requires an outlet. In that vein, I took up photography. This was in part because I found it offensive that paintings are generally only affordable by the wealthy. I experimented with printing and multiples as a way to make my work more accessible to those with less means.
Firstindigo and Lifestyle: Can you say that what you do is abstract art, and if so what would this kind of abstraction be?
FL: The best way to describe my new work is ‘pre-verbal’. Before words, ideas and memories there is a mental space that is responsive to shape and texture, color and amorphous mood. That is the space that my paintings occupy. My abstract work is not expressionistic, nor is it minimal or conceptual. My newest work has something in common with action painting. Over the long haul, the trend of my work has been increasingly reductive. I seem to be constantly trying to reduce the content of my work to its simplest components. I removed the figure. I removed the narrative. I removed the symbolism. I removed the suggestion of landscape. Then I tried to suggest empty space alone (which made the work illusionist). Now I am just looking at the surface, the medium and the tools of application.
I recently saw a show that was simply lighting in an empty gallery. I understand that.
Firstindigo and Lifestyle: How do you choose your works for the exhibition, do you ‘curate’ yourself?
FL: No, my dealer is fully in control of the choice of work and the hanging. Of course, it is up to me to choose the paintings from which she makes her selection.
Firstindigo and Lifestyle: The process is of course different with each artist, do you like to add older paintings into the show, or is it mostly recent works?
FL: Mostly very recent works are shown in April exhibition. My first exhibition at Carter Burden had some pieces that were several years old but had never been displayed.
Firstindigo and Lifestyle: You are watching a lot of movies, how apparent is it that those moods or aesthetics you gain from films enter your works somehow? FL: I don’t think that the aesthetics of film influence my work, but perhaps the moods do on a subconscious level. I find great solace in the work of these great, underappreciated independent film makers. They address very important, very real aspects of being human. Hollywood spends mountains of capital selling fantasy worlds to viewers because it is a natural,human inclination to avoid and escape harsh reality. The filmmakers that I love make me look at the challenging underbelly of being human. This gives me courage and support in my effort to stay honest as a painter, to not be fooled by the illusionary rewards of commercial success, to lead my viewers to the challenging aspects of being human.
I have a fantastic list of my list of favorite movies. It is a long list and the titles are unrecognizable to most people. Almost all of the films were borrowed from the New York Public Library which has a treasure trove of great films.
Firstindigo and Lifestyle: What does a notion of ‘zen’ mean to you as an approach?
FL: I am not formally trained in Zen practice. However, I understand that Zen does not have a god head, and is focused on what westerners call mindfulness practices. My mind is constantly racing. I hunger for empty space and quietude. (Perhaps this is reflected in my urge to constantly minimize the content in my paintings.) We live in an overheated, overstimulating world (at least in NYC). I know, however, that it is not the fault of my environment that I am so mentally restless. I reach for ‘zen’ as a pathway towards a quiet mind or to attain full attention. When I paint, I am in a ‘full attention’ mode. In this sense, painting is a mindfulness practice. (Click the link to see a series of paintings that were specifically intended to be ‘meditations spaces.’ http://www.francielyshak.com/archive/New%20Monochromes/index.html)
Firstindigo and Lifestyle: What else do you do to balance with making art?
FL: Not much. I do some Yoga practice, go to the gym, take walks and, of course, watch movies. I would add that there isn’t anything much more rewarding that good conversation with other artists and intellectuals.
Firstindigo and Lifestyle: Where do your influences come from other than abstractions? Do you blend in narrative contents from today’s world and events? FL: My goodness, the political climate has a tremendous impact on the ‘climate’ of my work. There is very little joy in my work these days. On the other hand, I am finding surprising strength and power there. My work is definitely a mirror of my psychological condition. My psychological condition is a mirror of my personal and social life (which in these times encompasses the political environment). A new painting included in this April exhibition is entitled “Silence equals Extinction”. It was clearly a response to the nightmare political situation in the US.
Firstindigo and Lifestyle: In your photography there is a lot of nature in them; fog, mountains, trees, moon, and so on. How do you find your photographic subjects, do you just happen to be in those places in the moment?
FL: Yes, everything was done either in Michigan, where my family has a summer home, or NYC. I also did some photography when I did some traveling along the Adriatic, Ionian and Aegean Seas and along the Pacific Ocean shore. I am wild about landscapes.
I am not influenced by art theory nearly as much as I am influenced by psychoanalytic theory, philosophy and religion. I have no belief in any religion. However, I find the search for self and meaning to be central to my practice as an artist. I am most affected by any work of art that creates a space for the viewer to engage in this search for identity or meaning. Works by Frieda Kahlo, Mark Rothko and Fred Sandback all succeed at doing this for me; although each uses a radically different method to set a stage for this to happen to the viewer.
Colors have a strong valence, a kind of personality. My latest pieces have been in various shades of black. I am choosing black because I have always feared it. Black oils cannot be controlled because they are wildly interactive with the light in the environment as it reacts to the surface of the painting. The color black, for me, has much to do with loss, change and the unknown. So colors themselves have a kind of personality and meaning and different oil colors also have a unique physicality, such as color density.
On my use of color in photography and painting:
I think of myself as a painter. I have spent forty years painting. Photography has been secondary to my work as a painter. My photography is in the early stages of development; but is created on a foundation of 40 years of evolved aesthetic sensibility and artistic practice. My photography is mostly rooted in local color or black and white. My new paintings, on the other hand, are each a deep explorations of color, the oil paint medium, the painters tools and methods of application. In other words, my practice as a painter has evolved to a point where I am exploring the very basics of the medium. It is full circle, back to the beginning.
Firstindigo and Lifestyle: Do you find inspiration in your travels to foreign places, how about those leaving an impact on your thinking and aesthetics?
FL: I just traveled to Japan. Their aesthetic and social values were a great comfort to me. The Japanese seemed so much more civilized than Americans. It was heartening to experience their aesthetic and their culture. I felt that my own values were much more supported by the Japanese culture than they are in my own culture.
Firstindigo and Lifestyle: Did you ever come up with a notion, who would be your best art audience, or collector? FL: Probably intellectuals, other painters and psychologically-minded people. It is hard to tell who is most taken by my work because people usually don’t say much. Most of us become a little inarticulate in the face of meaningful visual art. Art takes us to a non-verbal place. I admire people like you who are willing and able to give us language in the face of visual art.
Firstindigo and Lifestyle: With so much insight in the practice, we all want to know, what would you like to teach or say for younger generation artists and painters?
FL: I would like to say to them that it is worth the battle to stay true to their artistic sensibility. This is because, in the long term, losing touch with one’s core strivings (to be an artist, to be creative) has an unbearable cost. I would tell them, however, that they shouldn’t expect to be rewarded. Artmaking is essentially a radical act, because it means turning away from the influence of others and, instead, opening a channel to one’s true self. Being true to one’s core self usually means letting go of many of the rewards of social/commercial success. After all, in the short term we are nurturing ourselves rather than others. Who knows if our art will nurture others in the long term. That is in the hands of the vagaries of the art market.
Achieving commercial success in the art world is a totally different side of being an artist. It takes a combination of ambition, talent, personality, timing, social resources (such as health, social networks, time and money) to make income from making art. To have these resources is often a matter of privilege and other random social events. Artists don’t have control over most of these factors.
Francie Lyshak’s exhibition info:
April 6 – 27, 2017
Examining Movement & Gestures: Jonathan Bauch and Francie Lyshak
· Pratt Institute, Art Therapy and Creativity Development, Masters of Professional Studies, NYC, 9-76 to 5-78
· Wayne State University, Painting and Drawing, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Detroit, Michigan, 1-69 to 5-70.
· Center for Creative Studies, Fine Arts, Detroit, Michigan, 9-68 to 5-69
· University of Michigan, Humanities, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 9-66 to 5-68
With the current exhibitions focusing on the historic works of Tyko Sallinen and Tove Jansson, The Helsinki Art MuseumHAM draws attention to modern Finnish art. Both exhibitions opened in January 27, 2017. Sallinen’s exhibition will run until the Fall of this year, and Tove Jansson’s frescos will remain on a permanent display in the museum.
The exhibition of Tyko Sallinen (1879–1955), explores works of a Finnish modernist pioneer in painting who is also a representative of expressionism in art. The exhibition consists of 50 works from the artist’s most important period, the 1910s. Tyko Sallinen’s expressionist works had a meaningful impact on Finnish art in the beginning of the 20th century. He and some other like-minded artists introduced new ideas into the Finnish art field, as their approach met open opposition and critique from the older generations of artists.
Sallinen was painting portraits of people, which became a signature marker of his often personal and intimate works. These one person and group portraits were also considered scandalous in their time because of their expressionist and emotive approach to people. Yet, many of his landscapes create a similar sense of strong moodiness. The landscapes imply that the role of nature was close to the artist’s thinking. The brushwork across different canvases come out with delicate movement, composing trees and horizons with earthy tones. The works bring forth viewer’s personal approach and feeling to the surroundings. Sallinen’s landscape compositions are both classic and reflective, confirming that human mind wishes to connect with its nature with intuitive touch and reflection. Simple blue and green hues of the two landscapes (pictured) convey messages, being poetic with a strong stance.
The other Finnish modernist artist receiving the exhibition in the HAMArt Museum is Tove Jansson (1914–2001). She is famously perceived as a creator, writer, visual artist and illustrator of the Moomin books. With a substantial global recognition, the Moomin characters are now more popular that ever around the world. It is no wonder that Tove Jansson’s visual compositions are among the most loved works in the HAM collection. The art museum has dedicated some of its galleries to an exhibition celebrating the artist’s entire life and works. These include also her less well known frescos, which she originally created on site for several public institutions. Tove Jansson stands out as an impressive woman with a long career as an artist and influential thinker. She was a skilled painter, writer of many genres, a comics artist and illustrator with a humorous larger than life approach, and a script writer. The exhibition shows the history of words and pictures bringing forth her richly illustrated stories.
Among the exhibition works are Jansson’s frescos titled Juhlat kaupungissa, Party in the City and Juhlat maalla, Party in the Country (the latter pictured above);and sketches of murals which the artist made for the Aurora Children’s Hospital (Leikki, Play I-III; Play II illustrated below) in Helsinki. The Play I-III series was created in 1955-57 for the walls of the staircases in the Aurora Hospital, and it features several Moomin characters running up the staircases. The hospital is now closed, but during the years of its operation, 1 million children were able to enjoy the art.
TheKaupunginkellari restaurant, known as Helsinki City HallRestaurant, opened in 1947 to serve as a canteen for the people working in the City Hall, and as a venue for official functions. ToveJansson painted the frescos Party in the City and Party in the Country duringthe same year for the restaurant. With these colorful works, the artist wished to express a sentiment of the joy of life, which was important for the country after its experiences and losses in the World War II. Jansson’s frescos were added to the restaurant’s interior, and were accompanied by the group of reliefs designed by Michael Schilkin, as well as pictures etched on windows by Yrjö Rosola. The HAM has also added lamps into Tove Jansson’s exhibition of frescos. They are the same lighting fixtures that were used in the restaurant. Their designer is Paavo Tynell (1890–1973), who made lighting designs for numerous public interiors.
From architectural and design point of view, Helsinki City HallRestaurant represented a remarkable example of Finnish modernism of its day. This was a time in the Finnish art history, when modernism in art was highly approaching different genres of artistry and design; bringing art, design and architecture in closer contact and communication with each other. The art and architecture union made peoples’ everyday life happier and more colorful, creating experiences for multiple senses.
HAM, The Helsinki Art Museum, concentrates on art collections, which belong to the people of Helsinki. The collection includes over 9,000 works of art, and almost half of the works are on display in parks, streets, offices, health centres, schools and city libraries.
Tyko Sallinen’s exhibition also shows works from artist’s first wife, Helmi Vartiainen, and by their daughters Taju and Eva.
Painter Teresa Dunn has her new exhibition Motherload on view until June 18 at the First Street Gallery in New York. Her current show depicts recent oil paintings and mixed media works on paper and canvas. For this exhibition, the artist who masters the Renaissance school of nature and human portraiture to the fullest forms has adopted new richness of palette. Her repertoire has gotten fuller, perhaps partially due to the size of the panels, paper and the use of triptychs, which allow larger developments and almost surgical dimensionality. Now the center is the body as tissues and palpable beats. In these new works, the body is joined with the amounts of vegetation, which makes the skin appear as fruitful foliage. Painter Teresa Dunn is making serious rising; she is represented by the Hooks-Epstein Galleries in Houston, Texas, and by Galerie l’Échaudé in Paris in France.
Teresa Dunn at her Motherload show in First Street Gallery.
Teresa Dunn, Birth of the Pink, Oil on paper, 60×45, 2016.
Teresa Dunn, Interlaced, Oil on paper mounted on canvas (triptych), 60 x 120, 2015.
In an action packed painting there was a pause, when Teresa Dunn imagined communities within narrative landscapes full of thick Renaissance color and light. The water rose through the images, leaving behind people on their isolated islands, together, alone, breathing air, figuring the scenes of us existing on the planet. The scenes were almost apocalyptic, borrowing from Biblical and mythological imageries of human drama and emotion. And it all made sense, as her paintings were influenced by the Venetian school, especially by the works of its great master Titian. Drama and poesia in the same theme, when color and light create unparalleled resonance.
Now, the next pause was different. Teresa became a mother. From artistic point of view, the dreaming in her works became increasingly about the simultaneously occurring events. These happenings were seemingly not relating, but arbitrarily meeting in the same future. This time the fragments of narration made sense as islands of vegetation. The theme of water from previous paintings had changed into the vegetation. Or the water had become an overflow, which got mixed into and within the vegetation becoming moisture, as palpable like a touch of mist on the skin. An underpinning, a reflection on canvas. Like her inspiration of the magical realism, Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquezimagined fog. Can you see distances through the fog. Or how a distant place somewhere far resonates here in this place. How everything connects and makes a reason, but not as univocality. The story is about bringing together universal fragility of existence and our mortality.
In the new works, the colors have become evidentially subtler with more visible brushstrokes, with circular patterns of movement. The palette is lighter, and the narration seems to be settled in the background in the midst of a natural flow and overgrow of things; more than objects. The natural life and still life has found a lingering attachment inside the palette, showing that humans as actors play no longer the central role. In a triptych ‘Interlaced’ (2015), a loose tire rolls through the canvas, as if being a sign of an uncontrolled human motion. In another triptych, ‘Slippage’ (2015), a woman is growing out of a bush representing the nature herself and our origin. In this triptych, the panels together seem to be cumulating as a force, which becomes a wave. A water splash is running from one panel to the other in ‘Slippage’. Teresa Dunn’s triptych form borrows from the Renaissance art. In her paintings, the occurring shapes are creating new terms to reinvent the classic.
Camilla Vuorenmaa is a young visual artist focusing on the human experience and the everyday encountering between people. She creates portraits with full of affect that stem from an exceptional artistic medium. Her portraits appear on carved wood as vigorously painted characters. An award-winning Finnish artist had a recent museum exhibition at the EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art in Finland.
The main motive in my works is the individual experience and a sort of portrait. Effort, success and experiences of failure, the dignity of everyday life, affection, frustration and the experience of innocence and pain are subjects I reflect in my works. Mainly I portray the figures as themselves, doing some kind of a activity or being in the middle of it. Fundamentally we are all alone with our personal experiences. -Camilla Vuorenmaa
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How did you find your recent artistic medium, is it common that an artist combines woodcarving and painting together?
Camilla Vuorenmaa: I started to work with wood year 2010, when I had the first opportunity to work as a full time artist for longer period of time. I had wood on my mind already before, but then I knew it was time to start with this material. My work has though always been moving between 2 and 3 dimensional form. I have felt the need to add mass and structure to my paintings, for example continue it with foam rubber stuffed canvas, or continue painting to the wall, over its material form.
Using wood in sculpture and even painting on the wooden sculpture is quite common. But this combination, painting and carving on wood boards is not yet very common. My working method is actually closer to the graphic boards that graphic artists make as a basis for their prints. Difference is, that I use that basis as the art piece itself, instead of making prints out of it. I call them paintings; others might call them something else.
As an artist do you feel that you can associate with both design practices and with the fine art history?
Camilla Vuorenmaa: Hard to say. I guess the things you grow up with, see and smell, forms, colors, light and shadow, basically everything has an effect on the visual idea. I am sure that Finnish design and especially its patterns have had influence on my visual choices. It is more unconscious than relevant though.
Your recent exhibition at the EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, was about people working by the sea. Could you tell more about this project?
CV: I applied to the SIM residency in Reykjavik on the winter 2014. I got the residency time to the September and October 2015 and it was perfect timing, since this project was on my mind before I knew about the prize and following exhibition at EMMA. All together, I had only nine moths to prepare EMMA exhibition, so it was good to have this idea already burning on my mind. I wanted to investigate the basis of the culture in Iceland, which is fishing. Everything in that country has basis on their fishing culture, so very simply, my aim was to go with the fishermen to the sea for some period of time, observe their working habits as an isolated community, atmosphere at the boat and individuals’ relation to the sea. I got connected to the MSC-Marine Stewardship Council representative Gisli Gislason in Iceland, and he told me a lot about the history of the fishing industry and helped me to connect with the Helga Maria ship’s crew. I went to the Atlantic Ocean with Helga Maria ship for one week on September 2016. During that time I photographed their working and used later these photos as basis of my paintings. The ship left from Reykjavik and went up until the northeast Iceland sea area. And returned. Gladly, weather was good most of the time.
Camilla Vuorenmaa, The Sea Separates Us-exhibition, 2016, EMMA -Espoo Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Ari Karttunen/EMMA.
Camilla Vuorenmaa, The Sea Separates Us -exhibition, 2016, EMMA -Espoo Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Ari Karttunen/EMMA.
What was your experience in working with EMMA museum; did you work particularly with a curator to build the show?
CV: Making an exhibition is usually a lonely work, but bigger shows definitely involve more people and more things to be taken care for. For EMMA exhibition I was closely working with curator Tiina Penttilä from EMMA. She came to visit me at my studio and also interviewed me for the catalogue several times during the making of the exhibition. I felt I got well supported by Tiina Penttilä and the whole museum crew during the making and building process. As an exhibition space, EMMA is wonderful and gives many possibilities to an artist. Especially I enjoyed making the wall paintings to the space. This was great experience as a whole.
Where does your artistic process start, from the idea of a canvas, or from the wood?
CV: Everything comes side by side, simultaneously. I choose material same time as I collect ideas. I take photos of something that interests me, like for example wrestlers. I made series of paintings based on the observation of the movement of one wrestling team in Helsinki. I do not really make sketches on paper; I see my photos as my sketches. I buy material, print photos that inspire me and spread them around the studio. Then I start to combine different sized wood panels and paint the beginning of the piece on the boards. I paint and carve, paint and carve until it is ready.
Wood has been my main working material for the past six years, but now I start to feel working again also with other materials.
You have worked with mixed media, how did you develop the techniques in each period of time, can you speak of artistic growth, or is it more like a seasonal thing?
CV: I guess all the developments on my techniques have had to do with the search of some kind of layer in between a painting. Painting on canvas, plexi glass, paper, mdf-boards, wood, wall, all these have circulated in my work. I can return to a technique I tried and worked with several years later and proceed with it further. I see working as a visual artist also some kind of work of an inventor, chemist, and alchemist. All the material details and accidents with them lead in to interesting paths and can start even a new process.
What are you inspirations for creating your art, does it usually start with observations or fieldwork?
I used to collect inspirational pictures from old magazines. I spend hours and hours in old bookshops and went through dusty old magazines and photography books. The nostalgia and history inspires me, and also the idea that everything that happens in the world has already happened many times, they just appear in more modern form from century to century. Also my love to literature and books as objects has something to do with it. For the past years I have also started to use more my own photography as a basis of my paintings. I have become maybe more brave to confront the subject, or my curiosity has gone over my shyness.
How would you describe the education in Finland, much did you learn from your art education?
CV: My times in Finnish Art Academy were great. My teachers gave me a lot of freedom and opportunity to try everything. I was on the painting department but visited other departments regularly to try their material and working methods. For some, this kind of working freedom might have been too much, but for me it worked perfect. And if I needed support or comments, I could get that from the courses or ask studio visits from the teachers.
Is there something particularly Finnish in your art making?
CV: Well, I guess wood is pretty Finnish material. As wood industry is still so big in our country. Also I have understood from my colleagues and collaborators in Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and England that Finnish painters seem to have something peculiar and wild in their visual language. This has been of course great to hear – what a compliment to Finnish painters.
Do people ever ask you about the nature of your practice in regards to your gender as a woman making art, and your subjects for art, does the gender play any role in your art making?
CV: Well, I wish I could answer that “no – I have never have heard any questions that have something to do with my art making and being a woman”. But of course I have. Many people still seem to wonder how a small woman like me can handle big wood blocks, or do so big sized works. Once I even heard one man saying to me that your works are great, they look as if they are made by a man. I wonder what Louise Bourgeois must have heard! Good thing is that these comments are though not the first and the only thing I hear about my work and my working methods. Art is always political. So of course my art is too. I am more interested to hide my perspective of the roles of humans in my work, than comment it very straight in my work. But of course it is there. And I was the one who made these images.
What expectations do you have for the future, where do you see yourself going next?
CV: Now I am in the rare situation that I have exhibitions and plans made already until next year. Usually I have not known my ways for more than six moths. Interesting for me is to also see how this will affect on my artistic work, I have a possibility to plan and make long-term choices. My next big solo exhibition will be on January 2017 in Gallery Forum Box in Helsinki. After that I will take part to two group exhibitions in Sweden. I am more than exited and grateful for this situation. My aim has always been to make it possible to work as a visual artist without making compromises in the content. I follow that road.
French artist Eric Decastro is known for his large-sized paintings that he constructs using the dripping technique. He is focused on creating a balance of color and light by applying thick impasto into canvas. Since 2008, Decastro has been running an art space Kunstraum Dreieich | Artspace Frankfurt in Germany that promotes artists with the motto of welcoming them back. The artist himself has a solo exhibition A Whiter Shade of Pale, Level 2 in New York City atThe Bronx Art Space, until April 30. Decastro is also showing as part of the DOPPELGÄNGER -exhibition, which is currently at Torrance Art Museumin California,and runsuntil May 28. The group show is a dialogue between German and US artists, and is curated by Dr. Julia-Constance Dissel and Sandra Mann from Germany together with Los Angeles-based curators Ichiro Irie and Max Presneill. The exhibition explores similarities of practices within globally expansive and hyper-connected art production.
In the solo exhibition at the Bronx Art Space, the visitor encounters a poetic cosmos, ‘which is intentionally designed to allow the illusion of landscapes or outer spaces.’ The theme of the Whiter Shade of Pale, Level 2 -exhibition is to explore issues of fugacity.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How did you decide to become a painter?
EricD: I already knew as a child that I wanted to be an artist. When I was 5 years old I was able to paint in my mothers atelier. It was something I was destined to do and I finally fulfilled my dream.
So what did you learn from your mother, who is the painter Mirei de Castro? How about your other influencers?
EricD: I learned the basics from my mother. Painters like Richard Poussette Dart, Lee Krasner but also Cecily Brown, Fabienne Verdier, Paul Rebeyrolle, Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke, have all also influenced me.
There is installation and performance development mixed with your paintings. In one installation you used, or it looks like, fake grass in the gallery as part of the show?
EricD: The installation Prevenue d’avance (Warned in advance) from the performance artist Mike Hentz (USA) and myself at a Kunstverein near Heidelberg 2012 has been furthering me a lot. Through Mike I was able to get a perspective for what one can call art. The lawn was actually real and has been tended and watered for a week in Kunstraum-Dreieich. After the event, it was fully removed. Then, the over dimensional “Dejeuner sur l’herbe” was a parody of the famous works of Edouard Manet.
You have also painted tsunami?
EricD: After the Fukushima Tsunami, I did a complete series of works that looked like aerial shots of Tsunamis.
Some of the dripping technique paintings come out with natural confrontations, what do you see yourself in the works, are there reoccurring themes that come out?
EricD: One topic has been on my heart since 2008. My near death experiences have been both positive and negative for me, and I’ve been trying to depict this experience on canvases through a dripping technique in a meditative state. That’s how those paintings mostly have been created.
A really interesting one is the point when you washed some of the acrylic painting out of the canvas, and went on the real action forward method of making art. Tell about the work, in which the canvas and you are hanging from the tree?
EricD: This artwork was actually not created in the woods. I was walking with my dogs and saw this tree who looked like it could be a perfect frame for a canvas. I called a good friend of mine, a renowned Art-photographer Sandra Mann. We decided to do a photoshoot with one of my green paintings and put it in the natural frame of the tree.
How does the performance aspect work with the painting, are they part of the same discipline for you?
EricD: Of course the performance on a canvas in a natural state is my art. The work is being created, the performance oftentimes is the beginning of an idea that develops through painting.
For example, in “suffocating performance” the artist wrapped cellophane around his head to represent a type of suffocation. He was filmed and was also supervised (Don’t try at home). Afterwards I painted his performance “Suffocating Performance” for the exhibition “CARNAL DESIRE” in Museum Villa Rot. Theother artists were Wim Delevoye, Hermann Nitsch, and Fischli and Weiss. It’s a hommage to a boy from Kosovo who was suffocated and skewed and grilled all while his father was watching. I tried to depict the cruelty of this war.
Then, few questions about identity, how do you criss-cross between different countries, locations, and even continents?
EricD: I’ve been traveling my whole life. I really enjoy it and have been able to visit over 110 countries in this world. I’m getting my inspiration and positive energy from exceptional places. In the next time I’ll be traveling to Tibet, Nepal, Buthan and North India.
You have recently been exhibiting in Peru, and one of your galleries is in France, how are these art cultures different from each other?
My gallerist Mathias Bloch from Gallery Younique is French and my last exhibition was in “Alliance Française de Lima” so it was a home match for me as a French man myself. My abstract art is established in South America. A subsidiary of Coca-Cola (Inca-Cola) has recently bought one of my works.
You must feel that you are dealing with a variety of roles, a gallerist being one, and then a painter, is there a difference that is significant?
EricD: I’m not a traditional gallerist. I don’t participate in the art fairs. Kunstraum Dreieich is an Artspace with the motto “Rendes-Vous des Artistes.” It’s supposed to be an opportunity for artists to be displayed in the circles of art collectors that I have tended. This concept works well in Europe and especially in a city like Frankfurt the art will sell really quickly.
Art world is a phenomenon for its own sake yet many artists are involved in societal practice, mending the world so to speak. What do you wish to say about that?
EricD: Jonathan Meese said at Art-Basel in Miami in 2012 „Art is the new currency.“ He’s right, art is seen more like an investment nowadays. Never have people previously in history spent so much money on art as it is done today. Independently from whatever the artist wanted to reach with his art, whether a political message, improving the world, to amuse someone or as a wakeup call, art is and will be a good that can be traded in stock. Most buyers, buy art because they have a mindset to leverage the art.
As April is the Earth Month, could you say something about, how does art and preserving our planet correlate, or meet thematically?
EricD: To preserve the planet and to make it better for our children is more vital than to collect art and display it in museums. What kind of benefit comes from a world that has been destroyed when museums are full of artworks, and there are no humans to enjoy the art, because then all of humankind will be too busy to focus on survival than to look at art. Politics don’t react to the signs of mother earth, the glaciers have been melting, global warming is unstoppable, and still there is no change of mind or thinking. One should replace the democracy through Geniocracy.
Tell a little bit about the project in Nepal, how long has it been in progress, and how did it start?
EricD: My wife is buddhist, and through her Master Lopen Tensing Namdak Rinpoche we got the idea to build a boarding school for children from Nepal in Tibet through fundraising and even some profit from selling my paintings. Since then it was possible to finance the first step of the project. We have already built a hospice in Katmandu in 2012. I myself volunteer as a hospice worker in a hospice in Frankfurt for about 4 years now. The experiences I have made there have helped me to stay grounded and to be confronted with the topic of death and what happens after death. This has been something I have been processing for years.
If you can imagine color energy that bounces back from the walls with blues, reds, greens, and yellows with prismatic and subtle intensity that resembles music, Julian Stanczak’s paintings are for you. The seasoned painter at 86, believed in the power of the abstraction, and in the musical inspiration in his art-making, as he posed in front of his painting during the opening of his solo-exhibition in New York. Stanczak’sexhibition ‘From Life’ is now on view at the Mitchell-Inness & Nash -gallery and will run until December 6. As a young boy, the painter had wanted to be a cellist, and transferred his emotive passion into his paintings. Even a recent work from 2011, titled as ‘Proportional Mixing’ (2011), still handles colors in abstract modalities like in musical compositions. The gallery’s first solo exhibition of Stanczak’s work comprises of a dozen large-scale paintings from the 1960s to the present, including works that have not been seen in the public view for decades. Now on view are artworks, in which the colors are arranged in geometrical forms, lingering hypnotic chromatism and possessing internal vapor, communicating energy and organic presence.
In 2000, the artist began to create small panels and combine them into wall constellations. He produces the canvases through a complex process of tape masks. The color layers are systematically added and unveiled coming out as repetitions, with spacings and rhythms. The artist relies on his own vision of a finished work without doing preliminary sketches. He emphasizes life experiences in his art, so naturally his own personal history comes to life in the artworks. Stanczak experienced huge differences in places as a young person. He was born in Poland in 1928, spent time in a labor camp in Siberia, and in Polish refugee camp in Uganda, Africa. He immigrated to the United States in 1950. He studied at the Yale University with Josef Albers and Conrad Marca-Relli graduating with M.F.A in 1956. During his formative years, the artist found his way to Phillips Collection in DC and was inspired by Paul Klee’s paintings and watercolors in the collection.
JULIAN STANCZAK: FROM LIFE
October 30—December 6, 2014
534 West 26th Street
Teresa Dunn is a Michigan-based artist whose narrative paintings on panel explore worlds with texture and complexity. Her recent paintings, now on view at First Street Galleryin New York City, are full of figures who are confronting points of no return. The strong exhibition title Event Horizon displays works full of ‘tightrope walkers’, burning boats, exposed flesh and rising waters; all this as if the settings create dreamlike atmospheres.
The narratives put the characters and their motivations in tests when they look into the incongruous landscapes around them. The works are full of story, where mothers and fathers, animals and children, friends and strangers interact in tightly woven communities. The paintings depict absurdity and metaphorical allusions. Together the works link into each other, and so rearrange the reality in a new order. As the artist states:
Peculiar reality becomes normal, as in dreams or memory. Amidst bizarre sequences of events, dreams are believable when we are immersed in them. Memories distort, dissolve, and rearrange themselves until we are unable to discern fact from invention.
Dunn’s paintings seem to connect to a stronger sense of reality than what would perhaps be without the symbolic hindrance and delay. Her tactics of ’disconnect in perception’ shows the underlying ideas telling about identity and interaction. ’’Seasons, relationships, jobs, and cities attempt to define us. Peculiar occurrences, symbolism, and metaphor tie together some loose ends and fray others.’’ (Teresa Dunn).
FIRSTINDIGO&LIFESTYLE: Your new exhibition Event Horizon is now on view in New York’s City and has gained attention. How would you describe the gallery?
TERESA DUNN: I appreciate that First Street Galleryhas given me the opportunity to show my work in New York. Being a resident of the Midwest it is more difficult to put my work into the world. Being in a community of supportive artists in a major art center is critical to keeping me in the conversation.
Your works narrate multiple events which perhaps relate to natural disasters, as the burning boats, floods or risen water show. What does this vision mean to you?
TD: The element of natural disaster is new in my work just appearing in this body of paintings. I am interested in the combination of the fire and the water events because the characters in my narratives seem to have to choose between two negatives–fire or water; precarious balance on the tightrope or falling to an unknown abyss; frigid wintery environment or blazing car fire. But not all of the people fear about the disasters some look with awe or indifference. Is the flaming horizon reddish from the setting sun or from a fiery disaster just out of sight? It is the ambiguity that life presents us that both makes it invigorating and terrifying.
In one of the works there is in fact this chilly atmosphere, with two people, perhaps a couple, and the face in the background has a scull written on it. What kinds of representation do you relate to this particular image (titled: Because I could not stop for Death)?
TD: In the painting to which you refer with the winter environment and the skull “Because I could not stop for Death” the title is borrowed from an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem. In this painting there are elements of my Mexican background from my mother’s side. In Mexico, images of skulls, death, and skeletons are traditionally not representative of an existential anxiety in they way we see them in American culture. Instead the skull represents the tie between those who come before and those who come after. I like presenting the seasonal metaphor of death as dormancy alongside the skeletons and the chicken protecting its egg in anticipation of the season turning to spring. The painting talks about life as cyclical as opposed to being simply linear. In fact all of the narratives intend to provide a non-linear approach to story telling in format and/or content.
How did you become a storyteller, it is fascinating, also because we don’t that often see contemporary artists really entangle themselves into stories that much. What do you wish to say about it?
TD: I have always been interested in story telling and from childhood drew pictures of people in unusual environments with dramatic events occurring. I enjoy observing life as it unfolds and am very compelled by people’s personal stories. My love of the story also carries into literature and film. In many ways I see the cinema as having the closest relationship to my work in the way that it deals with narrative in terms of time, space, and content. This is why I am currently drawn to more cinematic horizontal canvases. The Italian Renaissance is a huge influence on my work as well with the story being a critical part of image interpretation–in additional this period of paintings deals with time and space in a way that I find addresses a more circular or non-linear perspective in story telling. Where it is through multi-panel works; recurring characters; strange use of scale, space, or color, and complex composing.
How about a conflict between nature and culture, between humans and their living habitats? Our future with environment, and climate change problem are timely topics now and so is a question how we as people face them; does this resonate to what you do?
TD: My work is less directly about the current environmental problems we as a society face. Although they do present a very relevant and accessible metaphor to be interpreted in ways that are meaningful to the viewer. In the conflict you suggest between humans, nature, environment, and culture these are exciting analogies to be used to deal with the way in which we interact with our communities, ourselves, and our trials and tribulations.
Tell in few words how do you work as an artist, and balance between your university-teaching and painting?
TD: Regarding teaching and painting: Painting always must come first. Understanding the issues at hand in my field feeds my teaching in the same way that I view life experience as feeding my artwork. It is a bit more difficult these days being a mother to a 2 year old to balance the three-painting, family, and teaching. However I am fortunate to teach at Michigan State University, an institution that highly values my creative research. This body of work was created during a sabbatical leave in the first half of 2014 and I currently have a research leave funded through a university grant which is allowing me to further probe these new ideas. Teresa Dunn’s Event Horizon is on view until October 4, 2014 at First Street Gallery – 526 West 26th Street, Suite 209, Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11 am-6 pm.
Japanese artist Nakajima Mugi’s works open into a world of intense color and detail, and are filled with nuances and interactive play around the hues of the natural world. The artist often thinks and displays his works in pairs, as a group of three, or even in large groups on the wall. Putting the art pieces together changes the atmosphere of the space. What attracts me in his style is probably the technique of letting the color drop on canvas while in the process, which results in a possibility of chance, or accident. Yet the control of the colors and their order in the palette is made by the artist who masters the materiality of his vision. A series of paintings ‘blue on blue’ represents chaosmos paintings which are abstract (chaosmos: chaos and cosmos). The vivid colors of acrylics show off the surfaces of plastered paint. The ‘cosmos’ means order where accumulation of drawings create an entire landscape. The outcome comes close to patterned design textiles that expose bold attitude. Japanese and Finnish design and art worlds have something very similar in their approach, whether they meet in minimalism paying attention to detail and form, or stand for an oasis of calm. The interpretation of nature is present.
The artist uses different techniques to enhance his vision. ‘Blue on blue’ series includes two types of paintings of different techniques and textures. In one the fluid colors run on canvas as mentioned above. The other is a quiet one-color painting. Nakajima Mugi’s color-drop style recalls art informel and abstract expressionism. Solid color, then, reminds of Hard-edge paintings (Ellsworth Kelly) or Color field paintings (Barnett Newman). When Mugi’s works are arranged side by side the combinations do not follow strict rules but form an installation. The cosmos is ever-changing its rhythm, and the works show seasons and time. ‘Blue on blue’ changes according to exhibit space aiming to demonstrate the polyphonic of the paintings.
Nakajima Mugi was represented at the New City Art Fair in Chelsea, New York City in March of 2014 with the Gallery OUT of PLACE which is located in Nara and Tokyo. The gallery presented variations from his ‘blue on blue’ series. It also showed his other works that communicate well with urban and architectural environments. The artist has created installations with spatial variation including traditional Japanese houses as well as urban window-displays which communicate both inside and outside.
Jennifer Wynne Reeves creates collages on boards that some include wire, some hair or feathers, and some thick applications of paint. This approach could by no means represent flat wall art. The dimensionality makes the art continue in space. Objects and paint are not decorative art either, but there is something folk-art in them; or retrospectively ”American” influences. These works suggest, as one work is titled, voluptuous meanings that are material, sensuous and touchable. Reeves writes as part of her artistic practice. Writing collide with personal meanings, and is symbolic in nature.
Her statements, or poems end up being part of the artwork itself. The artist was presented at the VOLTA by New York City gallery BranvinLee programs. The art presented at the art fair spoke about her illness, which is also reflected in her writing:
I think I might not be alive to go to my opening next September. I think I should rush to finish things. I wonder why my body is doing this or that. I think Christmas will be long. I think I won’t be able to save enough money for old age with all these bills, and that an imminent death would be preferable. I wouldn’t have to look for even more powerful galleries. -Jennifer Wynne Reeves 2013, Callicoon, NY
VOLTA art fair offers a chance to get in touch with art that promotes freshness and openness of ideas. The fair is relatively easy to access. It should be, that art fairs can be walked-in-to, so the art can be discussed and shared. VOLTA is like one big gallery space, where multiple stops lead to curiosities, comprehension, and even comparisons. Perhaps art displayed with this many references has a better chance for new perspectives.This year, the amount of techniques was compelling. Among the artisans of art was definitely a Japanese woodcut artist Katsutoshi Yuasa. For him, woodcut is a new way of seeing images and photography. The long process gives refinement of light, and adds the personality. Yuasa works on the printing process and reliefs based on his own digital photography. He uses traditional Japanese printmaking technique, which takes time. Carving and printing are all made by hand. For Yuasa, printmaking out of a photograph has a deeper meaning that what could be expressed in photographs. He thinks that photographs are more like a fictional two-dimensional surface. He says, that carving on the plywood, and the printing on paper, will add another dimension. The result is an abstract reality, which implies both subjective and objective perceptions. Yuasa also worked in Finland in an artist residence. The work ”Ilmatar” is based on his photograph of Finnish forest. He was presented at VOLTA by YUKI-SIS gallery from Tokyo.
Pius Fox is a young Berlin-based German artist, whose works are influenced by modernistic means. Not only the color-scheme, but the meticulous, minimal and graphic output is reminiscent of styles before his own era. His works move between painting and drawing, figurative and abstract, lingering between form(alism) and context. Multiple layers of paint create an idea of space. Fox makes small works that together are like an installation. One can only think how many different ways to place them on the walls. Small works communicate with each other. When separately, the scale still holds a lot of energy and tension. His color schemes represent past times, giving nostalgic vibrations. As if an old gramophone was playing tunes, light curtain had moved to let air inside the room. Colors are contrastive, some of them pale and pastels, some dark and more graphic. Indeed, Fox uses interiors of his own work studio for inspiration, including windows, doors, curtains and so on, to introspect atmosphere. Yet the works have an appeal of formality and outwardness. He was presented by Patrick Heide Contemporary Art from London.
Pius Fox, Installation Shot, Volta Art Fair, Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, London
Pius Fox, Untitled, Oil on Linen, 30 x 22 cm, 2014, The Volta Art Fair.