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Robert Szot Relentlessly Pursues the Seduction of Lyrical Abstract Painting

For fourteen years, Robert Szot has been a constant in the fluctuating Brooklyn art scene. The artist, who arrived in New York from Texas as a twenty-five year old and has since felt the pressures of New York’s stage, embodies honesty in his work. Szot does not shy away from beauty or painterly skill, instead pushing lyrical abstraction forward while rejecting the ever-present pull of zombie formalism. His work is hard to pin down, evincing canonical references in his formal techniques and relationship with beauty and music that seem connected with the abstraction of Synchromist artists such as Stanton Macdonald-Wright or Morgan Russell, a movement that predated Abstract Expressionism by 30 years. These references, though, are mediated by the history of color field painting, at times reaching washy paint handling and breaks between colors reminiscent of Helen Frankenthaler. Regardless, the clearest position in Szot’s work is a deadly sentimentality, the kind of pride in the American painting lineage that leaves Szot’s work poetic, vibrant, emotional, and unapologetically divorced from the often-cold embrace of contemporary painting paradigms.

Robert Szot is represented by Muriel Guépin Gallery, also the site of his 2014 solo show, Woke Up on Broadway. Szot’s work has exhibited in a variety of galleries across the United States from New York to Los Angeles and Texas. His works have been collected in America and abroad. Szot’s paintings can also be found on his website.

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Early Voting, oil on linen, 64″ x 53″


Paul Weiner:
Your paintings are largely created with oil on linen. What draws you to these particular materials?

Robert Szot:
I’ve always used oils. Oil paint is a much more particular and fussy medium than, say, acrylic paint, but once you’re accustomed to its personality, oil paint can be worked with for a much longer time before it dries. That’s important to me because I am a constant editor. I also often utilize underpainting with just a thin layer of overpaint, just a suggestion of another color, and I find I can only achieve that with oils. The linen came into play just a few years ago. It feeds my love of history to use linen prepared in a very traditional way. The linen I use has a medium tooth surface that is sized with rabbit skin glue and then double lead primed. It is extravagant, and I often wonder if I should be ruining it by painting on it. It truly is a love affair I am embarrassed to say. Painting on oil primed linen provides a much slicker surface, too. I find oil just sits on top of it and dries very vibrantly. I use the best art supplies I can afford because when I sell a painting, I want, at the very least, to feel confident in the materials. I hate the idea of selling someone something cheap.

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Exit California, oil on linen, 54″ x 62″

Paul Weiner:
Contemporary abstract paintings are often labeled as being decorative. Do you consider your work as having any decorative influences or would you reject this interpretation?

Robert Szot:
I would reject that interpretation where my own work is concerned, but I understand why that thought is out there. There is so much access now, which I encourage, but with access comes a flood of under developed and under thought-out “abstract” paintings. Really, there has been a flood of under developed work, abstract or otherwise, lately. I think many of these paintings are created for decoration and are not meant to be interpreted or studied as serious creations. It’s the climate we are in now, fame over everything. Be outrageous, show your ass, whatever it takes to get the attention of strangers regardless of its ability to last or how much thought it will provoke. As a result, the impetus for a painting often becomes a couch and not contemplation. I don’t paint like that. I won’t lie to you and say I don’t appreciate attention, but more than that my work is fiercely personal to me, and I won’t customize it to match decor. Often, I will get a request for a commission that comes with conditions from the client: color, size, etc. I get it. It’s an investment, and something you are going to have to live with hopefully for a long time, but I have to politely decline because I am a painter and not an interior decorator. If you ask for a painting from me, you really are asking for a piece of my life during the time it took to complete that painting, so my ability to compromise is very limited. There are plenty of people printing paintings out on a computer that will gladly go into photoshop and change a color to match your drapes. It’s as empty as it sounds.

Paul Weiner:
How do you usually begin a painting as far as the physical process goes?

Robert Szot:
I’ve always been at my best when I am fixing things on a canvas. I must intentionally make things difficult on myself because I make such bad decisions so often. Fixing them helps me advance the painting as a whole, and my frustration with them provides a real velocity to the work. Starting a painting is very difficult for me because there is nothing to solve in a blank space. So, day one for me is really just putting down marks and choosing colors that will hopefully stand out later in the composition. Lately, I have been getting into a lot of line work, almost like a Brice Marden, dark veiny lines cutting off certain areas of the canvas that may or may not influence the final composition. Nothing is permanent, and I will sacrifice any portion of the painting if it’s dragging the composition down. My paints are also mixed with mineral spirits and walnut oil, so everything is very loose and quite thin.

Vulgar Nobodies, oil on linen mounted on panel, 22″ x 16″

Paul Weiner:
How do you come to a title for your work?

Robert Szot:
I get this question a lot. The short answer is that I read too much Walker Percy and listen to The Smiths on heavy rotation. I’ve always liked clever people who could string a punchy sentence together. The longer answer is I keep a running list of things I hear or see during a regular day, little things that sound good to me in realtime that I may or may not come back and use. I’ll give you an example. Last year, I did two paintings with the same title, “Flood Law.” “Flood” and “Law” are two cross streets in New Orleans that I just happened to be on one day, and the two words just fit together. That is the perfect situation for me because not only does it provide a title but it has the bonus effect of leaving a little hint of my life behind for someone to find. That’s very appealing to me, to make up little mysteries for people to stumble into. It’s a long shot, but someone might find those cross streets one day, think of my painting, and then think what a cleaver bastard that Robert Szot was. I have a deep love of history too and find endless titles in textbooks and historical documents. There is nothing like resurrecting a term like “Demirep” to make you feel like you’re freshening up the language a bit.

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Look in Rooms, oil on linen mounted on panel, 22″ x 16″

Paul Weiner:
Do you usually have an idea or emotion in mind before starting a painting or does that develop together with the painting process?

Robert Szot:
I think emotion builds with the painting, and ideas are generated by other ideas as I work. My process is very kaleidoscopic. One decision leads to twenty others and ideas die and are reborn over and over again. I think, though my process can frustrate me, it provides for an original work every time. I mean, I am certain that I have made similar choices in several different paintings, but, depending on how far I took one idea or another, each painting can stand alone. It is very important to create singularities, objects that don’t repeat and can maintain authorship throughout. Doing this naturally creates a history of work that others can look at and actively participate in. It is very seductive to spend time with a piece of someone’s history, especially if it is one that won’t ever be repeated. Your painting has now become a watermark of your life, and more than that, strangers can come and interact, empathize, and discover parts of who they are through your work. It’s a conversation with a person they never had the opportunity to meet. I never got to meet Philip Guston, but I feel like I know him. I think DeKooning and I make the same mistakes. It sounds sentimental, I know, but it’s a reality for me. I love those guys.

Philistine, oil on linen, 23″ x 16″

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned Brice Marden and his style of painting. Are there any artists who you think have influenced your practice, whether historical or contemporary?

Robert Szot:
I like Brice Marden well enough. I wouldn’t say he was a direct influence on my work, though. Going away, Francis Bacon is the best painter. There is no separation between who he was and his work, which I think is the ultimate goal of any artist worth contemplating. We are all expressing ourselves, I guess, but how many really lay everything out for strangers to review? Not many. Egon Schiele falls in Bacon’s camp too. Philip Guston, who I mentioned earlier, ranks big for me. That guy changed direction midstream and didn’t care what people thought of it. That’s great stuff. Maybe it’s not the work so much that influences me, but the people who made it. Certainly, it is difficult to pull Francis Bacon out of one of my paintings. It’s chalk and cheese, but if I am lucky the approach is the same. I want the energy of a Francis Bacon, the recklessness of a Philip Guston, and the sorrow of a Mark Rothko to all come together in one frame, a terrible sucker punch that unfolds into a deeper story.

Contemporary painters are something new for me. I tend to isolate myself and, as much as I hate to admit it, I look at other painters as friendly competition and would rather be free of their influence. Only recently have I been getting to know other artists, and my new affiliations are pleasant and worth having. Galen Cheney and Christina Foard are wild painters who regularly make decisions I am too afraid to make in my own work. Suzanne Kammin is an extremely talented painter out of New Jersey. You can’t leave Patrick Diaz out of the conversation either. He is spearheading the painting scene in Austin, Texas at the moment. It’s a good news, bad news scenario that these exceptional people exist. God love them, but the competition is too much sometimes.

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Fort Worth Collects, oil on linen mounted on panel, 18″ x 24″

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned that you have a sentimentality for some 20th Century New York artists, especially DeKooning and Guston. Is that why you came to New York?

Robert Szot:
Yes. Probably, in the end, it was. I have family here too, my brother, and he will always be important to me.

The very idea of being able to have a shared experience with someone you admire is irresistible, especially when you’re young and idealistic. I think that drives a lot of people with potential. Imagine you have a very small idea, just an ember of desire to want to do something special with your life. Now imagine there is a tangible place where people who you perceive to have a commonality with spent their formative years. You’d go there, of course. New York City was my school, and, never having had any formal art training, it became this incredible do-or-die life for me. You’re here, and you’re working on surviving whilst painting at night and in between whatever job you can muster that month. It all finds its way back into your painting. Then, at some point, it becomes less about what you do and more about who you’ve become. I remember my first studio was on 14th and 6th Avenue, and I would ride the F train very late at night back to Brooklyn, where I lived. One night on the train, it just struck me that I was very happy to be where I was. Broke, yes. Without prospects or interest in my work, yes. But damn alive. I left everything prior to that moment in the past. I resolved that anything that happened before that little moment on the F train at two or three in the morning was just going to be some warm memory like a story I heard in a bar a long time ago. Maybe that is what happened to people like DeKooning and Guston. Maybe they had that same awakening on the shitty F train. I had to come to New York City to dialogue with the same entity that all great artists seem to know so well that they can incorporate it, use it, in the work they produce.

Paul Weiner:
How long do your paintings usually take from start to finish, and how do you know when you are done?

Robert Szot:
Forever and Never.


Please view Robert Szot’s 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free.

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.

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free.

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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Gert Scheerlinck Repurposes Obsolete Objects for Painting

Gert Scheerlinck is an artist from Belgium who paints on a wide variety of diverse materials. Finding inspiration in obsolete materials like CD cases, Scheerlinck incorporates vast new textures in his abstract paintings. The artist has recently exhibited at the Gaanderij Academie Beeldende Kunsten, and his artwork is also available online.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you usually begin a painting?

Gert Scheerlinck:
Let me start by explaining that I not only paint on canvas, but I have used different carriers such as rubber (1), styrofoam (2), plastic, glass tile (3) and CD cases (4). However, regardless of the carrier, I usually get inspired by something I find or see. It might be a rusted piece of iron, a blistered wall, a torn down billboard, or one of the many old doors seen in Barcelona. Finding or seeing such an element often starts me off painting. Throughout my years of painting, one thing that has always been a source of inspiration is anything decayed or withered. Once I have started the artwork, the real challenge is to stop at the right moment and let the painting speak for itself to make it more powerful.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you use a conceptual process to create your ideas or do you base paintings on intuition?

Gert Scheerlinck:
My early artworks were mostly based on intuition and always abstract. Because of the material or structure,paint mixed with sand, the result was very unpredictable. I knew the painting would never turn out how I pictured it at the very beginning. It was a lot of scraping, scratching, and hard work to come to a point where I was satisfied with the result. In my later paintings, I felt like evolving more towards conceptual work. I started painting series. Some good examples are the street fragments (4,5) and the project, R.E.F.L.E.C.T.I.O.N.S. Both started off as a concept, but, in the end, intuition took over while painting.

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By getting regular feedback from various authorities in the art world, I realized I could rise to a higher level. I thought I started from a concept, but I was often driven by a study or a mere object such as a picture or a piece of junk. It took some thinking and self-reflection, and when starting a new project (8) I could see the difference myself. The entire concept of my recent artwork is a crossover between abstract painting and the representation of incomplete objects. Instead of painting on the found materials, I now glue them on the back of cd cases. On the in side of the case’s front, I paint a dysfunctional object. Because of its incompleteness, it has become completely useless. This is the first time that I have deviated from only painting abstract work. This object, being incomplete, is the key to not deviate from. I don’t allow myself to paint anything else. It gives the painting its story. When both back and front are finished, I assemble it all as one piece like a window into the world.

Paul Weiner:
What is the strangest material you remember painting on?

Gert Scheerlinck:
It is not so much a strange material as it was an experiment for me to paint on a different carrier. That’s why I painted on styrofoam (2), rubber (1) or even glass tile (6). I have always been intrigued by how paint, often mixed with matter such as sand, reacts on a material other than canvas. That’s also how I came to start painting on CD cases. I wondered how my paintings would look like on the backside. Since you cannot see through canvas, I thought of glass or any other transparent material.

How did I end up painting on CD cases? Again, it comes down to using a material that will cease to exist. CDs are bound to disappear. Since we have digital music, a CD will no longer be the carrier of music but something that is no longer of use. When you take away the CD, what will become of the case? Both the fact that I had to paint differently, namely, the result would be on the back of the carrier, and the fact that a CD case would become a useless object, intrigued and inspired me.

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Paul Weiner:
What types of paint do you prefer for painting on CD cases, rubber, and other diverse materials?

Gert Scheerlinck:
When I was about 15, I loved painting with my father’s old paint from, which he used to paint on wood. Because it was oil based paint, it took a long time to dry. When I started at the academy, I could choose between two teachers. I took the one who understood what I wanted to achieve and who wouldn’t force me into painting only figurative works. He was a big supporter of acrylic paint because there were many benefits associated with it, including fast drying speed. I’m rather impatient. When I’m working, I don’t want to take the time to let the paint dry. When I have an idea, I need to be able to put it on canvas or another material almost instantly without having to wait too long for the paint dry to put another layer on it. I‘ve always stuck to acrylic because I’ve never felt the urge to switch. It works for me.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us a bit about how you originally became interested in painting.

Gert Scheerlinck:
Although it seems like a simple question, it isn’t. I can’t give you any other answer than that I’ve always been a painter. During my first two years at the academy, I studied fine arts. It was actually a nice introduction to various techniques. I was drawing using charcoal and crayons or painting with either watercolor or acrylic paint. Although I learned a lot, I wasn’t happy. If felt like I was losing two years because I wanted to paint the whole time. After those two years, I could finally indulge into paint. I became more and more interested in Arte Povera, Informal Art, and admired artists like Antoni Tàpies, Alberto Burri, Bram Bogart, Cy Twombly, and a master painter closer to home, Raoul De Keyser. I’m starting to get recognition now, but during my first years, I had to explain all the time why I used tape, rope and other non-artistic, sometimes downright dirty, materials, and I didn’t use oil-based paint. Apparently I wasn’t a “real” painter. It happened again only just a few weeks ago. Someone posted a comment about one of my painted cd cases, “for me, this is not a painting.” It confuses people. I’ve always had an interest in installations and assemblages, as well. That’s partly why I assemble and paint on cd cases; I want to cross both worlds. I don’t even exclude further deviations from mere painting, but paint will always be present.

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Paul Weiner:
Where have you lived throughout your life? Do you think the cultures around you have altered your painting or not?

Gert Scheerlinck:
In lived in Aalst during my art studies. Aalst is an industrial town about a 30 minute drive from the capital of Belgium, Brussels. Aalst is famous for its carnival; the writer, Louis Paul Boon; the very first printer, Dirk Martens; priest Daens; and painter, Valerius de Saedeleer. Originally, the city was poor and had many abandoned and dilapidated public houses. Although there is a lot of industrialization and decay in my paintings, I can’t say that the city has had a big influence on me. I do not think she has made me who I am as an artist, disregarding the art school I attended in Aalst.

I’d rather name Barcelona as my main city of influence. To me, Barcelona equals creativity and inventiveness, and the city is always very alive. For the past eight years, I’ve been going there on a yearly basis to find inspiration and working material on almost every corner of its streets. In Barcelona, I even asked my wife to marry me after being together for over 12 years. If someone is responsible for pushing my boundaries and driving me forward, it’s my wife. I owe a lot to her support.


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

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Unconsciously Intuitive Artwork by Davon Foots

Davon Foots, A.K.A GX-4000, was born in 1993. He is a self-trained, contemporary artist based in San Francisco working in numerous fields and mediums of art including digital design, illustration, and collage. Davon incorporates a wide variety of historical art inspirations to create his own distinct artwork. More of his artwork is available online.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you view your artwork as a conceptual or intuitive process?

Davon Foots:
I often find my work to be somewhere in the middle ground of conceptual and intuitive. I say that because my pieces start with a groundwork concept due to the collages and images I lay out first, but the design work and hues are formed unconsciously. That’s where the intuition comes into play, conveying the psychedelic side of the art. I feel as though I rely more on my imagination and creative ability in each piece rather than mechanical skill and execution.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us about how you begin a new painting.

Davon Foots:
Well, basically, I sort through a couple of magazines, find some images I like, lay them out, get a nice composition and format, grab the pens, and add a couple of comprehensive lines. Then, I lay in watercolors and ink, detail, and a final outline is directed to allow the colors to burst more. My work is all constructed based on impulse, so no piece starts with a sketch or set idea in mind.

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Paul Weiner:
What style would you say your artwork is in?

Davon Foots:
That’s always the toughest question I often get asked by viewers at shows because I try to touch so many different areas in my art. I’ve always been inspired by surrealism, graffiti, 90’s cartoons, pop art, and vintage decorative art. I try to convey distinct aspects of each style simultaneously to create my own unique style. Although it’s really hard to categorize, if I had to break it down, I would say it falls between the lines of underground lowbrow art, and contemporary pop art.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you like the Bay Area art scene?

Davon Foots:
I would say the major things I love about the bay area art scene is the underground heritage, the diverse cultures, and just all the positivity of living in a big city with the small town vibe. The number of indie artists is on the rise and more galleries are starting to open up to emerging and contemporary styles, allowing artists to showcase their talent in a nice setting.  The bay is a dwelling for so many unique individuals, your bound to discover something new from any person you meet. I’m pleased to see that the art scene is still young and fresh,  and is growing fast, and soon to give big markets like L.A and NYC some stiff competition.

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Paul Weiner:
Where is your ideal place to show your work?

Davon Foots:
Well, I’ve shown in a number of distinct settings, art fairs, street events, live collaborations with DJs, boutiques, pop-up shops, and even cafes. The best thing about doing various events is that you get a certain vibe and gathering at different venues, and it allows you to test your work’s versatility, to see if it reaches out to all different types of people in all age groups, genders, races, and demographics. I plan to work my way up to more mid-level galleries and maybe some urban fashion shops around the bay, just to get a better platform to show and market works.

So, if I had to answer this directly, I would say my perfect location to display would be an urban clothing shop or up to date contemporary art gallery in the inner city. However, had you asked me this question a year ago, my perception would have been a lot different.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you like the gallery art system?

Davon Foots:
Personally, I have a lot of dislike for the gallery art “SCHEME” only due to the mass number of artists competing to get space, which usually leads to galleries being booked months to years in advance. There’s also this new trend of galleries that prefer you to pay to show your work, which I think is wrong because, without the artists work and the backing of his or her followers, you would have no show, just a nice, empty lounge to relax in.

I think the good things about the gallery system are that it allows you to get a bigger network, connect directly with artists and art enthusiasts, and bring out your competitive nature. You’ll see another artists doing some of his best work in order to get into shows and fill the space, and, in turn, you get motivated to create and do some of your best work.

I think the gallery scene is a love/hate relationship for any creative person, depending on the situation. Without the galleries, artists would have no place to take their work to the next level. Without the artists, galleries would have a hard time getting a crowd and making money. So, essentially, we need each other to thrive.

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Paul Weiner:
What is the largest piece you’ve ever made?

Davon Foots:
The largest piece I’ve created was only about 5ft x 3ft. It was a huge, trifold collage piece I made specifically for a group art installation called The Asylum. The Asylum took place in May of this year, the same month I featured works in Catapult Art Magazine.

I usually don’t go larger than 2 feet in my work because I focus a lot of attention to detail and line work, and its also more time efficient. When I do decide to make larger pieces, I usually focus a lot more on color and abstractions, losing lots of detail. I do plan to gradually make my works larger as I begin to grasp and get a hang of my style.


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

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Jeffrey Thompson’s Patterned Abstract Paintings and the Wonder of Mathematical Systems

Jeffrey Thompson is a painter from San Francisco who relies on a mathematical, grid-based concept in order to develop abstract paintings. Recently, Thompson has exhibited his work at the University of Southern Oregon and in the SF Weekly for their “Masterminds 2013.” His art is available online at http://jtarts.com/.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you usually begin a painting? I’d like to hear about how you plan (or don’t plan), develop concepts, and engage in problem solving.

Jeffrey Thompson:
Ideally, each painting informs the next, so I usually begin the process by reviewing any relevant past work. At the outset, I make some general decisions about the way forward. I decide, for example, whether the new work will try to expand on any previous effort, or explore different territory. If the surface I’m planning to work on has a predominant characteristic, horizontal or vertical, I decide how to treat it in the composition. That is, I decide whether to employ it, or to somehow defeat it.

When I begin to attack the canvas, the process is largely mathematical. First, I determine the basic interval upon which the surface is based. For example, a 30″ x 30″ surface would likely use a 3″ basic unit. I then break down the composition based on those dimensions. I may then further divide the surface into smaller regions or grids. When establishing the drawing, I’m typically trying to emphasize the relationship between the painting surface and the layout.

At the point when I have the drawing in place, I make some fundamental choices about mediums, color, and content to cover everything from paint to the source materials I’ll be using in the collage. These collage elements are critical, as they determine a great deal about the overall impact of the piece. Newsprint carries a lot of populist imagery that, when broken down, becomes increasingly ambiguous. I find this desirable up to a point. Through experience, I’ve discovered that, if these materials are broken down too far, all meaning is obliterated. If not far enough, they seem to endorse more than is necessary.

I should note that I’m not after a specific message here. Rather, I’m trying to incorporate elements of the culture as a whole. Ironically, my objective is not unlike a good newspaper. I see myself as a kind of visual editor seeking an objective and balanced overview.

In contrast to newsprint, I sometimes opt for finer, clay-based papers in the collage, which typically come from fine art magazines or professional journals. These materials emphasize subtle color and advanced typography, and when using them, I focus on those elements.

I spent much of the past twenty years working with type and color as a graphics specialist and journeyman lithographer. My career in design and printing influenced my interest in graphic or text-based imagery and also financed my work in fine art.

I most often work with a combination of acrylic, oil, and enamel paints. I layer the acrylic paint first, with the solvent-based paints on top, in order to create a more or less stable paint structure. These paints are used out of the container in an unaltered state, although I do mix for color. I apply the paint directly, frequently manipulating it with pallet knives, spatulas, and other tools, rather than relying on brushes exclusively. The paint is alternately removed, sanded, or reduced and reapplied until it achieves sufficient density and form.

While the work is underway, I often photograph it in order to make decisions about direction, proportions, content, etc. When problem solving, I will use whatever tools are readily available, or most appropriate. This includes everything from mirrors to Photoshop. My only rule when using these tools is not to rely on any one of them too much. In order to see the work objectively, I will also hide it, turn it to face the wall for a period of time, or simply look at it upside down to take it out of normal context.

The final step is, of course, finishing the work. This is often the most subjective part of the process. It involves deciding that some or all of my original goals have been met, and that what has been achieved cannot be taken much further without losing what has been gained. It may also include approving any discoveries I may have made along the way. I will almost always embrace a positive random occurrence or other happy accidents.

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Paul Weiner:
Since your process relies on a mathematical process based on the surface you’re working on, how do you think it would change if you were to paint on a non-rectangular surface?

Jeffrey Thompson:
I have occasionally worked with random shapes when I come across what I call found surfaces. This has led to some interesting adjustments, but, in terms of an intentionally irregular or curved surface, I don’t think much would change. A two-dimensional grid can be applied to any non-linear shape. Even an irregular cloud like mass can be mapped and diagramed.

I will admit that type of presentation is less appealing to me. I don’t, however, think this is simply bias. I believe that the rectangular format is somehow intrinsic to the way we think about things visually. A theatre uses a linear proscenium; televisions are linear; and even books are rectangular. Some of that is a by-product of technology and tradition, but I think some of it is hard-wired in us.

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Paul Weiner:
What is the ideal forum for displaying your artwork? Do you prefer it in a commercial gallery, museum, public space, or other art space?

Jeffrey Thompson:
The ideal environment for this work would, in my opinion, be a permanent installation that would be site-specific. I have envisioned the work, especially the horizontal abstractions, in some sort of fixed setting along the lines of a viewing chapel or chamber, where the experience could be fully integrated. These paintings seem to thrive in intimate spaces and often take on unique and personal narratives and associations within this type of space.

That being said, I have found that work from this series seems to adapt well to most environments. I have shown the work in spaces that range from intimate local galleries in San Francisco’s Mission District to large academic environments such as the one at Southern Oregon University. In each, the work takes on a unique and compelling personality. In the case of a recent commission, the work seemed to transform before my eyes after being installed. As comfortably as it fit in the studio, it seemed equally at home in its intended environment. I think because the work is essentially geometric in nature, it not only echoes the surface on which it lives, it also naturally embraces and compliments the architecture of the room in which it is hung.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you happen upon the striping and grid formats that are prevalent in your recent works?

Jeffrey Thompson:
This format evolved out of a combination of early influences from art school and my professional exposure to commercial graphic design standards. While studying lithography and etching under Kenji Nanao and Misch Kohn, respectively, at Cal State – Hayward, I became aware of the significance of the grid as an integral, albeit silent, partner in the printmaking process. Everything involved in the planning of a print, or painting for that matter, relies upon and is constrained by the essentially rectangular format of the process. This encompasses every aspect, from the paper to the press itself. The vast majority of litho stones and most etching plates echo this format, and, so, the planning involved in printmaking necessarily becomes an extension of that underlying geometry.

When my career extended itself into the commercial environment, this relationship only grew. Everything produced in a commercial print shop relies heavily on the geometry of the press and, by extension, the grid. Later on, as commercial lithography came to rely almost entirely on computer-generated graphics, the underlying grid became more and more significant. This is especially true in print design for publication, where every square inch or millimeter has a defined value, both literally and figuratively. A full page ad in the New York Times is valuable real estate, and the designs created for that environment are necessarily based on columns and margins, which are themselves based on the underlying grid.

Eventually, I took this fundamental premise and adopted it as the basis for a series of paper collages. This soon expanded to larger and larger paintings. There was something compelling and universal about the structure, and I quickly discovered that the potential for variations on this theme were numerous.

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Paul Weiner:
Would you consider your work as expressionist, purely aesthetic, conceptual, or something else?

Jeffrey Thompson:
This is probably the hardest question to answer, and I would gently resist any temptation to put a definite name on my work. I suppose it would be ideal if others cared enough about my work to decide that for themselves. Frank Stella, whose early black, linear paintings were a big inspiration to me, considered his work to be minimalist and post-painterly abstractions. I, of course, would be thrilled to have my work associated with either of these disciplines although, technically, I lean towards a more painterly approach.

However, I believe what truly defined Stella’s work was his ability to reinvent himself and his paintings throughout his career, thus defying a strict classification. My greatest desire would be to emulate that ability, to continue to grow my work and reinvent my process over time. However, if pressed, I would say that I am generally an abstract painter who leans heavily on aesthetics, conceptualism, and expression, not necessarily in that order.


Please view Jeffrey Thompson’s artwork online at http://jtarts.com/ and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Simone Rene’s Patterns and Fabric Collage

Simone Rene is a fabric collage artist from Brooklyn, New York who holds a BFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts. Her artwork is available online at http://www.simonerene.com/.

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City Background B5, 11.75″x16″, cloth


Paul Weiner:
When did you decide to begin with the medium of fabric collage?

Simone Rene:
I began working in it about 4-5 years ago. At the time I was doing some mixed-media pieces, paint/graphite/paper/found objects and making clothing, but I couldn’t commit to either because I was torn between my love of fabric and making visuals. I was making a quilt for my nephew, one of my first. It had figures of cute monsters and their toys on it. As I was cutting, positioning, and sewing, the direction I wanted to go in suddenly dawned on me – I know, I know – Duh.

Paul Weiner:
Having studied illustration at the School of Visual Arts, do you see that impacting your style today?

Simone Rene:
I have always loved the figure, and it is pretty central in most of my work. I studied Fashion Illustration in high school and took it at SVA. I think that I am prone to elongating and manipulating the figure to sell the story much the same way fashion illustrators do in order to sell clothing.

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The Ancestors A1, 10″x31″, cloth

Paul Weiner:
The idea of selling a story is interesting, and I can certainly see how fashion is incorporated in your work. So, as far as stories go, do you read your artwork as a narrative?

Simone Rene:
I think of my images as grasping at just a phrase pulled from a whole story, and for me that is where the emotion is.

Paul Weiner:
How do you start one of your fabric collages? It must be tough determining which fabric to use.

Simone Rene:
Usually my concept begins with a thought, words followed by a visual that is accompanied by color. Sometimes I just find a piece of fabric that wants to be something. After I have the concept, I sort through my large fabric collection and go on hunts, both new and used, for just the right fabrics. Once I have the dominant fabric color or pattern, things seem to fall into place. I experiment with combinations and sometimes make variations of the same image. It may take a while, and I may have to return to that image over and over again while I work on other pieces, but it’s ok because art is about exploration.

The Ancestors A5, 12"x31.5", cloth

The Ancestors A5, 12″x31.5″, cloth

Paul Weiner:
Is there a particular color or pattern that has intrigued you?

Simone Rene:
I find myself drawn to black and white patterns, cerulean blues, fuchsia pinks, and flesh tones that are cool – not really into the warm autumn colors.

City Background B3, 15"x27", cloth

City Background B3, 15″x27″, cloth

City Background B1, 17"x21.5", cloth

City Background B1, 17″x21.5″, cloth

Paul Weiner:
You’ve mentioned that your family has resided in Brooklyn since the late 1700s. Could you talk specifically about your “City Background” work and how that relates to your own identity?

Simone Rene:
I grew up embedded in family and surrounded by generations of relatives, both by blood and marriage. We were American, we were New Yorkers, and we were Brooklynites.

When I was little, I don’t ever recall wondering who or what we were. I thought that the diversity of my family was normal. It wasn’t until I began middle school and began to be asked to define myself by ticking off a box that I began to consider “What was I?” note not “Who I was.” It was confusing and disheartening to be asked to define myself and by doing so chance wiping away generations of ancestors that may not be stereotypically present in face or person. It made me a bit of a rebel. I checked all the boxes and when called upon could defend that choice because I knew my family’s stories and history.

I think being generations in the city allowed for the ambiguity that did define my family and I. It allows me to explore aspects of my history with familiarity as well as distance.


Please view Simone Rene’s artwork online at http://www.simonerene.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Melding Metalwork and Painting: Virginia T. Coleman

Virginia T. Coleman is an artist residing in Denver, Colorado as a member of the Next Art Gallery. She holds an MFA from the Academy of Fine Arts in San Francisco, as well as a Bachelors of environmental design from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Masters Certificate in welding from the Tulsa Welding School. Her artwork can be found online at http://www.virginiatcoleman.com.

Here is an installation photo from Virginia T Coleman’s recent exhibition, The Lines of a Woman.


Paul Weiner:

Take us through the process of making your work. How do you balance painting with metal?

Virginia T Coleman:

My approach varies depending on the type of work. When it comes to the more conceptual, abstract pieces of my metal art, it begins randomly. I say that because I usually will just be staring at a pile of metal or some scraps I might need to use up, and I begin to arrange them compositionally. This then will lead me to begin to think of a concept that will drive the final arrangement of the elements. The finished product is an exercise in taking the abstract and morphing it into a tangible concept.

If it is a predetermined concept that is larger and more complex in scale, I will begin with a doodle and then a scaled model. The model is usually made out of cardboard to scale so I can think quickly, make changes, add and subtract color before I begin to fabricate it out of metal. Once you begin working with metal, you quickly recognize how you can do something to metal that will take you hours to correct and sometimes correction is not possible.

When I work with metal, I try and use the inherent characteristic of the material before I begin to even consider adding my own personal color. Some pieces in the end require very little added manipulation. others need color to be added. Whichever way the work wanders, I try to make my decisions slowly and methodically.

Willis Polk's Catalyst for Modernist Steel in San Francisco; 2009; stainless steel, wood, oil paint, acrylic paint, and plastic; 25"x28"x11"

Willis Polk’s Catalyst for Modernist Steel in San Francisco; 2009; stainless steel, wood, oil paint, acrylic paint, and plastic; 25″x28″x11″

Linear Deception of Space; 2012; steel; 72"x50"x20"

Linear Deception of Space; 2012; steel; 72″x50″x20″

Paul Weiner:

Out of your metalwork, paintings, and photography, which medium do you find the most challenging?

Virginia T Coleman:

I find challenges out of all the mediums; however, they all fuse into the medium to which I most desire to master, metal. I recognize, however, that I can never master metal because metal is such a dynamic, living entity. Metal gives me challenges everyday through my job as a professional welder to my work as an artist. Metal has become my life challenge.

San Francisco; 2012; steel. acetylene torch, oil paint, and enamel spray; 24″x10″x2.5″

New Orleans; 2012; steel acetylene torch, oil paint, and enamel; 24"x10"x2.5"

New Orleans; 2012; steel acetylene torch, oil paint, and enamel; 24″x10″x2.5″

Paul Weiner:

Could you explain the connection your work seems to have to architecture, both conceptually and materially?

Virginia T Coleman:

Architecture is really the basis for every aspect of my art. I was trained as an architect first, a fine artist second, a sculptor third, and craftsman fourth.

With that being said, I have been enamored by buildings since childhood – the pure power yet delicate embrace a building has on the context of our environments. Buildings are the wallpaper, the tunnels, the dreams, the horror and the magic of our world. Architecture is a platform for taking a concept and morphing it into a tangible, inhabitable object. My architecture training taught me how to draw, to doodle, to think outside the box, to find parallels in seemingly disparate trains of thought, and to dream larger than life.

It seems very logical to me today as a metal sculptor that my material of choice should have always been metal, but I didn’t see that link as clearly as others. It wasn’t till my late twenties that I took my first welding class, and I have never glanced back. I am utterly fascinated by metal and steel structures. The pure power which the material possesses is humbling and its delicate ability to weave together, a technical challenge. It still baffles me the capacity steel has; it can bend across great rivers, cantilever weights into space, or teeter to unimaginable heights. It leaves all of us breathless.

When you start to look at metal or at structures closely, you begin to look at the material metal not as an object to build with, but also as a beautiful canvas both inherently and potentially. You can use the rusted autumn of Corten steel, to the shimmery transparency of stainless, to the purple majestic range captured while heating steel, to all metals abilities to be used as a canvas. Metal is a painting in and of itself. So, as I began my career working with metal, I began to take my years as begin trained a painter as a spring board in coloring metal.

I grew up in a mountain town in Colorado that was in the tidal wave of major development. My playground became construction sites, and I loved it. I would go around touching all the raw materials and seeing how the whole house was being put together almost nail by nail; it was an educational childhood. I knew from a young age that I wanted to learn how to make objects, to be hands on with the actual physical fabrication aspect of design.

Architecture is the thread through all my work.

The Glow of Coit Tower; 2009; wood, oil paint, acrylic paint, and steel; 56″x27″x7″

Paul Weiner:

You’re a member of the co-op at Next Art Gallery here in Denver. How would you describe the vibe of a co-op in comparison with a commercial gallery?

Virginia T Coleman:

I was recommended to it by a fellow artist who was telling me how great the gallery space was, so I decided to give it a try. I have not found a commercial gallery that has really grabbed me yet. I hold strong to my freedom to create unhindered by outside influences. I am not opposed to commercial galleries but have not found them conducive at this juncture.

With the Co-op, I am learning a tremendous amount about how a gallery is run. I can’t say I ever want to run a gallery. I’ll leave that to others, but it is interesting. I am in charge of reviewing potential new members portfolios. It is fun to see what other artist in the Denver area are creating. Every member has his or her own unique voice and we support and encourage all of the members to push their art.


Please view Virginia T Coleman’s artwork online at http://www.virginiatcoleman.com/ and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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