Critique Collective

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

Tag: art interview

Olivia Boi’s Intuitive Abstract Paintings

Olivia Boi is an artist whose work hinges on the emotional abstraction of the human form. Boi has exhibited in The Last Brucennial and multiple exhibitions in Sideshow Gallery as well as a wide variety of local galleries throughout Massachusetts. Having recently graduated with a BFA from Montserrat College of Art in 2013, she participated in the orientation week of the New York Arts Practicum at the same time as fellow Critique Collective interviewee, Corey Dunlap. Boi’s work is also available for view on her website.

Dancing with You 2014

Dancing with You, 60″x108″, acrylic paint on canvas, 2014


Paul Weiner:
Given the rise of new media artists working with all kinds of digital tools, how inclusive does the art world seem for young painters like you right now?

Olivia Boi:
Well, it is challenging for myself and my friends as recent graduates of art school. Mostly, I believe it is important to be consistent with the motivation in your process as a painter. You have to continually put yourself in a position to be aware of what is going on around you in the art world. It is crucial to share your work with the public and talk about it with as many people as possible. That being said, I strongly feel that there is an urgency for painting in the art world today, and artists will respond to that. The success of the artist is based on the artist’s needs and goals, whether they are new media artists or painters, and it is always a struggle.

In the Bathtub 2013crop

In the Bathtub, 42″x42″, acrylic paint on canvas, 2013

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little bit about how you begin a new work of art both conceptually and physically.

Olivia Boi:
I start a new work when I feel compelled to relay something I have experienced or seen into a more permanent state. It all starts out pretty overwhelming, but it is a familiar chaos that is my starting point. I get this feeling, and I don’t want to do anything else except to start figuring out this painting, to work. I first ask myself about the scale, and then I usually mix a palette based on my sensations to start at that. I lay out some general lines and movements from which I’d like to build. It is a really intuitive process that is different every time I start or revisit a piece. I work in layers according to color, to work out some internal logic of the painting. Lately, I have been favoring paint heavily, making up most of my practice. I am inspired by the figure and how it can be abstracted and reinterpreted. Currently, I am working on a series of scrolls that are meant to hang all together, and right now I have about 9 of them, each 43” x 84”. Usually, when I am considering a painting, I think of myself physically in my studio. My space is an area where I can leave everything the way it is as I am done working. I am very particular about my work environment in order to set up my work ethic. It needs to feel lived in, to generate a fluid spatial movement that allows a sort of meditative quality to my work. When I paint, I feel like I come in contact with another side of myself that is never brought out otherwise.

The Night of December 25th- 2014

The Night of December 25th, 43″x84″, Charcoal and Oil Stick on Paper, 2014

Paul Weiner:
How did your experience with New York Arts Practicum impact your life as an artist?

Olivia Boi:
After I left the program, I became more grounded both as an individual and an artist, which was, in part, due to my experience attending Practicum. I am very interested in showing my work in New York City, and I have been exhibiting there for the past three years, notably at the Side Show gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Currently, I have a painting in The Last Brucennial, a biennial survey put on by the Bruce High Quality Foundation in Manhattan. I am really proud about that, especially about showing next to legendary artists such as Joan Mitchell. I realized at this point in time in my life, I am happy to work in New York without living there. I would like to get to things on my own time and by doing them my own way.

holding on to the blue 2014

Holding on to Blue, 48″x64″, acrylic paint on canvas, 2013

Paul Weiner:
In your paintings, do you focus primarily on the formal aesthetic concerns of composition or are there more conceptual reasons behind your work?

Olivia Boi:
The main focus in my work is composition through color, line, and form. You could say my work is conceptual in its contingency through my daily life. By that, I mean I investigate my own emotions, intensities, and desires in each piece through a formalist language of paint.

Each painting is made up of constant decision making, meaning I don’t know what it will look like until I have worked through everything. It is a visual conversation I have with the work in my studio.

Standing on My Own 2014

Standing on My Own, 30″x78″, oil stick, acrylic paint, and charcoal on paper, 2014

Paul Weiner:
Do you consider yourself an abstract expressionist or are you using abstraction as a medium for a different kind of thinking than modern masters like De Kooning and Pollock?

Olivia Boi:
I am very inspired by the abstract expressionists. I think that studying their work has created a path for my artistic practice. De Kooning and Pollock are two of my favorites. They used abstraction as a medium, as a language. Obviously, I don’t have the same concerns as they did in the 1950’s in New York, but I admire their unique and intense visual language, and I’m looking to create my own. It has to do with a love of and a need to paint. My current work definitely has a relationship to Abstract Expressionism, and it can be understood through similar formal concerns, but I’m not looking to make my work look like theirs. They are an inspiration among many others.

hearing about everyone elsecrop

Hearing About Everyone Else, 60″x64″, acrylic paint on canvas, 2013

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned that you took part in the last Brucennial. Tell us a little about your experience with that exhibition.

Olivia Boi:
I was invited into the last Brucennial by girlfriend Sara Benson. She attended the Yale Norfolk Art program. She was invited by a friend of hers, and Sara then invited me.

I shipped my painting to New York from Beverly, MA. I didn’t know how many people were going to be in the show, and I had no idea that the work of Joan Mitchell, Cecily Brown, and Louise Bourgeois would be included as well. They are some of my top favorite painters, and to exhibit my work with theirs was a huge honor. I submitted a small, 16 x 20 inches, painting called Separation, which consists of a light green and black palette. I was not able to get down to see it in person, but my father attended and documented the exhibition for me. I feel really lucky and proud to be included in that amazing experience.

Paul Weiner:
As a young artist, what kinds of publications do you read?

Olivia Boi:
I read publications such as Art in America, New American Paintings, Artforum, Sculpture Magazine, and The Brooklyn Rail.

My Parents Marriage 2013crop

My Parents Marriage, 74″x66″, acrylic paint on canvas, 2013

Paul Weiner:
To what extent do you find art education important for contemporary artists, both on the undergraduate and graduate levels?

Olivia Boi:
It is important to have an education about art so you can understand the context your work exists in. There is so much to know. You can go to school and study contemporary art theory and history or you could choose to not go to school and try to educate yourself in the same topics. I think it would be really challenging to learn everything school has to offer on your own. Either way, it is up to your personal motivations because there is so much to learn, even for people who have completed both undergraduate and graduate studies. It is important to educate yourself about everything you can as an artist, which is separate from pursuing a masters of the fine art world. But I think that education in art and studying art history is crucial to a career. It is necessary to know about the people who have practiced this kind of work and theory before you so that your work can be included in the larger conversation. It is important to see other artists’ work
and specifically how they work; it can help shape your own practice. You really have to read and watch everything you can get your hands on, including documentaries and biographies. Education is not an option. It is expected. You need to know what you are talking about to be taken seriously.


Please view Olivia Boi’s work on her website 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.

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. 


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

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Provoking the Patriarchy: Elle Kennedy

Elle Kennedy is a 23 year old artist from the United Kingdom who lives in a state of flux between London, Brighton, and Bath. Having studied design and fashion history at Brighton University, Kennedy’s work deals with the contemporary discourse on fetishization through the lens of a transgender woman.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you begin a new work of art? Take us through your material process.

Elle Kennedy:
My everyday life, the experiences of my friends and family, and the transgender experience internationally are the sources of my inspiration. I usually take a good few weeks to develop an idea for a piece, as I like my final work to have a coherent and strong concept behind it. Most of my ideas come about during bouts of insomnia where I find myself analyzing my life and the lives around me.

When creating pieces which deal with the transgender experience internationally, I take extra care to honor the message about trans women in grim situations, with sensitivity and authenticity. Once I have decided upon my idea, I then decide upon a suitable color palette, which has to compliment the black and white backdrop.I consider the colors of what I am wearing in the image, the colors of additional materials which I may layer onto the piece, and the tone of the photographs which I alter through basic copying and scanning techniques, whether I want a ‘bluey’ moody tone or a bright, flushed tone. I then chuck all my props into my rucksack and use local photo booths to take the pictures. This is an essential aspect of my work.

I’m interested in the ideas of trans women being perceived as violating the heteronormative sphere through using what is essentially such a public, open, generic, and common space to create deeply personal trans-related art that, to me, seems like something of a statement of defiance but also self empowerment. I like the idea that the tiny curtains found in photo booths are shielding me from the criticisms and scrutiny of others whilst I chaotically, and often messily, create my images.

I’m also interested in ideas around on-the-go or fast art, as this fits my lifestyle and mindset. Photo booths facilitate this. Once I have created my images, over a few days, I reproduce the images, often altering them, savagely gluing, layering the images over one another, and changing the order of the images to suit my concept. I use thick, cheap tyre markers, permanent pens, and sometimes paint to complete my aesthetic. I consciously use almost ran-out and old tools to communicate austerity and thrift. I hastily scrawl the slogans and messages onto my work in a way which suggests the pieces are worthless scraps and disposable. I consider this to be branding or labeling my work. The titles of my work are consciously confusing, literal banal, or tacky much like the titles of a porn film, a b movie, or a gaudy flop pop song.

I like to think that my work would look suitable in a gallery, a bin, or a telephone box like a prostitute’s calling card, as if my pieces are cheap pieces of trash easily disposed of. This very much relates to the perception of women, including trans women, being disposable objects to be visually enjoyed then forgotten, disposed of, or even killed. Hence, the last square on my pieces is often black or cut out to symbolize this.

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Paul Weiner:
Have you found it hard to find your place in the art world given your position as a transgender woman?

Elle Kennedy:
I’ve been making art for years, but it’s only recently that I’ve felt confident enough to go public, share, and expose it for opinion criticism and hopefully success. The reason why I’ve taken so long to share my art is some of the pieces intimate nature. Transitioning is an incredibly public ordeal, be it coming out to friends and family, taking those initial baby steps, dabbling with one’s style, voice, etc. whilst facing ridicule, scrutiny, criticism, and possibly violence. I really struggled with the public nature of transition and therefore enjoyed being able to keep my art private, to myself and a few very close friends.

My art is something of a diary. I only feel confident enough now to share that diary with the world. My art directly addresses the public nature of transition – the voyeurism of the critical stranger in the street, the fantasies of the “trannychaser” – a heterosexual male who fetishizes trans women. But, mostly, my pieces help me articulate within my own mind the realities of my identity. I suppose the art world has always been a refuge for those who may be classed as the “other” within society. Despite being a regular gal in most ways, I’m constantly made aware of my “other” status, and I communicate this status within my work. Jean Michel Basquiat, my biggest influence and favorite artist addressed his “other” status within his work. His dignified yet confrontational methods of doing this have been a huge influence upon me.

My work addresses a broad range of topics such as the socioeconomic positioning of women within society and questions about the contemporary female experience. I would hope that this quality of my work resonates with all women, transgender or not.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us about your interests conceptually.

Elle Kennedy:
I’m very much interested in the ideas of the public sphere, the private sphere, and the blurring of the two. Social networking has enabled this blurring of the two spheres. I’m fascinated by how much people are willing to share about themselves. I personally share very little of myself though social networking, but I choose to metaphorically whore myself out through my art to tell stories of the modern female experience.

Since first stumbling across them as a child, the calling cards of sex workers have fascinated me. Who are these women and men hiding behind false names, dated photos, and cheeky slogans enticing punters? The poses, slogans, and fake name I use in some of my pieces reference the calling cards and the lives lived by these people. I refer to death in many of my pieces to communicate the fate that many sex workers face. The murder rate of sex workers is incredibly high, especially that of trans women. The voyeurism faced by sex workers, assisted by calling cards, may ultimately lead to their death.

I like my works to appear shallow, sordid, and vein, as this is what sex worker calling cards may appear to be. Yet, in reality, we are all guilty of such acts through our own social networking habits or our relentless self promotion, be it on a dating websites, within the employment market, entering into education, or indulging in new lingerie to please a lover. Ultimately, we all end up on our knees. It’s just that some of us are more open than others.

In some of my pieces, I explore the shallow and often cruel world of pornography. Again, behind the façade of glamour, lurks something of a dark world which is rarely discussed yet commonly acknowledged as existing. Through over-the-top depictions of hyper-femininity, my work seeks to remind the viewer of the façade. Being a trans woman endures a degree of fetishization. My work plays up to the male gaze, warping the fantasies of “trannychasers” and mocking the fickle nature of male sexual desire.

Paul Weiner:
Would you say that transgender women and women suffer from the effects of the patriarchy in the same ways (e.g. fetishization, masculine gaze, “othering”) as women born with female physical characteristics, or is the effect different or more pronounced? Do you think race, religion, or mental state can play a similar part in terms of being viewed as an “othered” person within the masculine power system?

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Elle Kennedy:
I think it’s blindingly obvious and rather sad that we still live in a society which remains primarily dominated by privileged white men. I don’t feel I have the right to discuss the “other” status of other minority groups; however, it remains super obvious who comes under that status due to race, class orientation, etc. When creating pieces which explore the transgender experience internationally, I’m keen to acknowledge my relative privilege of living within the UK, having had access to an education, and having medical and emotional support around me.

In pieces such as “Athens is Burning,” I’m utilizing my privilege to communicate messages about trans women who may not be able to get their voice heard, yet suffer greatly. In such pieces, the work becomes almost entirely not about myself- I just happen to be using myself as a medium to channel information and messages about such topics without pitying or patronizing such women. I think there is great progress being made whereby minority groups become slightly less “othered” within society. For example, 20 years ago, gay men in particular were very much considered the “other.” Yet, as a group, they have made great strides and have become less defined by their “other” status.

I see this happening for the trans community very, very slowly. Again, I can only really speak from my own experience, but I think the way that trans women are fetishized is very much down to their passing ability – whether or not people know their trans status, their pre or post op surgical status, who knows this, and how they choose to navigate the worlds of dating and sex. Crudely, it would seem that so much of a trans woman’s life is defined by her appearance and what is between her legs. If a trans woman “passes” and attracts the attention of, say, a wolf-whistling builder or attracts the flirtation of a stranger in a busy bar, this is an experience that may be familiar to both trans and biological women, these are examples of the male gaze being actively exercised and acted upon in the public sphere.

If a trans woman does not pass, she may still come under the curious male maze. However, the voyeur may be less inclined to show sexual interest and may become abusive instead. So I would argue that passing trans women are fetishized in the public sphere along with biological women, yet most trans women, including those who do not pass, are fetishized within the private sphere, for example, within the fantasies of “trannychasers,” curious strangers, and within trans pornography. And, of course, when individuals fall in love, one’s surgical status may become irrelevant, not reviled or fetishized.

In my experience, there are endless conundrums faced by trans women when it comes to romance and sex. For example, do I want to be fetishized? Does this stranger know that I am trans? Such questions pose about the inner and outer self alongside ideas around the public and private sphere. Such questions may resonate with biological women. “Does he only like me because I’m blonde? Am I comfortable being fetishized due to being Asian? Will he be comfortable knowing that I am twice divorced?” All women and, of course, men navigate the struggle of how much of oneself should be kept private, who has the right to know one’s history, and what is the appropriate way to navigate social and personal issues in one’s life. By decoding the images that I have created, the viewer is invited to explore my public and private identity whilst considering and questioning their own.

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Paul Weiner:
This idea of bringing about public activism in a heteronormative public sphere is intriguing. Would you ever consider making public performance art?

Elle Kennedy:
I’ve considered moving into performance art and can see how it may end up being something of a natural progression for me artistically. However, I’m focusing on my current format at the moment, which I suppose incorporates elements of performance when creating such works. I would be interested in performance art, which explores voyeurism and pornography within the next few years. I just need to look into ways of financing and facilitating such art.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you think that your work in any way attempts to disrupt the masculine gaze or simply explain its impact?

Elle Kennedy:
I would say that my work seeks to highlight the masculine gaze in the most literal way through the performing of female sexuality that indulges the masculine gaze. However, through the work’s grubby aesthetic and my trans identity, I seek to challenge, warp, and sordidify male fantasies. I’m not demonizing male sexuality or even the masculine gaze. Through my own style, I may subliminally seek to indulge it. However, I use my work to highlight what happens when the voyeurism and sexual desire of a minority of men gets out of control – violence and even murder.

Naturally, sex workers are more likely to encounter this by having few legal protections and coming into contact with all sorts of clientele. By having reoccurring imagery in my work such as messy hair and black eyes, whilst dabbling with sexualized gestures and aesthetics, my work actively confronts the issues faced by sex workers, trans women, women, and those whom may have “other” status. I stare directly at the voyeur, inviting them to question him or herself and invite them to contemplate their own gaze. In a sense, I gaze back at them. In pieces, such as “Real Girls Take It,” I have purposely communicated a non-passive female sexuality, which may disrupt and confuse the male gaze. That piece is probably one of my most complicated, with various meanings. But, despite being rather crude, I like to think that it contains positive messages about women owning and indulging their own sexualities.

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Paul Weiner:
I know academics and artists such as Jacques Lacan, Toril Moi, Hélène Cixous, and Mary Kelly have dealt with similar concepts in the past. Are there any particular philosophers or artists who have impacted your work?

Elle Kennedy:
To be honest, I’m fascinated by pop and what may be considered “trash” culture. Therefore, I find myself looking for logic and inspiration in the lyrics of sickly Britney Spears songs, in the slurred words of Anna Nicole Smith, or in the dialogue of bad teen films. Photographers such as David Lachappelle, who I admire greatly, choose to portray such culture in a kitsch, camp, and over-the-top style. However, I choose to communicate ideas about such a culture by creating a more stripped-back, barren aesthetic.

I have found the writings of Ariel Levey and Lauren Greenfield incredibly eye-opening when it comes to discussion about such topics, and, of course, Naomi Wolf’s writings remain relevant. I literally think every teenager should have to read The Beauty Myth. Some of the performative elements of my work dabble with Judith Butler’s ideas around gender and identity. There seems to be an abundance of confident and creative-minded young trans writers at the moment, notably the likes of Juliana Huxtable and Paris Lees, who I was lucky enough to meet.

It’s great that the contemporary trans experience is being documented in such a wide variety of ways via visual art, academic writing, blogs, film, etc. I greatly admire the way in which artists and photographers of the 1980s and 1990s, such as Keith Haring and Oliviero Toscani, conveyed social awareness messages though bold and distinctive aesthetics. I also find German expressionist painting incredibly beautiful, for example, the work of Kirchner. The repression and persecution that the artists faced now seems unfathomable and tragic, making such works even the more poignant. I particularly admire the way in which Kirchner coherently told stories about his time through his beautiful abstract style.


Please “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective. Elle Kennedy can be contacted directly at torinaughtylondon@outlook.com.

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Ronald Lukas Brings Together Abstraction and Figurative Art

Ronald Lukas is a painter residing in Southern California who holds a BAE from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has pursued an MAE through the University of Chicago. Lukas has held a wide variety of art-related jobs, including his time as a teacher. His artwork is also available online at http://www.ronaldlukas.com.

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Paul Weiner:
How have your experiences as an educator affected your practices as an artist?

Ronald Lukas:
Ever since my elementary school days, I wanted to be an art teacher. Basically, I was into the visual arts at an early age. For me, as a visual artist, teaching art was a line of work that paid my bills and, most importantly, kept me focused on art. The rewards of my earning a degree in art education and teaching art were not only an income but also obtaining a general art, commercial art, and fine art perspective, appreciation, and understanding.

Teaching is an excellent working environment for a practicing artist if he or she can deal with working/teaching in a classroom environment. Teaching art can help elucidate an artist’s path. It did so for me. It nailed down what area in the arts that I wanted to be eventually involved with, and I worked out how to accomplish the goal. I am now, after performing as an art teacher, advertising artist, liturgical artist, photographer, and an art consultant, a full-time painter.

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Paul Weiner:
What are you currently working on?

Ronald Lukas:
I’m a direct painter, paint on canvas. Right now, I’m involved with expanding my painting process with different base paints.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you usually begin a painting? Take us through your process of finding a subject conceptually.

Ronald Lukas:
I let the process of painting do the work. Then at some point I take over. Someone once said, “I’d rather see a bad painting with an idea than a good painting without an idea.” I subscribe to that! All my artwork is subject and composition oriented. It’s the result of my whole life and many different environments. My painting and subject matter are triggered by the moment. It’s very spontaneous, nothing is planned. It becomes planned when I become involved with the exact painting itself.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you have a preference for a certain type of paint or surface?

Ronald Lukas:
Yes. Artist’s oil paint. The colors are rich, alive, and sensual. I’ll combine it with oil-based enamel and sometimes with an artist’s acrylic paint. The ground is stretched gesso cotton or linen canvas.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you balance dueling interests in abstraction and physical form?

Ronald Lukas:
For me, the main difference between abstraction and realism is that realism, since the invention of the camera, is boring to paint. But I will admit that it’s a people pleaser. I’ll also admit that, when I’m in a wussy state of mind, I will occasionally flaunt my technical realistic painting skills to justify my credibility. All my abstract figurative painting starts off with a quick, fairly realistic image, and takes off from there. If I’m working from a human model, the approach is the same.

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Paul Weiner:
Some artists think that figurative painting abilities are prerequisites for working in abstraction. Do you agree with that idea?

Ronald Lukas:
Nope! It’s a false assumption. Abstractionism is about subjective emotions, not objective reality. The old expression way back when was: “If you can draw the human figure, you can draw anything.” Most well-known modern and contemporary abstractionists never had the skill. Today more than ever, realists project a photographic image on their canvas and trace it. Aside from concept, what’s most important is the artist’s ability to master the dry and wet medium. Generally, realists have a problem. They can’t get past it!


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

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Exploring Erotic Photography with Gottfried

Gottfried is a photographer living in Berlin. His artwork spans a large range of work focused on or incorporating the idea of fetishism, and he has been working as an artist for over forty years. His artwork is available for view online.

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Paul Weiner:
When did you start working on art?

Gottfried:
Getting on towards forty years ago, and, in that time, I have conceived and produced works on three continents.

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Paul Weiner:
What subjects do you find most interesting in your art?

Gottfried:
As I have already written in my philosophy, as set out online, “in fact, people, their expressions, and their eyes as windows to their soul, in no matter what circumstances, are much more the meat of my metier.” A lot of my work has involved the erotic and also elements of fetish or, at least, quite a few works carry an innuendo in that direction. It is when a person is in pursuit of his or her fetish, whatever that may be, sexual or otherwise, that one sees the widest range and greatest brilliance of expression. Very often these are expressions, which are reserved for only the most private sphere, are indeed subjectively secret in nature. My style has, as is the case of all artists, developed with the years, but one can still perceive such elements, if one looks closely enough, even in some largely surreal or abstract works, such as ‘Psychedelic Mushrooms’.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you work in digital or film?

Gottfried:
For the most part I have produced works very predominantly in negative and transparency film, but also in oil, crayon, pencil, and mixed media, encompassing various combinations of those materials and techniques. But your question was simple, and the simple answer is film, at least up until very recently, when I partially adopted digital since that has now seemingly become a fairly compelling medium. One has to admit that it greatly simplifies much of the now possible, to use movie terminology, post-production.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you find any inspiration in abstract expressionist painting?

Gottfried:
Yes. I find inspiration in abstract expressionist works or, rather, should I say, I find satisfaction in the production of an abstract expressionist work. In fact, as I remark in my online philosophy, “I value impressionism…because that can add meaning at a more subconscious level. Such added meaning, however, comes with some abstraction; and so the term abstract expressionism was coined.” I realize that your question was specifically directed at paintings, since you asked, “Do you find any inspiration in abstract expressionist painting?” However, to me, although I have produced a couple of such paintings, it is clear that an artwork of this genre can well be other than a painting. Of course, early abstract impressionists such as Mark Tobey who, to a degree, anticipated the all over look of many of Jackson Pollock’s works – very often worked in traditional media, an early example being Tobey’s 1954 “Canticle,” which was produced in casein on paper.

However, traditional media (and casein is, indeed, an ancient medium) exercises, for me, by no means any limitation on the production of abstract impressionist work. I like to think that my “Two Sisters,” for example, is in the vein of mid term artists in that scene, but still an all over style, having a simplified pictorial, color dominated element, although nonetheless it is rather more figurative than many of the works of early artists in that genre. That is, perhaps, simply my interpretation of the average of abstract impressionism.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you find your interest in erotic art?

Gottfried:
I began my photographic career shooting candids at large fairs and exhibitions, and this spun off the occasional newspaper and magazine submissions. Through this, I came to know a quite renowned newspaper photographer of that era. He did a lot of high fashion work, both for a major newspaper and also commercially on his own behalf. He introduced me to fashion work, and I eventually came to have quite a bit of work in that area, shooting for catalogues, magazines, ads, etc. One of the models asked me to take some glamour shots of her for a magazine campaign. Up until then, the usual, frequent enough, visual exposure to that type of work was more the saucy pin-up and the, so to speak, “page 3 girl” type of image, all of which, in my estimation, lacked expression and emotion. In short, they all lacked the “eyes as windows to their soul” element.

I was impressed by many of the nudes of Bill Brandt, but they, again, for me, lacked that direct appeal. Then, it was just at that time that I was attracted by the change in emphasis of the work of Helmut Newton, in which he now pursued overtly sexual themes. His juxtaposition of elements in his photographs was fascinating. These new photos of his were, in a way, tough but polished, aggressive and cold, and often disconcerting. But there was always a balance of eroticism and beauty. The eyes were not the windows to the soul, but the body and the juxtaposition said it all.

So, armed basically with these inspirations, and my own ideas, I took my first steps towards a representation of the erotic world. Fortunately, the product of those first, tentative steps was a success, and I began to receive further requests for such work in relatively quick succession. With that, the basis for expanding and delving further into the erotic and then fetish world had been laid out.

Nonetheless, as with all artists, things change with time. I now tend towards more mundane topics, although, even in a proportion of that work, I cannot resist the temptation, or perhaps it is purely subconscious, to hide erotic or fetish elements within the work.

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Paul Weiner:
With your work in film, do you develop your own photos?

Gottfried:
In the case of black and white, I develop my own film. I find that this is better than working with a lab because I know the circumstances in which the images were shot so I can have a better feel for the development rather than having to shoot so as to align the negative precisely to a lab procedure. By doing it myself, I can tweak the development according to my feel. As for the prints, I make my own b&w prints because, there, I can make many minor adjustments during the exposure and development process, which are simply impractical to have carried out by a lab, or, indeed, largely impossible to convey adequately to the lab operator. However, with color material, where I work almost exclusively with transparency film, I establish a working relationship with a good lab and let the lab process the film. A good lab is able to make quite a sufficient number of variations to the process if these ever should be needed, but I find, generally, that this is needed only infrequently.


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

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Breathtakingly Realistic Urban Reflection Paintings by Erik Nieminen

Erik Nieminen is a painter based in Berlin and Montreal who holds a BFA from the University of Ottawa and MFA from Concordia University. His work focuses largely on human perceptions of reality, particularly within the reflections of urban landscapes. Nieminen’s paintings can also be found online at http://www.eriknieminen.com/.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you find a subject and begin a painting?

Erik Nieminen:
I have always been fascinated by large cities. There is a certain dynamism and excitement to life in the city that I think has fascinated artists, writers, composers, filmmakers, etc. since the dawn of the industrial age. I view the city as a kind of construct, a fabrication that is intended to serve humanity in an organic, natural, fluid kind of way. I mean this in the context of it attending to natural human behaviors and tendencies, not in terms of serving a green environment. The city itself is a vast template for meaning, and it is inescapable that we absorb the meanings and intentions of the various images that we encounter throughout the urban fabric. However it is not these particular meanings that would generate a painting, as I do not intend for my paintings to have an outright describable meaning. The structure of the painting itself will create the meaning through the orchestration of an experience on the canvas.

I take thousands of photographs, documenting my experience of being in an environment. The photographs themselves are merely tools to use on the path to creating the eventual painting. Out of these photos, certain ones will jump out as being useful, but I keep all my photos as, years later, I will sometimes find something in an old photograph that has suddenly become relevant. I will then start to imagine the possibilities in combining these various subjects found in the photographs, and, at a certain point, I have a general idea of what I’m looking for. At this stage, I may begin doing several sketches, usually quite loose but sometimes more detailed, in order to get a firmer sense of the space I will be dealing with. Usually, I will wait at least a couple of months before starting the painting in order to see if what I initially envisioned is still worth doing or if it can be improved upon; it generally can. Then the painting can begin.

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Paul Weiner
You mentioned how the “orchestration of an experience on the canvas” develops meaning. To that extent, do you feel that the experiences of your viewers and audiences determine the meanings behind your paintings?

Erik Nieminen:
To an extent, yes. The viewer will always take something unique from a painting, and, so, I agree that the viewer might determine a meaning for a painting. However, the painting need not rely on this to give it value. Marcel Duchamp once said (I’m paraphrasing) that an artist only has fifty percent of the responsibility, the rest being up to the audience. I do not necessarily agree. The artwork has its own autonomous existence, whether or not the audience places anything on it. The “meaning,” if we can call it that, of the painting is inherent in its structure, in its form, in its very existence. The meaning of the painting is to create a new framework in which to experience what we think we know. To that extent, the meaning lies in the experience of the painting, and, if viewers choose to pull social commentary or political statements out of it, then that is their prerogative.

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Paul Weiner:
Describe your affinity for reflective surfaces. What do these surfaces represent for you?

Erik Nieminen:
The reflective surface is a crucial component to most of my works. It is also one of the most prominent things that one finds in the modern city. Initially, I gravitated towards the depiction of reflection as a means of depicting the disconnect that one experiences in urban environments. I am fascinated by light, and, for me, it is light that defines form and creates space. A reflection is an ephemeral response to light, but, in a sense, it is disconnected from the gravity of our world. If we allow for the possibility that the reflection is a state of “non-gravity” (light itself does have gravity, in terms of general relativity), then the possibilities that arise from it in terms of making art are basically endless. In its sublime materiality, it allows a direct connection to the natural world as the primal state of glass is a liquid, and the reflection as seen through a liquid visually destroys the world we know. Part of my interest is in deconstructing the city and reforming it on my own terms. The glass reflection is a means to this end, as it allows us to see beyond ourselves and to twist and manipulate our vision of what is real, a visual truth, to break the grid of the urban environment.

The reflection and it’s primary material, glass, are elements that allow us to escape the mundane world. If art is to present us with an independent state of reality, something that is based on what we know but creates something that is ultimately unknowable, then a subject as rationally slippery as the reflection is one way to go about it.

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Paul Weiner:
As a realist painter, would you say that your art is more influenced by old masters like Caravaggio (or even Degas) or by more contemporary art movements?

Erik Nieminen:
Actually, my main influence is modernist painting from the early Twentieth Century such as the works of the Futurists and the Cubists. They posed problems for painting that have not yet been resolved, even though it has often been assumed that Art has moved past that. The masters of old are, of course, important, and really should be important to any painter, even those working in the absolutes of abstraction. In terms of more contemporary movements, for a time I was quite influenced by certain elements of the photorealist painters. It was a way for me to escape the modality of working in a somewhat neo-Futurist stylization or method. I found the best way was to do what would seemingly be the opposite, thus photorealism. Within a couple years, however, I started moving further away from the photoreal aesthetic and began defining the spaces of my paintings more on my own terms.

I do not adhere to any particular label, and, thus, I am not a photo- or hyper-real painter, nor am I a realist painter. If anything, I suppose I could be called figurative, but what does that really mean? The lines between figuration and abstraction are blurry, and, for the most part, don’t exist.

Paul Weiner:
How do you like the Berlin art scene?

Erik Nieminen:
The Berlin art scene is very vibrant, but very hard to put into a box, as there is a such a range of art that is always to be seen. A lot of it is quite experimental, as many younger artists come here to try things out because it’s cheaper in Berlin to get started on a project. However, there’s also lots of traditional mediums (painting, sculpture) on show, as well. Between the hundreds of galleries, several museums, or the occasional art fairs, if you want to see art, you always can. Most days of the week, you can find an art opening; however, I don’t go to openings all that often, as the type of socializing that one finds at such events isn’t necessarily something that I enjoy on a regular basis.

In any case, for the moment, I enjoy living in a city where art is always in easy access.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you find yourself interested in painting? Why do you paint rather than create, for instance, photography?

Erik Nieminen:
I’ve always been interested in painting. My father is an artist who focuses primarily on painting, and there are and have been other artists in the family, as well. I have, thus, been surrounded by painting my whole life, so it was only natural that I might be interested in it or, at the very least, see the importance of it.

The wording of the second half of your question is interesting and actually points towards my answer. You asked why I would rather paint than create, for instance, a photograph. The key word here is create, as you “take” a photograph, but you “create” a painting. I am interested in the act of creation. Photographs are interesting in their supposed documentation of reality, although it is debatable whether or not it really does create a document, but it restricts the person using the photographic device due to the structurally mundane nature of a photograph.

A painting has the possibility to take on whatever form it wishes, only limited by the capabilities of the artist. The photograph grounds its reality in that of the one in which we live, as it repeats the answers to the questions we know. Painting does the opposite. The use of photographic sources in painting is not necessarily problematic if the photo is used as a tool to manipulate our definition of veracity and to create a new space through painting. Because photography is so readily accepted as a document of something real, that is what makes it so useful to a painter who can turn the photographic veracity into a painterly de-simulation.

As for other mediums, such as sculpture, perhaps I will turn to that at some point. I have many ideas that might function in three dimensions, but I haven’t dug far enough into it yet to warrant doing it. Film is also interesting, as it’s actually closer to painting than photography is, but it’s not anything I want to focus on.


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

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Personifying Color with Moisés Aragon

Moisés Aragon is a multimedia artist born in the USA who identifies as a Cuban because of his undocumented status and family history. His artwork explores his personal identity as it relates to his Cuban heritage while also personifying colors with the guidance of color theory. His work can be found online at http://threeturpentine.com.

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Paul Weiner:
Could you describe why you’ve gotten into making artwork that relates to Cuba?

Moisés Aragon:
To some extent, the entirety of my body of work relates to Cuba. It’s technically my native land. My family is from that great Antilles, so my bloodline resonates. I do remember the natural feeling of being cuban since childhood, and I’ve kept that identity ever since.

When I started with what would become my art career at the age of 8, my thought process of leaving a legacy of art was not of being a U.S. artist but a Cuban artist – somewhat rhetorical for an 8 year old, huh? It wasn’t until adulthood, 19, that my work truly reflected an intentional reflection of the nationality that I’ve always identified with. Withholding irony, this transition coincided with being shortly before my first visit to my country.

While on the island, I produced a brief series comprising of rubbled, corrugated sheet metal onto which I was painting with the now-faded characters of the P.Y.AL series including green and something else I can’t remember. Producing that series most definitely laid the foundation for the current incarnation of P.Y.AL. Aside from the P.Y.AL series, I’m currently focusing on quasi docu-style photography/video work, a mix between candid, surrealist, and architectural work.

The next transition is producing art, tangible or otherwise, in my country and having that work become part of the legacy in progress.

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Paul Weiner:
Explain the idea behind your P.Y.AL Series.

Moisés Aragon:
The current form of the series started in Chicago, circa 2009. At the time, the series itself was in purely abstract/conceptualist form with a strong emphasis on color theory and the relationship between Pink, Yellow and Autumn Leaves & Red and Payne’s Grey (occasionally brown and green). I had been developing the series for 10 years prior, so it felt right to transition to something explicitly figurative and to explore another relationship. This time it was between traditional media and technology. I have since embraced what I view as a concise merger between traditionalism in art and being a contemporary artist in the 21 century.

I decided to incorporate traits of myself onto each figure, and, as a trio, they do indeed encompass the artist as a whole. My love of nature, relationship with plants, and yearning to have my own garden are embodied in Yellow’s weaponry, a young avocado tree in a planter. Autumn Leaves’s needs to care for his companions during battle with no remorse for personal consequences is a trait that I certainly have with my companions. And Pink, well, Pink is an amalgamation of fantastical factions and the attribution there of but with a not-so-obvious conscious understanding of the reality surrounding him.

This series, in its current and past incarnations, offers the viewers or patrons a chance to understand intimately the psychology of the author of each painting, drawing or video.

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Paul Weiner:
Given your legal status, have you found that people in the art world discriminate against you or your artwork in any way?

Moisés Aragon:
Yes, absolutely. One of the major misconception about the self-taught artist is that any work produced by one isn’t refined or it’s not art because it can’t be justified without a BFA/MFA. How can I put this? Creating art is nonsense. Drawing a twi inch line and nothing else on a piece of paper could be and, for the sake of argument, is an exhaustive and satisfying effort. But it’s just a line. However, having a BFA/MFA facilitates doors being opened for networking opportunities, and, in turn, that line on a piece of paper has a 100% chance of, at the very least, getting exposure in a gallery.

Another issue that comes with being undocumented is that you are susceptible to having your work stolen and plagiarized. This has happened to me on more than one occasion. I’ve had gallerists, peers, and close friends who are getting decent exposure steal from me with their justification being, “well, he’s a nobody, so it doesn’t matter.” I mean it’s great that my work is good enough to be stolen, but it’s hard not being able to recover copyrights and lost profits.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you view your work as being conceptual?

Moisés Aragon:
I definitely have conceptual pieces in my portfolio, but, as a whole, I wouldn’t say that what I produce is solely conceptual.

Paul Weiner:
What art medium is your favorite to work with?

Moisés Aragon:
To be honest, I don’t have a favorite medium. Budget is a major factor that dictates how my work gets executed. The series itself, P.Y.AL, is ever-evolving from medias to dimensional incorporation, augmented reality, to concept.

Paul Weiner:
Could you explain your process for making video art?

Moisés Aragon:
I’ve only recently started to execute video art as an extension to my P.Y.AL series and for Cuba-related work. Video work that is specific to a series is more or less researched and planned out in tandem to 2-dimensional work. For example, the 2-D side of the P.Y.AL series showcases vignettes of battles and fighting scene between the protagonists and the antagonists – Pink, Yellow and Autumn Leaves versus Red and Payne’s Grey, respectively. The live-action side of that series, video work, emphasizes the down-time or, rather, what happens between battles and conflicts. In one video, I have Pink wandering through an abandoned warehouse or factory searching, exploring, reminiscing, and lamenting the moment after a battle. Currently, I’m focusing more on creating a sustainable amount of shorts that would explain the characters’ poses, fighting or otherwise, seen on paintings and drawings.


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

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Cult Films and the Master Director Jeremiah Kipp

Jeremiah Kipp is a film director working primarily within the genre of horror. Holding a BFA from NYU, Kipp has worked on numerous films that have been featured in many international film festivals as well as commercial films for the Royal Bank of Scotland and Canon. His THE CHRISTMAS PARTY was met by more than fifty international film festivals including the Cannes and Clermont-Ferrand. Kipp’s work can be found online at http://www.kippfilms.com.


Paul Weiner:
How would you describe your role as a writer, director, and producer? How does your experience in each field impact the others?

Jeremiah Kipp:
I am primarily a director who puts projects together. Occasionally, I produce to help facilitate the work of another filmmaker who I believe in or write a project in order to film it. But I don’t consider myself a producer or screenwriter, rather a director who occasionally produces or writes. One project always leads into and informs the next, though, so I am sure my producing and writing has affected my directing. It is all the process of filmmaking.

Paul Weiner:
What genre of film do you prefer to work with?

Jeremiah Kipp:
I have found horror to be a flexible genre, very emotional and visceral. The roots are in fairy tales, where the heroes endure the unspeakable in the name of love or friendship, and their encounter with the witch pushes us into the realm of the uncanny. It could also be because I find the world to be an aggressive and strange place, where human beings have complex motivations. Drama can only take us so far, but horror and fantasy takes us beyond reality into something poetic.

Paul Weiner:
Do you have an ideal audience for your work or setting in which you would prefer the work to be viewed?

Jeremiah Kipp:
I know that the people who enjoyed my film DROOL tended to find CRESTFALLEN to be too mainstream for their taste; and those who loved CRESTFALLEN couldn’t make heads or tails out of DROOL.  Of course, you hope for that open-minded viewer that would be able to enjoy both films for what they are. Thinking of the audience while making the movie is critical for understanding what you’re trying to communicate to them. When I release the work, I allow the film to find its audience in its own way. They each have a life of their own.

Paul Weiner:

Describe your favorite piece you’ve worked on.

Jeremiah Kipp:
While I do not have an individual favorite piece, in the context of this interview I’d be happy to describe one movie to illustrate a point. THE CHRISTMAS PARTY is a project I made in 2003 about a little boy dropped off at a holiday party run by Christians, the kind who want everyone else in the world to be Christian too. I enjoy how the film polarized audiences. Some regarded it as a horror film, some as social realism. The French audiences took it as a satire of Norman Rockwell values, and the Christian audience viewed it as a cautionary tale. Ultimately, the film no longer belongs to me. It belongs to the spectator to interpret as he or she determines.

Paul Weiner:
What are you currently working on?

Jeremiah Kipp:
We are submitting a new movie to film festivals entitled THE DAYS GOD SLEPT, which has been described as a cinematic prayer set in a phantasmagoric strip club.

I also have a horror movie called BAGGAGE that plays out like an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents with a Grand Guignol twist. I was hired by horror personality Ro Dimension to direct his script. He played the tormented main character. Folks can either see the premiere screening at Monster Mania in Cherry Hill, NJ or order the movie online at http://youvebeenrobbedfilms.blogspot.com/

Beyond that, I have a new episode in the second season of the Web series IN FEAR OF, and I am in development on several new short fix and a feature, working with many of my wonderful collaborators from THE DAYS GOD SLEPT. I like to work.

Paul Weiner:
How do you feel about the use of gore in horror films, whether excessive or more tasteful?

Jeremiah Kipp:
If they push the gore to the most extreme and grotesque, a la Lucio Fulci, I find it commendable. It becomes an act of morbid excess, where everything is permitted. That is total freedom. I also admire the films of Val Lewton, which depend on a subtle tone of lingering menace lurking just beyond the edge of the frame. It all depends on what is appropriate for the movie, and if it is told with integrity. It’s middle-of-the-road stuff that just doesn’t fly, or if the gore is there because the filmmaker lacks imagination or is clearly going for a cheap thrill; it feels compromised or timid. The good movies know what they are and are uncompromising in that intent.

Paul Weiner:
How do you feel about today’s indie art scene in the context of the great commercialization that has taken place in the film industry?

Jeremiah Kipp:
Commercialization, in some ways, has stifled the possibilities of what movies can be. Some blockbuster movies these days play up as if they were two hours of watching thirty second advertisements strung together. But there is always a counterbalance. Alternative cinema provides a way to tap into other stories, and making movies has become more affordable. When the music industry as we knew it blew apart, it opened up new possibilities. I suspect the same thing will happen with movies. But it has happened before, and all art moves through cycles – all crafts, too.


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

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Berlin’s Diego Garcia Explores Gestalt Psychology and Interdisciplinary Artwork

Diego Garcia is a transmedia artist from Brazil who is currently living in Berlin. Garcia’s artwork covers a broad spectrum of artistic mediums, including music, video, and design. His work often deals with shocking and disturbing images while managing to retain conceptual integrity. In Garcia’s current series, Projekt Gestalten, he applies theories of gestalt psychology to the fine art world. Projekt Gestalten can also be found online at http://www.projektgestalten.com/.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you find your start in music and how has it translated to visual and video art?

Diego Garcia:
I started making music around 2003, mostly house music and electro. But, after a while, I got bored with it and started approaching more experimental styles such as IDM, ambient, techprono and downtempo. In the meantime, I was studying visual arts at my university. I was so scared because I thought that, at some point, I would have to choose between being a musician or a visual artist/designer. Then it hit me: “why do I have to pick one area if I can merge all of these types of art into one thing?” I think the turning point was at my final graduation project. I made a music-video, but, besides shooting, directing, and editing it, I also made the music and designed the whole visual art promotional material. Then I felt like a true multimedia artist.

Paul Weiner:
How do you usually begin a work of art? Is it different depending on the medium you’re using?

Diego Garcia:
Yes, it is. With music, I just go and start building up grooves that I like until I get something that I think is consistent. This process can be done in half hour or several hours. It really depends. Now, with graphic design, it’s a little bit more mechanic. If I am doing a project like a visual identity or an advertisement poster for a client, for instance, there are basic design rules in regards to visual psychology, color theory, and geometry that I need to obey. However, if it’s an artistic thing made just for the sake of art, all of these rules can be broken, of course. Now, if I am doing a video or a photographic project I usually already have an idea of what I want in my head. So, I make a little storyboard or sketches and start working from there. Sometimes it turns out the exact way that I wanted, like with the Lars von Trier project, or sometimes completely different, which also can generate very interesting results.
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Paul Weiner:
Tell us about the concept behind your Projekt Gestalten.

Diego Garcia:
Projekt Gestalten is the artistic name for my audio productions and my live act performances. The name literally means “construction project,” and I think that’s exactly what I do, regardless of the medium I use: I construct visual and sonic things. But gestalten also is related to the “gestalt psychology,” which is a concept I have learned while studying at my university. Its basic principle is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. So, basically, for you to understand something, you need to see the whole picture as opposed to trying to analyze specific things at first. I think that concept also applies in order to understand my work and maybe even myself. I make a lot of different projects with a lot of different mediums, and I am just trying to put all the pieces together.

Paul Weiner:
Do you like to work with ideas that are shocking? Take, for instance, your “Reality Remix 001 (Sausage Commercial X Pig Being Killed).”

Diego Garcia:
Yes, I do like to work with shocking elements and try pushing the boundaries of standard behaviors. The “Reality Remix 001” project is actually a particularly disturbing one. What I like about this project is that there is not too much shockingly graphic content in this video. Due to the very fast editing work, you cannot actually see what is going on for sure. What it makes it so dramatically disturbing is the sound. Hearing the pig screaming and, at the same time, seeing bits and glimpses of him dying makes you mentally visualize the whole scene inside your head without even having to actually see the whole scene. The juxtaposition of the candid happy sausage commercial just adds another layer to the project. It’s not like I made it all up; this is what really happens inside these meat factories. Despite being a vegetarian, I don’t like militancy, and the goal of the video is not to try to abruptly stop people from eating meat but to create a dialogue about the subject and make them think more about the subject.

There are some videos like “Boi da Cara-Preta (Black-Face Ox),” which is my most viewed video on YouTube, that I would not consider too disturbing. But, it turns out that Boi da Cara-Preta was disturbing to other people. The video is an animation showing kids being devoured by this black-faced ox. The music is a remix that I made from a very traditional children’s lullaby with the same name. The melody is very tender and calm, which can be heard at the end of my version; however, the lyrics always have disturbed me, even since I was a kid. It goes like this: “black-face ox, take away these little children who are afraid of scary faces.”

I’ve received so much backlash for this video, and even some aggressive and hateful threats. I think it’s because most people associate this song with their childhood, and they search for it on the internet in order to relive happy moments. Instead, they end up stuck with my video. It was never my goal to shock people, just to translate the lyrics to their literal meaning.

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Paul Weiner:
Why did you choose to move to Berlin?

Diego Garcia:
It always has been a goal of mine to move to Europe at some point. Initially, I was thinking about going to London to do my Masters in arts over there. However, after spending a week in Berlin, during a backpack trip of mine, I fell in love with the city. It is such an amazing place to be. It’s so artistic, and I like how people are more open-minded around here. Plus, I can do my Masters in Berlin for a fraction of what I would pay in the UK. I also would have to admit that the music scene and the clubbing scene played a big role in my decision to move to the city. I truly feel like I am home in here, and I am already very inserted into the scene within only a few months of living in Berlin. It is funny because, in Brazil and in a lot of other places in the world, I’ve always felt like an alien because of the way I think, behave, dress, etc. But, in Berlin, it is like I have found my mothership back again!

Paul Weiner:
How would you describe the art scene in Berlin?

Diego Garcia:
The art scene in Berlin is vibrant, but, at the same time, it is also frustrating. I love the fact that there are so many art galleries around, but I also think that the market should value the professional a whole lot more. I see ads from these really big art galleries in Berlin seeking art assistants with years of experience, fluency in a lot of languages, and a college degree to work on unpaid “internships.” I mean, not everything is about money, but artists also need to eat and make money at some point. The only projects that I would work for free would be the philanthropic kind or the ones that are way too good to miss out on.

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Paul Weiner:
So, it sounds like you work with clients for graphic design. Would you ever work with clients for your video work or do you prefer to keep it purely experimental and fine art based?

Diego Garcia:
I think, if I could choose, I would always work with experimental/fine art projects, but I also have to make some money to support myself, and that’s not always possible with only making conceptual works. I actually briefly worked in a sound design agency back in Brazil specialized only on making big TV commercials; they even won the Golden Lion Award at the Cannes Festival at some point, and, honestly, I had a blast working there. Sometimes we had boring projects, but, even so, we could get more artistic by coming up with sound effects or recreating music to use in it. I remember when we had to hire a professional opera singer to come up and record a version of the song “Casta Diva” for us to use in a potato chip commercial. But, of course, if I would work with only this, without having my conceptual side projects as a cathartic output, I would go crazy. The same thing goes with video. I could do more commercial works, but I would never stop doing artistic projects in order to dedicate myself exclusively for that. Now, with music itself, I would never ever work with pop artists or with musicians that I don’t like for money.

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Paul Weiner:
Would you ever consider adding painting, printmaking, or a more traditional form of art to your repertoire?

Diego Garcia:
Yes. I would like to do that in the future. I had some classes back in college where I was taught more traditional techniques, but I still would like to learn more. I don’t like to rely on the computer to make art all the time. In the future, I would like to wok with watercolor paintings or something like that.


Please view Diego Garcia’s artwork at http://www.projektgestalten.com/ and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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