Critique Collective

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

Tag: painting

Laure Nolte’s Interdisciplinary Art Practice

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

The Cutting Room 7


Paul Weiner:
How did your Fishmonger series come about?

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

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The Cutting Room 10

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

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

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The Cutting Room 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Imaginary Creatures by Tony Papesh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Meet the Young Faces of Contemporary Painting

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

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Mary Luke’s Painting

Samantha Glevick's artwork

Samantha Glevick’s artwork

Maritza Feliciano's Paintings

Maritza Feliciano’s Paintings

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

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

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The Wall at Syracuse University

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Syracuse University Painting Program Undergraduate Juniors

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

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

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Julia Grosso’s painting

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Junior Victoria Carrigan’s Paintings

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Freshman Hannah Moore’s painting

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Junior Painting

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Lilly Thomann’s artwork

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Jac Saorsa’s Exploration of Illness through Painting

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

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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.

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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.

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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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The Honey Hive Gallery: Local Talent in San Francisco

Looking for a young and fresh face in the San Francisco art scene? The Honey Hive Gallery displays local artists and helps emerging talent gain exposure while supporting the neighborhood’s burgeoning culture. Since it was founded in October of 2013, the space has hosted a variety of art shows, poetry readings, live music sets, movies, dances, and workshops.

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The best part of the gallery isn’t even the giant wasp painting guarding the entrance or the location right by the beach I’d like to be sitting on right now. What’s spectacular about the Honey Hive Gallery is that the management, led by Topher Knoll, is dedicated to the environment it exists in: the Outer Sunset District. Supporting local artists and communities is increasingly important as the art world is becoming dominated by super galleries and the patronage of the lucky few. Remodeled barred-over windows have turned into a welcoming art gallery and community gathering area in the Outer Sunset.

The Honey Hive Gallery is attracting attention from neighborhood residents and working from the ground up in an ethical way, the way that emerging art galleries should work. Entering the Honey Hive will leave you enveloped in breathing, tangible culture featuring accessible artists such as printmaker Myles Dunigan, oil painter Katie Steward, and illustrator Tony Papesh.

So, if you’re a San Franciscan looking to buy art, experience the local culture, or get a free date full of bad puns with your “honey,” stop by the Honey Hive Gallery. Upcoming events include live music January 10 and spoken word open mic nights on January 17 and 21 or get your hands dirty and RSVP for a screen printing class on January 25.

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Rasdjarmrearnsook’s Two Planets Series Astounds

The perfect appetizer for the Denver Art Museum’s Passport to Paris exhibition is hidden in a dark corner on the museum’s fourth floor. Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook’s Two Planets series illustrates perception as a function of social conditioning and challenges the notion that art viewers must be properly cultured to understand a master painting’s meaning. Rasdjarmrearnsook introduces small groups of Thai villagers to reproductions of Western master paintings such as Jean-François Millet’s The Gleaners. As the group interprets Millet’s The Gleaners by finding aspects of its own culture immersed in the painting, Rasdjarmrearnsook exposes how the struggle of every viewer to find meaning in a master painting results in a valuable point of view.

Facing away from the camera, the Thai villagers explain that they can’t comprehend the artistic intent within the Millet painting in front of them. Are the gleaners “digging for bugs” or harvesting rice? And where are the elephants used for field labor? The villagers are candid as they repetitively claim not to know anything at all. But they know as much as we do. The way they struggle with the painting and attribute personal meaning to it is how every art appreciator should.

Define the forms. Apply your own life experiences to the work. Develop an interpretation, whether narrative or conceptual. Paintings are masterworks because they invite varied interpretations, which is exactly why Passport to Paris visitors should experience the enlightenment of Two Planets first.

Rasdjarmrearnsook’s work is a masterpiece itself because of its ability to inspire imagination. I found myself voyaging into an introspective space for nearly half an hour as English translations of befuddled Thai conversations rolled across the bottom of the screen. The sound of birds and wilderness hearkened back to my childhood while camping in the Rocky Mountains and discussing life’s intricacies with my family over card games and an open fire. The humid and growing landscape brought about a crescendo of nostalgia, hope, and satisfaction for a fleeting moment.  How is my perception formed? What does this painting mean given my past experiences? Do I really know anything? I was entranced. Illuminated. Inspired.

“It’s just a bunch of women talking in another language,” muttered another museum goer who peeked in for just a second.

And then it was gone.

Have fun seeing the French masters in the Denver Art Museum, and take the time to appreciate the covert contemporary master on the fourth floor.

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George Zimmerman’s Art Sells for Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars

Another wild story about George Zimmerman is surfacing. Back in July, Zimmerman was acquitted on a charge of second-degree murder and manslaughter for shooting and killing Trayvon Martin. So, what could be the new controversy surrounding Zimmerman: another speeding ticket or domestic violence charge? Not exactly. Apparently Zimmerman has been trying his hand at painting, and he’s listed one of his works on Ebay. In doing so, he’s revealed the nature of the art world’s odd affinity for gossip and controversy.

With four days to to go, Zimmerman’s heavily textured, monochromatic blue painting with “GOD ONE NATION with LIBERTY and JUSTICE FOR ALL” printed onto it has bids up to $100,000 and growing rapidly. While President George W. Bush paints dogs and golf courses, Zimmerman creates an image that plays into the spectacle of his situation and relies upon politics to propel him.

Curiously, Zimmerman seems to be tapping into the public as his own marketing system in a way that would certainly inspire jealousy for most contemporary artists. Admittedly, Zimmerman has primarily evoked contemptuous responses, but all publicity is good publicity when Zimmerman’s first painting is projected to sell for multiple thousands of dollars, and all he had to do was put it on Ebay without any marketing. As Ebay bids tend to explode rapidly toward the end of auctions, Zimmerman’s price is likely to multiply.

While artists certainly shouldn’t follow Zimmerman’s model to selling artwork for extravagant prices, it is important to note how he’s exploited the nature of art collection today. The interest is less in imagery and more in the discussion surrounding the work. Zimmerman has no professional training, nor has he worked his way through the art system with residencies, collectors, and journalists. Rather, he’s coming out of nowhere by abusing his odd, controversial position in American culture in order to make a wave. Indeed, visual art today is more about the spectacle than it is about theory or ideas. Critical theorists and psychoanalysts may define this spectacle as jouissance, the Lacanian notion of orgasm in art. Jouissance is that moment when you see something, it clicks in your mind, and an odd state of pleasure and confusion ensues. Contemporary art brings this jouissance out of the image and into the discussion. That is, because the public hears juicy gossip about George Zimmerman all over Twitter, they value the artwork for it’s ironically controversial attraction rather than its imagery.

What does Zimmerman have to say? He claims that his artwork is therapeutic: “First hand painted artwork by me, George Zimmerman. Everyone has been asking what I have been doing with myself. I found a creative, way to express myself, my emotions and the symbols that represent my experiences. My art work allows me to reflect, providing a therapeutic outlet and allows me to remain indoors 🙂 I hope you enjoy owning this piece as much as I enjoyed creating it. Your friend, George Zimmerman.” Feel free to make your own judgment, but the work is certainly selling.

Bottom line: George Zimmerman’s artwork is valued significantly higher than the majority of trained and respected artists because he creates a whole lot of political hoopla. While many see him as a racist or murderer, he’s poised to make a pretty penny on a mediocre painting because of the odd dynamic of valuing gossip in our contemporary society.

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4 Problems with Contemporary Art on Display at Art Basel Miami

Art Basel Miami is taking the art world by storm. From mattress paintings to Rauschenbergs, Art Basel has it all. Collectors run amok as the Pérez Art Museum Miami opens to great success. Shouldn’t we all be happy to see such confidence in the art market today? Indeed, Twitter is blowing up in an baffling mix of praise, gossip, and terror.

No doubt, these odd and vaguely joyous emotions are all warranted, but some serious and systemic issues are on display at Art Basel Miami. So, without further ado, here are the five biggest problems with Art Basel Miami:

1. Cringe-worthy sales tactics

Take, for instance, Meg Webster’s installation, “Food Stamp Table.” Tactful titles are clearly a thing of the past. This artist displays an egg, ramen noodles, broccoli, and a can of Campbell’s soup as a $4.60 meal bought with food stamps. The price: $12,000.

Even if Webster had good intentions to inform her viewers of the hardships the working poor are enduring today, the price tag ruins it all. Perhaps the price could have been a $12,000 charitable donation or a canned food drive if the Paula Cooper Gallery really cared about poor people. Instead, one lucky rich guy can buy social justice at the fair and display the rotting broccoli for his friends in February while the gallery walks away with his cash! At the end of the day, this looks like abusing empathy for the poor as a marketing tool and smells like Rush Limbaugh’s armpits.

2. Inaccessibility for the struggling middle class

Even as the high rollers of the art scene think they are proving the greatness of our contemporary art moment, watching them incessantly schmooze over postmodernist art spits in the face of ordinary people. There’s nothing like watching a mass of rich, fuddy-duddy collectors, journalists, and dealers observing fine art on a beach in December while everyone else is huddled around a fire and trying to pay heating bills to turn the rest of us Marxist. For those who would like to see visual art reconnect with a broad swath of the middle class, art fairs that point out the ever-growing class problem in our country are not helping.

3. VIP Art Patronage

The art scene may be booming at Art Basel Miami, but it’s booming with rich people. This isn’t exactly a new trend for fine art, but it does represent the systemic movement we’re seeing whereby the new ruling class dominates the art scene. Even as Francis Bacon works sell for $142 million, emerging artists struggle with a a broken economy and masses of student debt. While this may not be a full blown return to middle ages, it would suffice to say that watching big names like Deitch and Diddy at the Art Basel VIP opening suggests that visual arts increasingly pander to the funding and enjoyment of the ultra-rich.

4. No one cares about contemporary artists unless Kim Kardashian instagrams a picture of them with North West.

Check out how much the Huffington Post, MTV, VH1, E!, Us Magazine, and New York Daily News had to say about North West and how little they had to say about the rest of the visual art. Call me a classist, but I’d rather see a photo of Jeff Koons with his artwork than with a baby who is famous because Kimye gave birth.

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Vanessa Compton’s Intricate Collages

Vanessa Compton is an artist currently living in Vermont who holds a BFA in Ceramics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her greatly detailed collage works deal with surrealist themes. Compton’s work can also be found online at http://www.krinshawstudios.com/.

Sailing the Salton Sea
Prayer for the Wild Things


Paul Weiner:
How would you describe your aesthetic stylistically?

Vanessa Compton:
Surrealistic landscapes have featured predominantly in my work. Time is meant to be loose with past, present, and future existing simultaneously. A major inspiration is migration. I focus on the luxation of figures and structures through landscapes of epic quality and interminable horizons. These are beautiful, dislocated worlds that live behind the gauzy film of dreams. I hope this metaphysical sense of time and place will prove an esoteric experience for the viewer.

When She Comes Away We Go, mixed media collage, 50L x 35H%22

How the West was Won

Paul Weiner:
Tell us about your process for starting a new piece.

Vanessa Compton:
It is essential to my creativity to live in a rural environment, one where I border thick Northern forests and Southern borderlands and live with my feet on the earth in perpetual aesthetic contemplation. To create, I need solitude and the hum of wind and wildness. If it’s raining, snowing, or storming, that’s even better. I love being forcibly holed up in my studio, away from everything and everyone. A good album and disconnected phone is essential, too.

The Hatching, mixed media collage, 30W x 40H%22

Paul Weiner:
How did you decide to open up Krinshaw Studios?

Vanessa Compton:
Krinshaw Studios is the name I use to separate myself from my work. It’s the container for all of it, the collages, the illustrations, the fashion, too. Sometimes it’s a pop-up shop, sometimes a gallery, but it’s most importantly the studio in my mind, the space where my creative vision is born.

Intersections, mixed media collage, 40L x 30H%22

Paul Weiner:
As an artist who feels the need to separate herself from her work, do you keep specific working hours? What habits do you have that help you to keep your art and life separate?

Vanessa Compton:
I should clarify a bit. Krinshaw Studios is the name I use to separate myself from my work after it goes out into the world. There is definitely no separation between my ideas, my dreams, and myself. They are all messily mashed up inside. The only separation I feel the need to maintain is once the work goes out into this big, chaotic world of everything else. The name is part myth, part ego-check and part formal cloaking. Truthfully, in order to create I actually just feel the need to separate myself from most everyone else. That is my struggle and why I am so grateful for artist residencies.

In 2012 I went to Saskatchewan for a month-long residency at the childhood home of the writer Wallace Stegner. The kinds of collages I’ve been making take me on average a month of work for one piece. There’s a lot of visual research, prepping, and, of course, cutting that needs to happen before even starting. Being tucked away in a rural environment far from anyone I know, with every moment to work, allowed me to be my most prolific. In the Saskatchewan frontier land, my muse was strong, and I completed five large pieces during my time there. I will continue to try for these opportunities. They truly are essential to my creative process and the beautiful web of programs out in this world endlessly inspires me.

The Neighborhood DETAIL

Paul Weiner:
Where did you get your training, and how has it influenced your current work?

Vanessa Compton:
I received my BFA from CU-Boulder with an emphasis on sculptural ceramics. My professors were all fabulously talented artists in their own rights, and I am forever grateful for their patience and their push. It gave me a solid backbone to begin working from. Working in clay singularly for 5 years gave me a steely resolve and respect for the medium at hand. Transitioning to collage came out of my own transition from a normative, mostly stationary lifestyle into one more transient in nature. My grandmother was a wildly talented artist and always worked in a variety of media. Since this was my living example, it made complete sense to transition into working with a more nimble medium, one that I could travel with. I got to fall in love all over again and haven’t looked back.

The Neighborhood #2, stoneware, 15 x 15 x 5%22

Paul Weiner:
To what extent do you know what you’ll create before you start making it? Are these surrealist pieces straight from your head or do they develop on their own as you put material down on the piece?

Vanessa Compton:
I begin a piece when I am compelled by a specific image, structure or horizon. This could be a shape like a floating planet or as specific as an image I’ve found and desperately want to use. It’ll hang there in my head, lingering on my conscience, waiting for me to build a world for it to live in. Before I begin, I know what the general scaffolding will be, the color tone, and the general feel. But the details, the magic, that comes during the making. The mind, especially the imagination, has to be wide open. My most successful works are clusters of relationships, interactions both proactive and sedate and dreamily living in an architecturally sound landscape.

Shiprock, NM, mixed media collage, 30L x 40H%22

Paul Weiner:
Do you think that your ceramic work has impacted your collage style?

Vanessa Compton:
Most definitely. With my ceramic work, I was drawn to the intersections of private, voyeuristic, and fantastical worlds. Due to the medium, these were miniature realms that I would then place in ways that forced the viewers to physically bring themselves down to a lower level. However, with collage I can achieve so much more detail-wise and work much larger than ever before. Working with clay was like working with bones. It taught me structure and three-dimensional understanding. I’ve found collage lends itself to a more atmospherical experience, both as artist and viewer. I am now able to take to the sky and help birth brave new worlds for the discarded paper forms. I create entirely disparate realities, and the weight of this artistic responsibility weighs on me with humility and wildness. These pieces celebrate lives lived in non-normative existence. These are worlds caught between shifting dimensions, full of myth and contrast.


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

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