Critique Collective

Critique Collective is your source for information and interviews about emerging and established contemporary artists.

Multimedia Black and White Imagery by Richard Borashan

Richard Borashan is an interdisciplinary artist working primarily with black and white imagery. He is currently pursuing an MFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Borashan’s work has been featured in a wide variety of galleries in California including White Gloss Gallery, Gallery Godo, the CCAA Museum of Art – Rancho Cucamonga, BANG Gallery, and at a 2010 UNICEF Invitational Show.

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Untitled (Anna) ; charcoal drawing on paper


Paul Weiner:
What are you working on in your studio right now?

Richard Borashan:
Right now, I’m doing a back and forth thing between some large-scale drawings and sculptures. It’s pretty typical that I work on a few different things at the same time, and I try to keep it that way. It helps me keep a big picture state of mind while I work through so many different mediums.

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No Title; silkscreen, ink on paper

Paul Weiner:
Describe the various processes you have used to create black and white images over the past few years.

Richard Borashan:
Each work starts with a similar foundation. I develop a concept and then go digging through my archives of source material to see what type of imagery would be a potential fit. It’s pretty much the equivalent to filmmakers going through all of the locations they’ve scouted. Once I have a few picked out, I decide which medium would be a good fit and take it from there.

If the imagery is being translated into a drawing, then I usually just stick with charcoal or graphite and paper. If I’m working with print, then it’s either with silkscreen or a basic laser/inkjet printer. Video is a tricky one because I haven’t played with it enough yet, but the couple videos I’ve made in the past have been either with a DSLR or a VHS camcorder. I’ve been dying to shoot on some 16mm and Super 8, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. The sculptures I’m working on now are a mix of found objects, enamel, and, potentially, some sort of resin coating. I’m still working it out. Each of the above mediums has a unique process to it as well. There’s definitely a lot of different things going on from beginning to end.

Paul Weiner:
What do these works mean to you? Are they more conceptual or narrative?

Richard Borashan:
I try to find a balance between the two. The conceptual aspect of the work is very important to me, but I also like creating the opportunity for a viewer to construct their own narrative and be involved in their own way. I spend a lot of time thinking about how each of the works interacts with one another and what kind of environment they create when viewed together. They all have their own individual reasons for being created, but I also think of them as contributing to a whole. I like the idea of smaller things making up something bigger.

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No Title; silkscreen, ink on paper

Paul Weiner:
Many of your pieces have very similar aesthetic qualities regardless of the medium you use to create them. Do you try to create some kind of ambiguity as to how you’ve created these images?

Richard Borashan:
Actually, as far as how they’re created or any formal decisions, I’m trying to accomplish the exact opposite of ambiguity. The mediums I choose for each work are chosen for specific reasons, and they are very much part of their conceptual makeup. As far as the content and meaning behind the images I use, those are things I prefer to leave more open to interpretation.

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No Title; laser print on paper

Paul Weiner:
Where do you find inspiration for your art?

Richard Borashan:
In general terms, just things that are out in the world. That’s the main reason why the appropriation of images is important and why I don’t really work in abstraction. I’m more interested in dialogue with what’s already out there rather than only being confined to art itself.

To be more specific, I use culture, society, movies, music, the internet, books, and really anything that has to do with people or any form of media. All above the above play major roles in my practice. I watch a ton of movies, like, at least 4 or 5 a week, sometimes more. Right now, I’m obsessed with classic horror films and classic texts from Shakespeare, Machiavelli, Homer, Hitchcock, Kubrick, etc. I watched Nosferatu again the other day for like the third time this month. I can’t get enough of them.

Paul Weiner:
I like the idea of cultural images and objects carrying meaning through appropriation. Could you name a few of the places where you’ve appropriated the subjects in your images from?

Richard Borashan:
Over the years, I’ve amassed an archive of at least 20,000 images and counting. They’re spread out over a few external hard drives. A majority of them are from the internet from google image search, blogs, yahoo news, or whatever. I’ve also scanned books, magazines, and newspapers and taken screenshots from movies and documentaries. I’ll take anything from anywhere. I’m a digital hoarder to the maximum degree. I’ll save anything that catches my eye for any reason, and, when the time comes to start thinking about using something for a work, I basically go shopping through my database.

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A Moment in Time; laser print on paper

Paul Weiner:
Why do you feel compelled to draw some images while a print, video, or sculpture might be more appropriate for another image? Give us an example of a specific image you have made and why you chose the medium you did for that piece.

Richard Borashan:
It all comes back down to the conceptual aspect of it. I’m extremely detail-oriented, so things like mediums and titles are just one more opportunity to contribute something to the work. Even when I leave a work with No Title, it’s for a specific reason. The larger silkscreen pieces I’ve made more recently worked better with silkscreen because I wanted the feeling of vintage or nostalgic photographs for each work. A lot of the blemishes and accidents involved with the process really allowed me to get that specific aesthetic, whereas something like drawing or laser printing them wouldn’t have accomplished the same thing; believe me, I tried. The heavy amount of technical process involved also created a lot of distance between the artist and the work, which I felt was important for them.

On the other hand, the images I’m working with right now are being turned into drawings with the intention of doing the opposite of the silkscreens. I’m trying to eliminate distance between the artist and the work. I’m not using any tools other than the actual charcoal and paper, and I do all the blending and details with my fingers. The images I’ve chosen play with the relationship between romance and tragedy. The classic idea of a very hands-on artist putting everything into his work is a very romantic, and potentially tragic, notion. It feels very fitting.

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Supermodel Death Dive; laser print on paper

Paul Weiner:
What is the ideal forum for viewing your work?

Richard Borashan:
Actually, I’ve always thought it would be interesting to have my work displayed in a situation where the aesthetics were a complete contrast to how the work was presented. The drawings and some of my other works have a clean presentation, and I could see them shown in a really beat up abandoned building or something. And since the silkscreens are usually assembled hastily with masking tape all over the place, I can see them in a very sterile environment. Or, you know, there’s always the good ole white box gallery we’ve all come to know and love.

If possible, I’d like to give a shout out to my people, the Time Base crew. It’s a small group of us who get together bi-weekly to discuss and critique time-based and new media work. If anybody is in the NYC area and would like to join, check out timebasenyc.tumblr.com. This has been a ton of fun Paul, thanks a lot.


Please view Richard Borashan’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Bernardo Morphs Automobiles and Living Beings into Sculpture

Bernard “Bernardo” Corman attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and studied at the Johnson Atelier in Mercerville, New Jersey. Bernardo’s sculptures are in the collections of many celebrities including Elton John, Stephen King, and members of the band Blondie. Many of his works incorporate anthropomorphism with the combination of cars, animals, and humans. Bernardo’s sculptures can also be found on his website.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you come up with the idea of blending cars with various animals, such as the fish in your Carp series?

Bernardo:
One of the first times I combined a natural entity with a mechanical one was in the early 90’s. I did a piece that I came to regard and describe as a retelling of the classical Centaur story from Greek mythology. In my version, a somewhat macho male morphs into a motorcycle instead of a horse. Prior to this piece, I had combined a car with the torso of a woman; I was influenced by a Magritte painting for that one. Like all of my best ideas, the image of the motorcycle/man just sort of popped into my head or swam up from my subconscious. I’ve always been a big fan of Surrealism and agree with the principle that some of the greatest ideas are the ones that occur naturally. I’ve had extremely vivid dreams and odd stream-of-consciousness type visions throughout my life, but most of the time I can’t manage latching onto the things I see or else it’s so complicated and personal that it would be impossible to translate into a visual medium. Being part of a certain age group also brought me into contact with various, shall we say, cultural type influences that left lasting impressions.

The goldfish idea was a similar process. I was working in my shop, and the image of a car-fish popped into my head. I made a small sketch and filed it away. About half a year later, I was in a library and found a beautiful photo book about Chinese goldfish. As I looked at the pictures, I remembered the drawing I’d made and realized that these fish with their long, flowing tails and fins and strangely mutated heads would make the perfect expression for that idea.

I didn’t actually set out to create an entire body of work like this, but in mid-career retrospect I can see that all of my best ideas and pieces just tend to naturally fall into this category.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you find yourself creating a massive bronze cast of a Cadillac morphed into a cornered shape?

Bernardo:
One very early piece of mine was a Caddy going around a corner. I called it CaddyCorner, and it had been influenced by old Tex Avery cartoons I used to watch as a kid where cars would twist and tiptoe around and things like that. One of them was seen by a person in a gallery setting who got hold of me later through some odd back channels. The people who contacted me were very secretive about who this guy was, but he did end up buying one of them from me along with another popular early piece called Big Ass Buick, which involved a car morphing into the obese rear end of a woman.

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I had been working for another local sculptor, making molds of his life sized portraits of fallen service personnel and felt confident about making larger things, five to six foot things anyway. By this time, I’d found out that my client was a well-to-do Kuwaiti businessman, so I screwed up my courage and sent an email suggesting enlarging CaddyCorner up to five or six feet. Lo and behold, I got a letter back saying he liked the idea and asked if I could make it life sized? I was pretty bowled over, but I knew I could do the job since the foundry I had been getting my work cast at had been making monumental-sized work for another nationally known sculptor.

After lengthy negotiations, we settled on a price and I started working on it. It took a year and a half to complete and involved lots of stages and processes. One stipulation was that he wanted to sit in it, so I had to engineer a hidden seat in the back. I tried to do as much of the work as I could because I wanted to feel like I had truly contributed to the piece. I made molds of actual car parts, carved foam, chased bronze, and did many other things as well. I was extraordinarily lucky to have landed the job, and I learned a great deal about my own field of art working on it. Because of its odd size and shape, a custom crate had to be built around it so it could be shipped overseas.

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Paul Weiner:
Your work has been collected by celebrities like Elton John and Stephen King, but your prices remain in the low hundreds in your recent Carp series. Are the prices low because of an art for all kind of philosophy or just out of market demands?

Bernardo:
A little of both, I suppose. I wanted the maximum number of people to have some of my art, so I priced them accordingly. The Carp are really one of my most accessible and popular projects. I used to think of it as my pet rock project, if you remember those. The great thing about the internet is that you can find an infinite number of items to look at and buy, which, unfortunately for makers, creates a sort of hyper-competitive market. I price the Carp so that people making choices can look at them as being both cool and attainable.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you aim for your art to evoke a sense of humor?

Bernardo:
Yes, for sure. Always. I think there’s definitely a real absurdity in a lot of things, especially the human condition, and I have tried to tap into that feeling kind of in a larger, cosmic sense. I don’t necessarily think having some underlying humor in art is a bad thing. Life is absurd, and sometimes the only appropriate response is laughter. I’ve tried to capture that essence in some of my work, sometimes to the point of perversity.

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Paul Weiner:
How has your style of craftsmanship evolved over the years?

Bernardo:
Well, my technical skills have certainly improved over time. Spontaneity can be a harder thing to achieve when you have technical skills. For me, the most fun and creative part of the process is roughing out the clay. All of the most basic creative decisions, for me, get made at that point. I do like to start with an idea or clear sense of what I’m looking for and work towards that. Once the model is roughed out, it becomes a matter of putting in the time and effort to achieve the level of detail I work up to. The devil’s in the details as they say. Once the clay is done, it really becomes rote. There’s various ways of making molds and casts and stuff, but by that point it really is a matter of going through the motions. I do always try to do the best work I can when I build molds and make castings. It’s a point of pride. With cast art, one step leads into another; when I’m sculpting, I’m thinking about the mold making. When I’m making the mold, I’m thinking about how the casting is going to work. If you do a lousy job in one phase, the next one’s going to be that much harder to accomplish.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell me a little bit about your favorite cars.

Bernardo:
Gee, I don’t think we have that much time! So many amazing cars have been built over the past hundred or so years. Obviously, I have a super soft spot for 50s cars. They were heavily influenced by the aircraft design of the day, especially at GM where Harley Earl ruled the design department. It was the ‘Atomic Age’ and everything was so heavily science fiction at that point. The concept cars from that period are even more outlandish and bizarre. It was actually a copy of a picture book about them (Dream Cars by Jean Rodolphe Piccard; Orbis 1981) that got me interested in doing automotive type art. A friend of mine brought it over, and that was it. I was hooked.
There are two cars from that period that really do it for me. The first is the Buick Lesabre concept car from 1951 and other is the sister car to that one that was designed and built at the same time called the XP-300, also by Buick. Those cars really set the tone and were extremely influential throughout the rest of the decade.

There were some stunning cars built during the 1930s in France by Bugatti and Figoni et Falaschi. The cars from that time are regarded as some of the most classic and elegant ever built, Italian sports cars, the list goes on and on really: motorcycles, vintage trucks, you name it. If it has wheels and an engine there’s probably something worth admiring about it.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about the physical process you use to create Carp.

Bernardo:
I start by perusing pictures of the Chinese goldfish. For the first set, I was working out of the book I mentioned, I had gone ahead and got a copy for myself. After that, I try to decide which model of car I’m interested in. I have a lot of reference material as far as 50s cars go. So then I set up a small armature for the clay and get started. I try to keep both parts of the piece going along at the same pace. I move around, bringing everything up to a level of detail that I’m satisfied with. Detailing the car is a place that demands quite a bit of precision and concentration, also putting the ridges into the fins. It’s small, tight work, and it demands a lot of attention.

As I mentioned before, the part of the process thats most pleasurable for me is roughing out the clay. During that part, I make all the most creative decisions about how the piece is going to look ultimately. After that, it’s just having the patience to do the work required.

Once I’ve made the mold of the clay, I’m ready to cast some up. I use a two part plastic that is commercially available and a pressure pot to ensure I don’t get air bubbles on the surface. Once the piece is out of the mold, there is some minimal chasing, and then I paint them. For me, the Carp project was revelatory as far as color is concerned. As a sculptor making bronzes, I felt my palette was somewhat limited by the chemicals that are available. Greens, browns, black and white is what is mostly used. There are a lot of techniques to achieve different kinds of surface effects such as mottling, stippling, brushing, spraying, etc, but not that many color choices.

When I had the first set of goldfish, I was kind of like, “whoa..now what do I do?” so I went out and bought an airbrush and taught myself how to use it. It was just a real joy to explore all kinds of different colors, combos, and painting techniques. Lately, I’ve been trying to replicate natural coloration motifs like exotic birds, tropical fish, and even zebras. I really love that part of the process.

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Paul Weiner:
When did you first find yourself interested in cars?

Bernardo:
I always thought old cars were cool. I can remember when I was a kid looking at the front end of an old car and thinking it looked like a human face. Anthropomorphism is a principle that found its way into some of my work.

Really, though, the biggest shift for me happened when I was exposed to the concept cars from the 50s and 60s through the aforementioned book. I was just so knocked out. First I thought, “these are like rolling sculptures”. Then I thought, “these would make fabulous sculptures!” I spent a lot of time studying the design trends and styling techniques from that time. I did some designs of my own, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by what I’d done. Prior to the cars, I’d done a number of pieces in a style I had christened Pop-Surrealism. I loved Pop Art and also Surrealism, so I coined the term to describe my own work. Yeah, yeah. I know. I am actually taking credit for that phrase. True story, though.

Anyway, at some point, I realized I should combine my interest in old cars with what I had been doing previously, and that’s when I started producing the Pop-Surreal automotive castings. And the rest, as they say, is history.


Please view Bernardo’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Eerily Uncanny Portrait Paintings by Caroline Green

Caroline Green is an artist working in the Pacific Northwest. Green’s recent paintings have exhibited at Gallery Zero in Portland, Oregon and in various venues throughout the Northwest, and they have been published in Studio Visit Magazine, Catapult Art Magazine, Tribe Magazine, and a variety of other outlets. She is currently dealing with motifs of medical equipment and portraiture, and much of her artwork is available on her website.

Caroline Green_Just a tickle

Gallery Night October 2013


Paul Weiner:
How did your Humanoid series come about?

Caroline Green:
The Humanoid series is a combination of my early works, Admiring the View in 2008, and an experimental series consisting of a saturated color palette and silhouettes. In Admiring the View, I used a limited color palette consisting of a variety of earthy tones, which helped to set the mood to the overall pieces. The content was, to some, rather dark. It was heavily influenced by medicine and the interactions and observations of people that surrounded my life, hence the title of the series. These works are a type of record of my life up to that point. After working on this series, I wanted to create something totally different, so I began to experiment with color and different techniques. I focused more on enhancing my palette and cleaning up my lines. I essentially combined the two concepts. Keeping with the medical theme and introducing brighter colors and silhouettes of various creatures, the Humanoid series was born.

Caroline Green_Recession

Paul Weiner:
Where did your interest in medicine come from?

Caroline Green:
It began at a very early age. I have struggled with my health ever since I was born. I have been in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals either as a patient or as an employee my whole life. The fear that people get of doctors and such was never really there for me. It was replaced early on with intrigue. My first position at a hospital was when I was sixteen. It was an internship in an OR as a perioperative assistant. From there, I worked in several other areas of hospitals in several departments. In my mid twenties, I worked essentially as an underpaid and unofficial anesthesia tech in surgery. I was not certified, nor did I have the official title, but I performed 99% of the duties.

Myself standing next to my work

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned that some people see your artwork as being dark. What emotions do you associate with your work?

Caroline Green:
I think they are curious and somewhat comical. People are usually puzzled or disturbed by these paintings, and those people usually don’t have knowledge of the world of medicine. People can be frightened of the unknown, especially of medical equipment when they have no idea what it’s for or how it is properly used. But, by working in the medical field, I have become comfortable with the human body and the medical supplies. I think these paintings can invoke a wide array of emotions and thoughts to the viewer. One of my favorite things about these pieces is the feedback. I have heard all kinds of different insights as to why and what these pieces are trying to say.

Caroline Green_Empty Hope

Paul Weiner:
Your recent work strikes me as a kind of mix between pop art and impressionism. Which artists have influenced your work?

Caroline Green:
The Humanoid pieces were inspired from my previous works. When I began back in 2008 I was pretty much fresh to the art world. I had painted a few time before but I was still trying to find my artistic voice. My very early works were all over the place, both in style and technique. It seemed impossible for me to even attempt at painting in the style of all the artists who I truly loved (Dali, Magritte, and Escher). I tried playing around with the brush until I found something totally comfortable, something that just came so naturally that it didn’t even feel like I had to try. I could complete a piece with ease in just a few hours. The very first of these pieces was The Yard.

you and me and the tumor makes three

Caroline Green_Jens Leg

Paul Weiner:
What space would you ideally present your work in?

Caroline Green:
It depends on the work. The Humanoid series is very large in scale and has a very vibrantly saturated color palette, so not only would the pieces need to fit the style of the gallery, but the gallery would have to be able to fit the work physically. It can be rather difficult to find locations that can and would also like to show these pieces. These paintings were first shown at Gallery Zero in Portland, Oregon, a gallery that is a rich red color from floor to ceiling. Since then, they have traveled around town a bit. Ideally for the Humanoid pieces, I would want them to be shown somewhere accepting of alternative contemporary paintings. They have been rejected more times than I can count because of their unusual content.

My pet portrait works are always displayed in pet shops and animal clinics. The Admiring the View pieces are also a challenged to find places to hang, not because of their size but because of their content. The rest of my work is pretty easy to place. I have shown work around town in dozens of locations including galleries, shops, restaurants, and pop-up art shows.

Caroline Green_Rossi_16by20_80USD

Paul Weiner:
What are a few of your favorite materials?

Caroline Green:
I like just about anything I can get my hands on. I love acrylic because of its versatility and easy clean up, but I prefer the maneuverability of oils. Spray paint has a beautifully soft, even effect great for eliminating brushstrokes. I also love to use painter’s tape. It keeps my lines clean and saves time. Occasionally, I will play around with other mediums, but I think my favorite thing is actually my glass palette. I had the window repair man cut a piece of my car’s windshield out. He even sanded the edges for me. I love how the paint slides around, how easy it is to clean up. It is the best thing ever.

CanYouSeeMeNow-CarolineGreen

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a bit about your physical painting process.

Caroline Green:
The physical painting process for the Humanoid series was somewhat taxing. The pieces are a good size, so it’s not like I could just sit there or even just stand in one spot. I was very active in the creation of those pieces. At first, the task seemed quite daunting. I was intimidated by the size of the great, white canvas, so I painted as much color on it as I could in the first day. I washed over all the white. I didn’t want to see a single dimple of white. I sketched out the main shapes and added a couple colors. From there, I built up the painting in layers. I was trying to focus on the painting as a whole rather than treating it in sections. Once the first painting, Can You See Me Now, was complete, I felt this huge since of relief and accomplishment. I now prefer to paint on a larger scale.

Caroline Green_Malfunction

Paul Weiner:
What are you working on in your studio right now?

Caroline Green:
I am currently involved in several projects. I am getting ready for another group show at one of the galleries I am a part of, People’s Art of Portland. I am working on wearable merchandise, something that I hope will appeal to more people. I just began a fourth series that will focus more on aesthetics. I will be combining the techniques I have learned with the last two series and applying them to scenery. I am also collaborating with another local artist on a new project that is very exciting. Of course, I still take in commissions of pet portraits. In between all of that, I create smaller experimental works to try to grow as an artist as much as possible. These are, of course, only things going on in the studio, so I tend to keep very busy. There is always something I want to try. There are always more ideas in my head that I want to get out than I have time or hands for.


Please view Caroline Green’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

Laure Nolte’s Interdisciplinary Art Practice

Laure Nolte is an emerging artist currently working in Berlin. She studied at Camberwell College of Art in London and Canada’s NSCAD in Halifax before receiving a BFA in painting and drawing from Concordia University in Montreal. After art school, she briefly worked as a fishmonger. Born in 1986, the young artist has created art in a variety of mediums from painting and sculpture to video. Her artwork can also be found on her website.

The Cutting Room 7


Paul Weiner:
How did your Fishmonger series come about?

Laure Nolte:
Fishmonger happened because I worked as a fishmonger for a year after I graduated from art school. I spent a lot of time in the cutting room processing fish and developed a fascination with the organs that were generally disposed of. I was using a vacuum sealer for the processing of fish, and I started experimenting with composition using the disembodied fish parts. The series emerged quite naturally from there.

The Cutting Room 8

The Cutting Room 10

Paul Weiner:
The Fishmonger series strikes me as a critique of the way we treat animals we plan on eating. Was that your intent?

Laure Nolte:
Fishmonger was not intended to be a critique of how animals are treated. For me, it was an exploration of the human condition. These compositions are metaphors for the human body, for the most part a very female body, for example, Petal or Womb. Each of these pieces is a part of myself, my past self, and, inevitably, my future self.

The Cutting Room 12

The Cutting Room 2

Paul Weiner:
Describe your process both conceptually and materially for Ritual #7.

Laure Nolte:
Ritual #7 is a chronological development of drawings over a one hundred day period. It’s based on Rule 7 from the composer John Cage’s list of rules for students and teachers from the Merce Cunningham studio in New York. I decided before I started the series that each work would be the same dimensions to maintain some sort of visual consistency and that I would draw mostly from observation. I use whatever materials I think the drawing needs, for the most part charcoal and ink, but also nail polish, ripped out pages from a book, and blood.

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Paul Weiner:
Did working on Ritual #7 help you learn anything about yourself? It seems like this kind of work would leave a lot of artists trying to psychoanalyze themselves and why they draw what they do.

Laure Nolte:
I began Ritual #7 because I wanted to find out what would happen when I worked without fail everyday. I knew that in doing this, I would be facing myself through my art practice in a way I hadn’t before because my studio practice prior to Ritual #7 was almost bulimic in nature. It was a binge and purge cycle, which actually worked well for me throughout art school, but I also ended up being afraid to work when I felt too vulnerable. I realized that I would be exposing myself in Ritual #7 , weaknesses and all, depending on whatever human thing I was dealing with or going through at the time of the drawing. Ritual #7 is maybe the most honest work I’ve attempted. I’ve learned a lot doing this series, particularly that sometimes it takes drawing through a few layers to get to something poignant. It takes patience to go deep and also knowing what battles I need to push through and let go of.

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Paul Weiner:
Did you ever find yourself wanting to give up on or restart a drawing in your Ritual #7 series?

Laure Nolte:
I have definitely wanted to give up on drawings from Ritual #7. And I have. I have allowed myself to give up on a drawing, maybe three. It was a last resort situation, but a necessary one. For the most part, if I am not satisfied with a drawing, it means I need to try again. But the drawing I am unsatisfied with still has importance in the series. It brought me to where I needed to be. I know when I need to revisit the subject matter, but I give myself some space in between. Redoing drawings has been an important part of Ritual #7 because I can literally see the evolution that has happened by going back to something and pushing it further, understanding it more.

P1010280 copy

Paul Weiner:
Between all of the countries you’ve lived in, where did you feel like artists were most respected?

Laure Nolte:
Since I began pursuing art seriously, at eighteen, I have always been connected to institutions, art schools that have strong communities of artists. These communities thrive on mutual respect and support for one another. I feel grateful for that. I’ve studied in London, Halifax, Montreal, and I’m currently living in Berlin, but I have to say that NSCAD University in Halifax had something really incredible going on with the students and teachers when I studied there. It was magical.

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Paul Weiner:
As an artist who has worked in a variety of mediums, from drawing to sculpture and video, which is your favorite?

Laure Nolte:
For me, like for many artists, each medium has its own reason and purpose. I make an intentional decision depending on whatever themes I am working with. Painting has been a great love of mine for a long time, but we’ve had a tumultuous relationship. Painting destroys me a little bit, but I let it. Stepping up to a canvas is like stepping up to an unforgiving mirror. Painting is what gives me the greatest adrenaline rush and the greatest frustration. I am fascinated with sculpture, especially mould making. There is a specific language to sculpture, as with each medium, but sculpture is very material. I’m obsessed with Louise Bourgeois. Her career is by far one of the most important ones of the 20th Century. She just knew. Sculpture is very exhilarating, mixing strange toxic chemicals, building structures, discovering new ways to use materials, found materials, producing moulds, and spray painting stuff. You have to use your whole body when you are dealing with sculpture. It’s all encompassing. It’s provocative. And you can create anything, anything in the world you want. There are no boundaries. When you figure out how to make it happen, it’s just the best feeling.

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Paul Weiner:
What have been some of the most defining times in your career as an artist?

Laura Nolte:
My defining moments always happen in the studio. The studio is where you are free to roam in and out of the underworld. When I was in art school, I always pushed myself to extremes. I would bring a bottle of red wine and work all night in the studio. I would paint until I had nothing left in me, and go outside for a cigarette, having given up completely. Then I would suddenly realize what I had to do next and go back in with a second wind and make it happen. That’s when the real breakthroughs happen. Showing work can be rewarding, too, after long periods of work. It’s always amazing to see my work installed and well lit. But the studio is where it’s at.


Please view Laure Nolte’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Tutorial on Databending and Glitch Art

Databending and glitch art are intriguing new media art processes that rely on editing the underlying data composing digital images, videos, and sounds to create something new. Conceptually, databending presents opportunities for artists to exploit the imperceivable systems that control the digital world. While glitch art might sound like something only for hackers and the most computer literate people, tools are showing up all over the internet to help everyone make glitch art.

Here’s how it works:

Save an image as an uncompressed file such as .bmp, .raw, or .tiff.

Uncompressed image files contain more detailed data than compressed files such as .jpg extensions. Thus, uncompressed files have more data available to edit than compressed files do, and your image is less likely to completely break when corrupted.

Converting a .jpg to a .bmp, .raw, or .tiff can be done in virtually any image editing software by clicking either “save as” or “export as” and changing the extension of the file. Here, I am using GIMP, which is a free image editing software.

Click “File” and then “export as.”

In the bottom right hand corner of the screen, click “select file type” and scroll down to select “windows BMP image.” Then add a .bmp extension to the file name and click “export.”

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Technique #1: Audacity

Audacity is a music editing program, but its effects can be exploited to corrupt and glitch your image files.

Download Audacity for free at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/.

Open Audacity and click “File” and “New.”

Click “Import” and “Raw Data…”

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 7.52.00 PM

Select your .bmp file.

Set the Encoding to “U-Law” and Byte Order to “Big-endian.”

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Select part of your sound wave, but avoid the very beginning (about .25 seconds) because it contains the header. If you edit the header, your computer won’t be able to read the file anymore.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 8.15.09 PM

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 7.53.00 PM

Click “Effect” and select any effect you want.

Here’s my original image:

denver

Here’s what some of the effects look like:

Echo:

denverecho

Wah-wah:

denverwahwah

Phaser:

denverphaser

Invert:

denverinvert

High Pass Filter:

denverhighpass

Distortion: 

denverdistortion

Click “File” and “Export…”

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 7.53.37 PM

Set the format to “Other uncompressed files” and click “Options…”

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 7.53.57 PM

The header should be “RAW (header-less)” and encoding should be “U-Law.”

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 7.54.16 PM

Save your file and open it up to see your new artwork! If you have any trouble opening the new file, try changing the extension from .raw to .jpg

You can also listen to the sound your image has rendered. Most likely, it will sound kind of like this:


Technique #2: TextEdit (Mac) or Notepad (Windows).

Open the file.

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Scroll down at least 1/10 of the way into the file. You should see a bunch of data jargon. The first part of your file is the header. If you edit the header, it will break the entire image.

new5

Now try adding symbols like %, $, {, }, etc. all over the file or copy/paste large parts of the data and move them to new places or delete information all over the file.

 new6

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Save the file and open it to see what you’ve created!

Here’s the original image:

tutorialorig copy

Here’s the glitched image:

tutorial


Technique #3: Glitch Art Codes

The easiest way to make your own glitch art is probably to use Georg Fischer’s free glitch editor website, which is available at http://snorpey.github.io/jpg-glitch/. The application is pretty self-explanatory. Basically, there are four levels on which you can adjust your glitch. This process is more intuitive, and you can play around with the sliders until you find an image that you like.

denver-glitched-a96-s9-i26-q61


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Michael Becker’s Positive Outlook on Life Shines through Abstract Paintings

Michael Becker is an emerging artist in Los Angeles who works with textured abstract paintings to reflect an optimistic view on life. Becker has previously worked in the energy efficiency industry, and his current work deals with environmental themes. He is also the publisher of 1421Art, an organization attempting to make a positive impact through art. More of Becker’s work will be on view during his upcoming group exhibition, ONE THIRD WHITE, which will be on display at Artspace Warehouse in Los Angeles from March 15th through April 25th.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us a bit about where your art comes from.

Michael Becker:
My inspiration is derived from the balance of our natural environment, as well the impact of human intervention. I enjoy acrylic and the use of texture, as it helps me create what I see as a natural ebb and flow of geological as well as biological construction and destruction. I want to drive positive discussion across all topics of humanity’s concern, raise public accountability, and affect real change in real time.

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Paul Weiner:
How did your 1421Art project come about, and what are your goals with this organization?

Michael Becker:
1421Art was formed to service humanity through the arts. I believe in the power of personal positive choices and how these decisions have a rippling effect for the benefit of our species. As such, all of my content is aimed at driving global discussion in all arenas where human beings and our natural environment are of concern. Our ultimate goal is to establish and self fund the FWPM Global Arts and Eduction Foundation where we will provide grants to deserving individuals around the globe. Our focus is in identifying, preventing, and healing the challenges people face daily and providing them with the tools to keep their lives positive.

Paul Weiner:
How do you see your art as an agent for change?

Michael Becker:
I create art out of my need to live freely within my own skin. Within this magical place, I find a world that makes moral sense. Hopefully, my paintings give birth to discussion and reminder to daily actions that a positive choice is a good thing.

Paul Weiner:
When did you find your interest in creating art?

Michael Becker:
I’ve always taken to various creative outlets to express my emotions as well connection to nature’s balance. From an early age, I started to realize the joys of depth to be discovered within a still life. Especially so, within the background of paintings I found myself innately drawn. My interest was cemented upon learning with each new painting that I could naturally push myself further in technical development as well as keep true to the spontaneity I require when working.

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Paul Weiner:
How did the environment come about as an inspiration for your work?

Michael Becker:
From as early as I can remember, I have been an explorer of the outdoors. I have always found solace when absorbed by nature. It was only natural to utilize my canvas as an extension of nature’s gifts.

Paul Weiner:
Describe the process you use to find a subject and begin a painting.

Michael Becker:
My subject and resultant process are similarly one. Every painting is motivated by spontaneity of a moment captured in my memory. I then translate my recall of that picture through the use of non-traditional tools and textural painting techniques to recreate depth.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you experiment with any special materials, mediums, or techniques to develop textures?

Michael Becker:
I begin each painting with loose canvas and stretcher bars. Within the wrapping process, I become familiar with the weave of each piece of canvas. You could say an intimacy between artist, catalyst moment, and pending output begins at this moment. To create textures, I utilize bamboo sticks, various sizes of wood blocks, straight edges, my hands, thinning and thickening, and drying times throughout the depth creation process. Primarily, I stick with acrylic and occasionally will incorporate terra firma and lots of water. I also work over my canvas and often manipulate the surface when required for a desired effect.

Paul Weiner:
Who are your favorite artists, whether contemporary or historical?

Michael Becker:
Jackson Pollock and Gerhard Richter are two of my favorites.

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Paul Weiner: Tell us a little about your upcoming show.

Michael Becker:
Hosted by Artspace Warehouse in LA, the ONE THIRD WHITE exhibition is composed of primarily black and white artworks that explore the multifaceted dimensions found in each of us.


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Imaginary Creatures by Tony Papesh

Tony Papesh is a painter, illustrator, animator, and director working in San Francisco, California. Papesh’s paintings, which have been seen at the Honey Hive Gallery, are extremely playful, as he renders all kinds of odd creatures from his imagination. Papesh is an accomplished creative in a variety of fields. His animation work has been commissioned by clients such as Google, Youtube, and McAfee Antivirus. Take a look at his website to see his entire portfolio.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you come up with the creatures in your paintings?

Tony Papesh:
I usually pull inspiration from many places, anywhere from old cartoons and video games to heavy metal music and muppets. I just try to make silly and weird creatures that are fun to look at.

Paul Weiner:
Do you have a favorite creature you have painted over the years?

Tony Papesh:
With all the creatures I paint, I tend to make up each one as I paint. I suppose I have painted many similar ones over the years but never took the time to give them names or develop them. In general, I like drawing big, furry, stupid looking creatures. They just seem more fun!

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Paul Weiner:
What materials do you prefer to work with?

Tony Papesh:
Currently, I have been working with a lot of gouache and colored pencil on wood. I do a lot of layering with paints and colored pencil, and the wood seems to take all of the abuse I throw at it. Paper usually curls or wrinkles while traditional canvas feels too fragile.

Paul Weiner:
How do you feel about the rise of conceptual artists on the scene right now? Have you ever found yourself interested or repulsed by theoretical art?

Tony Papesh:
If an artist’s work is worth looking at, it should be seen. I suppose that is just a generic way of saying that I am not quite sure what you are referring to as I am not too hip to the scene at the moment.

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Paul Weiner:
Does the commercial work ever affect your personal art aesthetically?

Tony Papesh:
I would have to say no. The difference between what I do as a commercial artist and my personal work is the difference between night and day. During the day, I am mimicking someone else’s art. I am moving someone else’s text or creating someone else’s ideas. It is a great way to make a living, and you work on some fun projects, but, at the end of the day, nothing excites me more than filling a canvas with my own scribbles, paint, and bad ideas.

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Paul Weiner:
As someone who has worked in multiple creative fields, from animation to fine art, what are some tips for artists who are just getting started?

Tony Papesh:
I have always tried to keep my work and personal art separate. The biggest difference between the two is that when you are working for other people, you are essentially creating their ideas. They have the idea but need someone to make it. When it comes to your own art, you are free to make whatever you want. Don’t get caught up in pleasing an audience. Just please yourself.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you start a new work of art? How does your process vary between fine art and animation or design?

Tony Papesh:
I usually begin with a vague idea in mind. I will have a short phrase, an emotion, or something that I say over and over while painting. It kind of makes me sound like I am some sort of psycho to be repeating the same thing to myself while painting, but, usually, it is just the canvas, myself, and whole lot of time. I tend to get lost in my own head, and before I know it I am wrapping up a painting.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you get involved with making art in a professional way?

Tony Papesh:
I was always drawing, even when I was a little squirt in Illinois. I never really thought too much about doing anything else as a career because I was too focused on art. I always was drawing and painting, but, I guess, I became a professional when someone wanted to start paying me to do it.

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Paul Weiner:
You mentioned growing up in Illinois. How did you end up in San Francisco?

Tony Papesh:
In Illinois, I was always told that if I wanted to be an artist, I would need to move to California or New York. Now, that isn’t entirely true. You can be an artist anywhere, but I kept telling that to myself as I looked for art schools in California. I ended up in San Francisco for a few reasons, but the most appealing to a poor college student was that you could survive without a car.


Please view Tony Papesh’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Axiological Discourse on Material and Textual Metanarratives: Gabriel Weinstock

Gabriel Weinstock is an emerging installation artist working in Brooklyn, New York. He is a recent graduate of Bennington College, where he acquired a Bachelor’s degree while studying sculpture. Weinstock’s recent works focus on the shared personal experiences of viewer and artist, exploiting the various cultural metanarratives that define the meaning behind recognizable materials. His artwork is also available for view on his website.

image (6)


Paul Weiner:
When do aesthetic concerns come into play in your work?

Gabriel Weinstock:
In both my text and installation work I think a lot about order and organization, form and function. I think about aesthetics in terms of specificity and idiosyncrasy. I do not like work with aspects that feel arbitrary or that only serve some utilitarian purpose. There should be a reason for everything that is used and exists within a work. It is that specificity that makes a work of art cohesive; it is what makes a work a definitive statement. The viewer should have to confront and engage with the ideas that the work proposes. Specificity is what makes a work of art believable.

I like to make stuff, so I end up spending a lot of time on the various components present in my installations. Making helps give the work clarity, both physically and emotionally. Each aspect is distinct, even the forms that are repeated (like in Convex; undertow and Concave; undercurrent). I think that being able to see my hand in the work helps the viewer trust it. I like to use a lot of materials that feel nostalgic or familiar, like faux fur and how it seems to hint at a childlike fascination with other living creatures, textures, and stuffed animals. When these materials are used to create obscure objects rather than recognized forms, it forces the viewer to become idiosyncratically involved with it. These objects of concurrent natures force the viewer to search for its familiarity through referencing and remembering their own life experiences.

In my text work, my aesthetic concerns have everything to do with establishing their plausibility as documents. They are somewhat contradictory in nature: is it the documentation of raw information presented as art or is it art that is presented as a document? I have done a lot of research on cataloguing systems and antiquated record keeping methods, and this has become the basis of how a lot of the information is presented. How the words and numbers are formatted and the punctuation is used helps build connections and produce narratives. Because so much of the information is so personal, I think a lot about the material the text is on, or the location that it exists in to indicate that a narrative does exist and that the information is not random. This helps the viewer bring the work into their own experience.

People have called my work minimalist, and I am not averse to the comparison. A lot of my installation work is gestural, with parts pulling towards and away from one another, creating lines that divide and redefine space. And the conceptual ideas that drive my work often result in comprehensible lists. I think that this “minimalism” allows for my space and concepts to collide and coexist with the viewers.

image (4)

Paul Weiner:
To what extent do you find physical materials thought provoking? For instance, how did you decide on using steel and paper in From First, To The Last?

Gabriel Weinstock:
I think a lot about the materials that I use. All materials have value, so whatever is being used must be considered and assessed. Nothing can be secondary because the viewer will have some kind of reaction, whether they know it or not. I spend a lot of time trying different things out, seeing if they convey the idea that I am after. I think that a lot of art is self-defined, so, if something exists within the work that is not a part of the definition, it can muddle the whole thing. Our understanding of materials is multifarious. We see and understand their physicality: weight, color, durability, etc, but we also experience them through our cultural experiences: age/history, cost, location, etc.

The choice to use both steel and paper in From First, To The Last  was a product of this thought process. The paper came first. I had no intention of making the steel plates. I thought the paper would be the work. But when I had finished, it became clear that something was missing. Although the paper was acting the way I had wanted, it did not quite express the weight of the experience the work was about. The steel entered the work to express an idea that was very much so about its physicality. But together they express the conceptual notions of the work. The paper has a history; it was taken from my childhood home. My father had accidentally ordered the wrong paper for his office and it had been sitting around the house since before I was born. I found the steel. It was incredibly rusted, and I spent hours cleaning and then stamping it. Although these may be parts of the work that only I know about, I think they become a part of the viewer’s experience. On a surface level, the materials contradict one another, but when the work is further investigated they begin to work together, creating a narrative. The paper speaks to some archival process while the steel conveys the weight of time and its longevity.

 

image (7)

Paul Weiner:
What is the ideal forum for viewing your work?

Gabriel Weinstock:
I am interested in art that fills spaces. That is why I often think of curators as artists too. Curators are not just facilitators. They are artists that specialize in the art of collection. I try and work collaboratively with my friends who are interested in curatorial practice as much as possible. They see things that maybe I don’t, especially when it comes to group shows. An exciting aspect of working with curators is that the conversations often result in the consideration of non-traditional spaces and environments for the work.

Most, if not all, of my installation work is site specific, so it is helpful to work with someone who is able to push me to think about unfamiliar and, often, challenging spaces. In this sense, I try not to think in terms of ideal forums because every piece is different. Granted, while I am working, I place the work in a metaphysical space to help me make decisions about it.

image (3)

Paul Weiner:
Conceptual installation art often presents a challenge in that the viewers must comprehend the visual language an artist presents, thus placing a heavy onus on context. This can be further complicated by the inclusion of text. Do you think the universal themes of your work would be as powerful on display in an international exhibition in a country that does not speak English as a first language?

Gabriel Weinstock:
My interest in memory, at least consciously, came about while reading a translated version of Don Quixote. Since then, a lot of my work, or ideas for my work, were inspired by literary works. What is interesting about Don Quixote is that the entire form of the story is based on the recounting and translation of the story about the man known as Don Quixote. The reader is constantly evaluating the information given to him, questioning its authenticity and reliability. This relationship creates a character out of the reader. I strive for my work to create a similar relationship with the viewer. Translating texts really is an art form. It is the task of taking the idea and the sentiment that exists in one language and putting it into another truthfully.

Conceptual work is often experienced through multiple layers of narrative. Despite this, the initial idea originated at the artist, who is unavoidably a product of a specific culture. This subjects the work to being a part of that culture. This does not have to problematic. Although my ideas are reflections on the world I grew up and currently live in, the work I create is an attempt to bring attention to the commonalities among disparate experiences. The information I present is an effort to create characters out of the viewers. Dates and places are universally understood, and I think that these are able to be translated. I display dates and locations in a way that is intentionally under-mediated. I don’t want the viewer to (and I am not so sure they could) figure out what my narrative is. It is through their attempt to figure out the story that it becomes their own. Fragments from my own idiosyncratic experience are also someone else’s. This is what I am interested in.

I do think if I was to exhibit work internationally, I would be very conscious of content. I would either exclude English words, relying primarily on locations and dates or I would collaborate with a translator. I think that would be a lot of fun, creating a text work that was consciously and cohesively in two languages.

image (2)

Paul Weiner:
Many of your works seem to revolve around the concept of time. How did you settle on time as a theme?

Gabriel Weinstock:
I’m not sure if I ever “settled” on time. I have been intrigued by the notion of time for as long as I can remember. Installation art helped me realize and understand why it was important to me. Before installation, I had had a hard time articulating what it was about time that I wanted to represent, and I lacked the visual language to explore it with. It wasn’t until I created an installation in 2010 entitled Technology is Fragile that I began to develop an idea of how I could continue to explore time as a theme and concept. I think that my awareness of time, specifically in regards to family and genealogy, is a product of being adopted at birth. My adoption has never been a point of contention, but it has made me hyperaware and curious about one’s history and the importance of family both legally and psychologically. I think that my experience and my history is what has driven and influenced a lot of the ideas in my work. I have explored adoption explicitly in From First, to the Last and implicitly through the use of the archive and materials I choose to use.

What I like about time is that everyone experiences it. It exists for us both idiosyncratically and culturally. It allows us to have a basic understanding and connection with one another. Time’s universality presents a near infinite number of possibilities for its exploration and representation in artworks.

Time and art cannot be separated. It is present when we talk about specific art movements and is transient when we talk about the contemporary. I think time’s dualities and contradictions are part of what makes it so interesting. I feel them in my life and in my history; creating work helps me better understand these complex and confusing ideas and feelings.

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Convex; undertow.

Paul Weiner:
What was the process for creating Convex; undertow, both conceptually and physically?

Gabriel Weinstock:
The conceptual and physical aspects of my work tend to manifest simultaneously; they rely on one another and are continually in conversation. Completing a work does not mean that I fully understand its meaning. The conceptual ideas of the work shift and take on specific meaning as its physical aspects are evaluated and adjusted.

When I begin an installation, I tend to have an idea of the materials and pieces I want to include. I do multiple preliminary drawings, which helps me figure out what I need to make. This is how the conceptual notions of the work start to find specificity. My drawings help produce questions and find answers. For instance, how many faux fur medicine balls should I use in the installation? Why that many? Does that number represent something? Convex; undertow was somewhat of an anomaly because I knew the exact space I was going to be using ahead of time. This did not cause me to prematurely conceptualize the visual aspects or arrangement of the work. Instead, it allowed me think about how I wanted the space to feel and be interacted with so, when I was finally installing the work, I felt secure in what I was after. That guided the installation process.

I make the varying physical aspects of the work before installing anything, such as the faux fur medicine balls or casting concrete. When the objects are complete, I begin installation. The drawings become less relevant during this stage because the space is what dictates the installation. I usually bring everything that I would like to use into the space and quickly sketch out some possible arrangements. These drawings help me place some of the bigger or heavier parts, like the steel plates in Convex; undertow and the concrete block. From there, I start trying different arrangements out by connecting chains, figuring out where the balls fit in, etc. I am looking for the arrangement that feels the most cohesive and is true to the feelings and questions I want the installation to evoke. As I go through this process, the conceptual notions become more defined. I start to better understand what I want the work to say through the decisions that go into the arrangement of its parts. This is what led to the medicine ball on the floor, the broken chain links littering the floor, and the concrete block being labeled with its weight. These aspects were not planned. They were added as the installation progressed. These details helped define the work and the space that it exists within in.

When the installation is complete, I tend to reflect on the ideas that I think are a part of it and what is allowing them to be communicated. I often, if not always, discover that there are ideas present in the work that I hadn’t been able to articulate at its start. These ideas are what lead into the next work. In the case of Convex; undertow, it was Concave; undercurrent.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you ever have trouble finding a location for installation work? Do you create your installations in a studio or on-site?

Gabriel Weinstock:
Finding places where I would like to install work is never difficult. I see them everyday, but getting permission to use them is a struggle. At the moment, I am trying to focus my energy on proposals for a few different spaces. All of my installations are created on-site and my studio isn’t the most ideal space for working on them. I am always working on smaller pieces that I would like incorporate into installations, but, without a space or a deadline, its hard for those ideas to become fully realized.

When one is an undergraduate, they are constantly given project deadlines, which results in the production of  a lot of work in a short period of time. When school is over, it seems like that is how work is suppose to get made. It is a challenge to get out of that mindset. Currently, I am trying to work consistently and consciously without letting myself stress out about how much is getting done.

Recently, I have been working collaboratively on a couple different projects. Creating work with, and not just around, other people is new to me, and I am really excited about it. It has been hugely helpful in a few different ways. It’s resulted in ideas and concepts that I would not have  come up with on my own, and the collaboration keeps everyone focused. The additional input has increased the list of potential spaces and has helped me stay optimistic, determined, and confident about acquiring one to show new work in.


Please view Gabriel Weinstock’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Meet the Young Faces of Contemporary Painting

Undergraduate painting students at Syracuse University’s Department of Art are proving the lasting power of painting in the 21st Century.

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Mary Luke’s Painting

Samantha Glevick's artwork

Samantha Glevick’s artwork

Maritza Feliciano's Paintings

Maritza Feliciano’s Paintings

An exhibition of recent work by students in the undergraduate painting major at Syracuse University is on display in the school’s Shaffer Art Building from March 2 – March 15, and the depth of talent is startling.

Jenna Race’s expansive chicken tryptic overwhelms viewers as they enter the senior show, evoking thoughts about meat factories and the way animals are processed and treated for human consumption. This tryptic, about twelve feet in length, possesses hauntingly accurate forms of repeated and disemboweled chickens rendered in oil paint and encased in hints of skin-like latex. A few feet away are Mary Luke’s expressionist portraits, which exist somewhere between Jenny Saville’s figurative prowess and Cy Twombly’s expressive force. They are followed by Talia Haviv’s paintings of nude men in suggestive poses, Julia Grosso’s bodily collages, Samantha Glevick’s works that question the meaning of home and identity, and Maritza Feliciano’s colorful depictions of nude women. Juniors, sophomores, and freshmen are displaying their work on the fourth floor of the same building, featuring a wide variety of abstract and representational painting talent.

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The Wall at Syracuse University

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Syracuse University Painting Program Undergraduate Juniors

Kevin Larmon, a Syracuse University professor and painting department coordinator whose work is featured in prominent art collections such as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, is proud of his blossoming students. He claims that “this is the most exciting group of undergrads I’ve had in years.”

Despite the anemic economy and heavy college loan burdens, these students have followed their passion for painting. As a result, their work transcends the pastiche, market-driven repertoire dominating the safe establishment art scene. Led by lauded artists and professors Sharon Gold, Andrew Havenhand, Kevin Larmon, and Jerome Witkin, the undergraduate painting majors at Syracuse University are spearheading the return of stimulating, eccentric painting in the 21st century. From criticism of the average American diet to commentaries on internet politics and the use of paint in a contemporary fashion, there’s no denying that these paintings are energetically, dangerously, forcefully fresh, emphasizing the potential for the next generation of painters to reinvigorate the legacy of American painting.

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Julia Grosso’s painting

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Junior Victoria Carrigan’s Paintings

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Freshman Hannah Moore’s painting

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Junior Painting

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Lilly Thomann’s artwork

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Jac Saorsa’s Exploration of Illness through Painting

Jac Saorsa is an artist from the United Kingdom, currently based out of Cardiff. She holds a PhD from the University of Loughborough, a MPhil in Philosophical Aesthetics from Glasgow University, Scotland, and studied drawing and sculpture at the New York Academy of Art. Saorsa has worked and taught all over the world. Her recent work focuses on representations of cancer in the 2D picture plane. Saorsa’s work can be found online.

 Derma


Paul Weiner:
How do you begin a new painting? Describe your conceptual and physical processes.

Jac Saorsa:
Drawing and painting are, for me, so intimately related that a significant part of my process is about finding a way in which the two disciplines can coexist on an equal basis in the same piece. I have an innate need to draw – it has always been there. For me, to draw is a passion, and the practice of drawing creates a fundamental relation between my hand and my eye that is engendered in a parallel relation between sight and insight. I trained in the craft of drawing so that I could have even a chance of realising what intuition and passion dictate.

The process that is my practice in terms of painting is long and often plagued by a struggle between deliberacy and intuitive elation. This struggle is necessary although sometimes it can be as destructive as it is constructive. My innate need to draw fought struggles to find a balance with the sometimes overwhelming passion that is inherent in the way I strive to use paint. My relationship with my work is a negotiation that is perpetuated by a succession of fragile compromises. I would describe the process as a complication between the craft itself and the subject matter, the latter being fundamentally a visual study of human subjectivity. I work towards compatibility between drawing and painting, which is often realised by my literally drawing into the paint using the wrong end of the brush. It is in the details that understanding and meaning breathe and survive.

Head 3

Head 1

Woman's head

Paul Weiner:
Could you explain the concept behind your “Drawing Women’s Cancer” series? How has this series affected you as an artist?

Jac Saorsa:
I am a visual artist and a writer, and I work with the body as form and with the psyche as content. I have a passion for exploring the complexities of existential subjectivity, most especially with what I see as the inescapable conflict between robustness and frailty in terms of our engagement with the perceived reality of our world. In my work, I focus on how my own lived experience is both influenced and sometimes reflected by that of the ‘other’ and I understand my practice as a whole as a kind of creative multilingualism, a process, a perpetual dialogue that derives from an interpenetrative symbiosis between visual and conventional language and which reflects a far more fundamental narrative, the subtext that underwrites our existence both as individuals and in relation to the ‘other’. Despite my interest in the experience of the ‘other’ my work up until Drawing Women’s Cancer has most often been from a detached perspective, and as much as I liked to think I was engaging with humanity, I was, as an artist, isolated in terms of my own making. This changed however, and I felt – still feel – quite vulnerable having had to move out of the protective shadows of my private practice.

The project came about through a discussion with my co-researcher, gynaecological surgeon Dr. Amanda Tristram. She asked me if I could draw how it ‘feels’ to have cancer. I thought I could. The work is fundamentally premised in a conceptual and methodological extension, through visual practice, of narrative medicine, narrative itself, as according to its professed founder Rita Charon, being a powerful “magnet and a bridge, attracting and uniting diverse fields of learning.” The focus of the work is based on what I understand as the profoundly inclusive nature of narrative, wherein writing and imagery can be understood as equal in terms of their capacity for generating dialogue, in this case between creative practice and scientific intervention.

My involvement as an artist is perhaps superseded by my involvement in the project as a human being. I engage with the ‘other’s’ lived experience of illness through having long and often very revealing conversations with women who are suffering gynaecological cancer. These conversations take me to a particular part of our world that Sontag describes as the “kingdom of the sick” and the women citizens of this kingdom welcome me as a kindred soul even though they know that I live, without pain, in the “kingdom of the well.” They understand that actually we all hold ‘dual citizenship’, and through listening to and immersing myself in their stories, I share sharing their certain, yet often unacknowledged sense that divisibility between objectivity and subjectivity is impossible in terms of experience. Their spoken stories then are the driving force of Drawing Women’s Cancer, but at the same time as dialogue dictates my creative process there is a meta-language that the process itself evokes that goes beyond the parameters of individual experience. This is where the work itself becomes far more autonomous than other work I have done. It engenders the meta-language that comes alive through the viewer’s subjective experience of the drawings and the continuing dialogue that this experience provokes.

Diagnosis

Dying Child (detail)

Paul Weiner:
Would you consider philosophy to be an imperative course of study for contemporary artists?

Jac Saorsa:
Philosophy for me has never really been manifest in a particular course of study, it has rather been something that I have lived, and created my art through, even though I may not have been aware of it at the time. Very early on – its not important to remember when any more! –  I read somewhere that Existentialism was not so much a school of thought but more a way of being. That felt so natural to me. I read more and more – mainly continental philosophy – and I did indeed go to university and gain academic qualifications, but it didn’t really feel like study, rather a continuous dialogue I was having with all these writers. My conversation with Gilles Deleuze has been the most prolonged. His ‘manner’, a tempestuous honesty, characterises his chaotic reasoning that persists like Ariadne’s thread through plethora of references that continuously lead off along innumerable tangents, and the way he uses, and clearly loves, literature…all of these things keep me in dialogue with him. He says however – and I agree on the whole – that philosophy is not about communication, or contemplation, or reflection, and indeed these could be conceived as passive. It is rather about the active forming, inventing and fabrication of concepts. He distinguishes philosophical concepts from general ideas, from scientific prospects and from artistic percepts and affects, and this is all well and good but for me, such forming and inventing of concepts remains, in essence, aesthetic process. My practice crosses boundaries between art and medical science and neither takes precedence over the other in terms of the work that ensues from the diverse relations I find between them. Diversity I think is the true basis for my constantly ‘wondering’ approach to the relation between thought, feeling and action that engenders the creative process, and this is inevitably unending, multifaceted and definitely non-linear. Where the open-endedness of process and the constant dialogue between idea and execution is addictive, I have suffered (?) such addiction since birth. A questioning that may or may not be philosophical, yet is certainly derived from philosophical thinking, as it is generally understood, is certainly then a personal imperative that pervades my practice as a whole.

So, and to answer the original question! – imperative is a strong word. But from a personal perspective, where philosophical study has clearly been a crucial aspect of what I do as a contemporary artist, in its sense of urgency and vitalism, imperative may well be the right word. Whether I would consider philosophical study to be imperative for others however is a different issue. I must hesitate. There can be nothing dictatorial in art so I will restrict myself to saying only that, in my view, an intuitive and productive awareness of philosophical thinking, if not imperative, is certainly something that can challenge any ‘shallowness’ in contemporary art practice and is therefore very important. Such awareness is undoubtedly enhanced by academic study, but it is not necessarily tied to it.

Amputee (after Muybridge)

Abjection

Has he eaten

Paul Weiner:
Does working as a teacher impact your own work? To what extent are you teaching the students or are they teaching you?

Jac Saorsa:
It may be a cliché, but the idea that ‘teaching is learning twice’ does resonate with me. I would like to think that I never stop learning, in all aspects of my life, and it is therefore with a sense of exploration that I approach things. Teaching is a ‘living’, organic process for me. Working with students is rewarding in its own right and it also helps to maintain the constant questioning attitude that pushes on my own practice, even while I am helping them with theirs. So yes, I do feel that teaching can be a reciprocal process.

Teaching art is clearly not only about skills and technique, it is far more encompassing of the way we all engage with the world as a whole than that, but sadly, in my experience of teaching in Higher Education in the UK, the emphasis has become less about education of any description, and more about making money and status at the expense of the students’ quality of experience. Skill and craft seem definitely to have become ‘dirty words’ (drawing for example, surely fundamental skill, has little importance in many fine art curricula) leaving students bereft, with albeit plenty of ideas, but lacking in the ability to actually execute them. Teaching is often reduced to setting projects that are undertaken with minimal tutor contact and this situation has, I think, a lot to do with the significant rise in uptake of places at private institutions by students who are dissatisfied with what they are offered at university art schools and more concerned with gaining the skills necessary to express their true potential, rather than simply obtaining a degree certificate. 


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