Sunday, September 14, 2014

ENZO MARRA

observers (graves gallery), oil on canvas , 2014
 
 
 
What are you working on in your studio right now?
 
I am currently working on a number of watercolour on canvas images, for a group show I was selected for this year in Margate. It has been interesting working with such an immediate and delicate medium onto supports which they are not typically related to.
 
 
Can you describe your working routine?
 
I tend to prefer working physically in the mornings and afternoon, when I fell more alert and receptive. In terms of research, that seems to be a consistent part of my day, always humming in the background. Whether I am in the midst of enraptured activity or multi origined research. The search for visuals which inspire takes up far more time, than the tentative yet robust processes that create the resulting works.
 
 
 
 
 



 
 
 
 
 
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
 
My studio space is not the largest environment, it does offer storage options and drying solutions, but I have found I am more comfortable working in less busy adjoining rooms. Maybe one of the reasons why I work at a smaller scale is because of this, even though I do enjoy the challenge of expressing big ideas onto disproportionate supports. Working from home, in some way my whole flat inherently becomes a studio, with paintings littered in corridor and living room. Therefore I am always theoretically in my studio when I am indoors, which is a rather enjoyable concept.

 




inspiration wall
 
 
 


Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
 
I always have to have an image to initially work from. It may be found or taken by myself photographically, an artist, a performance or a gallery space, an auction or the gallery exterior itself. Once I have sourced something that intrigues or excites me, that speaks of great possibilities when interpreted in graphite, inks or oils. That's when I begin executing general sketches, more considered studies onto paper and finally oils onto wood or canvas. I may execute one image or a series of variants from one initial source image, it all depends on how attached I become to the potential held within it.
 
 
 
 


initial sketches on mounting board & paper scraps
 
 
 
 

What are you having the most trouble resolving?
 
One of the most relevant issues that my work is increasingly involving is the shorthand interpretation of the human presence, the environment they are contained in and the artworks which have ensnared their attention. Trying to create imagery which relates to such subject matter, but doesn't heavily overstate their existence in pigment is a constant concern. The challenge of creating images, almost objects considering their textural nature. Which suggest, glimpse at, recall semblances substantial enough but not laboured.  So that the viewer interprets the painted marks into something with a resonance both natural and immediate.
    
 
 
 
Jim Lambie, watercolour on canvas

 
 
 
 
 
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
 
I do have certain preferred methods of working that are constant. Ink washes and graphite onto paper, oils onto canvas or wooden supports, methods that I intuitively feel comfortable working in. The authentic textural possibilities inherent to oil paints, the way that they hold a curl, a furrow, a spike, when dried. The gloss and depth of colour that acrylics cannot imitate or offer alternatives for. In terms of experimenting, I have been using enamels and gloss paints, usually onto canvas. I have been finding that the combination works very much like inks, the lack of control which you have to submit to, due to the wet flow that occurs, allows me to work in very different ways and with very different colour schemes, the only constant being the subject matter being portrayed.

 
 
 

Augustus John 1 & 2, graphite on paper, A4
 

 
 
What does the future hold for this work?
 
I am set to be taking part in a number of forthcoming shows, some which involve existing works and others which involve producing works in different mediums or within certain themes. I do try to continue my conversation with my paintings around all the deadlines and obligations, as I feel my work does need to develop naturally, becoming what it needs to be and not what I hope it may be. Having worked with video previously, I am also tempted to try to develop and construct an idea that has been on paper for far too long. An apparently simple piece constructed from very specific parts, both related to my usual painting practice, it can be too easy to let these ideas drag out, until they never reach fruition.
 
 
Is there anything else you would like to add?
 
 
Initially I would like to thank you for selecting me to take part in studio critical. It can be too easy to get too lost in the processes of what we do, and not why we do them. To have the opportunity to see my practice from an outsiders view, is an interesting and valued experience.

 
 

ruin lust 2, oil on canvas

 
 


Monday, August 25, 2014

MICHAEL SWANEY

Happy Juggalo, 2014, 130 x 97cm
 
 
 
What are you working on in your studio right now?
 
I'm working on a new series of medium sized format oil paintings on stretched vinyl table cloths. The paintings are a kind of like a game about camouflaging figuration. From a distance you can't really see what's happening but upon closer viewing you can see where the paint texture contrasts with the vinyl and a figure emerges. Simultaneously I'm making a more uncontrolled series of assemblage/sculptures. I don't know exactly how to classify these works as they are kind of like sculptures that hang on the wall. A mixture of painted clay, wood, found and purchased objects, photographs, fabric and whatever ends up in my studio. Also, a really large tapestry-like carpet is soon to be in the making.

 
 
 
 




 
 
 
 
Can you describe your working routine?
 
Very variable. When I have a show I'm in there everyday, but for the last couple months I've been going every other day only for a few hours. It's nice though because when I go I really make use of my time there and get down to work. 
 
 
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
 
I have a 40 sq meter space in a big warehouse in the industrial neighborhood of Barcelona called Poble Nou. It has really nice light in the mornings because of the almost floor to ceiling windows. Size wise, it's the biggest studio I've ever had so that definitely affected the work immediately. The formats got bigger and I began working on stretched canvas and making larger sculptural things. Also being able to start a lot of big works at once and to be able to step back from them has been amazing. It's probably freed up my process because of the fact that I don't have to worry about spilling on the floor and collecting and storing useless garbage etc. 
 
 
 




 
 
 
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
 
I draw smaller stuff at home and when travelling. I'm always taking photos of the surroundings from which I select and print the most interesting ones and bring them to the studio along with the drawings. My sculptural stuff comes out of the photographs of odd moments and human-made found objects, and the paintings usually come out of the drawings. There's always some sort of overlapping happening and one always creeps into the other. 
 
 
 
Fertile New Year, 2014
 
 
 
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
 
The most challenging part at the moment is sticking to one thing. I love trying new mediums, techniques and ways of making things so it's hard to resist sometimes. Not sure if that's something that needs resolving though. 
 

 
 

 



Drawings
 
 
 
 
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?

 
Yes, all the time. I'm at a point where I could do each body of work with a completely different medium and overall feel. I was really into doing collage/mixed media work for a long time until I got tired of it and needed to change drastically. The best parameters for me are changing whenever I need to make a change. Always challenging myself when I get too comfortable with something.
 
 
 
 



in progress
 
 
 
 
What does the future hold for this work?
 
I want to get into doing more big installations and sculptures, and hopefully some public sculpture.
 
 
 
Is there anything else you would like to add?
 
 
Thanks a lot Valerie for the invitation! It's a really interesting archive of interviews and photos you've got on Studio Critical and I'm proud to be a part of it.
 
 
 
 
Youthful Thieving & Conniving Shitheads,
12013, 114 x 146 cm
 

 
 


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

MARGIE LIVINGSTON

Crumbling Block of Blocks, 2013,
Acrylic paint on powder-coated stand10.5 x 13.5 x 24 inches (dimensions variable)
Photo: Richard Nicol
 
 
 

 

What are you working on in your studio right now?
 
I’m making draped paintings out of white paint skins. Just to clarify, a paint skin is what I get after pouring out whole gallons of acrylic paint to form a sheet and then leaving that sheet to dry. So far, most of my paint skins have been multicolored, but I’m pouring special white skins for the draped paintings, and I’m developing a way to create a white-on-white pattern so the surface of the painting will shimmer in the light, kind of like a damask tablecloth. I stumbled across the idea of making draped paintings when I tied some scraps of dried paint into a big loopy knot and hung them on the wall. The white paint I’m using is a reference to the white canvas that paintings traditionally have been made on. It also recalls drapery, which has been an element of painting for centuries, and a classic subject in drawing classes. For me, the suggestion of drapery also brings to mind all the female bodies in art history, bodies in the process of being covered or being revealed.
 
 
 
 



 
 
 
 

Can you describe your working routine?
 
On a typical day that I’m going to spend in my studio, I take the bus from home so I can catch up on email during the commute. I keep a laptop at the studio but try to take care of most computer-related business at home so I can focus in the studio on making work. If I’ve been gone from my studio over the weekend, I usually start by sweeping and tidying up. That helps me get fully present. Most of the time I will have left a “to do” list on the counter, and I check that list to set my priorities for the day. Then I start working. Instead of going out for lunch, I bring leftovers or ingredients for a salad. A normal day in the studio runs from 10 in the morning to 6:30 or so.
 
 
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
 
The studio is set up for all the processes I use to make my Paint Objects. Probably the most important thing in there is the rack I use for drying paint skins. It looks like a ginormous flat file. It saves space, and it also gives me level surfaces to compensate for the six-inch drop at each end of the studio floor. The rack has five drawers, enough room for five skins to be drying at any one time. Each paint skin measures five by ten feet, and I have a custom-built work table that’s big enough to hold a skin.
 
 
 
 



 
 
 
 

Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve, etc.
 
It takes a few steps to produce a Paint Object. First I choose the color palette and order the paint. I mix custom colors and Golden Custom Lab matches my colors and makes them by the gallon. I’ve also been working with Golden to develop a special recipe for paint that’s thick but still pourable. Golden also has a machine that takes out the bubbles, which is a good thing, because when I stir by hand, the paint is too bubbly to make a smooth skin. When the paint comes from Golden, I pour the skins. On my website there are a couple of videos that were made a few years apart, and they show two very different types of pours. And the skins have evolved over the years. In the beginning they were fairly simple, just four-color designs on a white ground. Now the designs are really complex—some use as many as seventeen colors as well as multilayered figure-ground relationships. After the paint skins have dried, I modify them by folding, rolling, or cutting. For example, lots of the Paint Objects are simulations of commercial wood products, whether that means something like a two-by-four or the log it came from. So I might roll several skins up together, sanding and gluing them as I go, and then use either a handsaw or a waterjet cutter to mill the rolled-up skins into a log, and then do the final cleaning, sanding, and varnishing. Let’s just say that when I first poured out a big paint skin, I saw right away what a great opportunity for painting this process was going to be!

 
 
 
 

in progress
 
 
 
 

What are you having the most trouble resolving?
 
I’m struggling now with what you might call a guilty pleasure. These multicolored paint skins have been the raw material of my work for a while now, but lately I can’t help noticing how luscious and just plain beautiful they are—so beautiful that it’s getting harder and harder for me to keep putting their beauty under wraps and making it incidental to the official project of creating objects from paint. So I’ve started investigating some of the different aesthetic and historical and ideological issues around the idea of beauty, so I can maybe understand why making beautiful work can feel like such a liability for a contemporary artist. I’m teaming up with another painter, Shaw Osha, and we’re co-curating a show about beauty. We hope to get a public dialog going around these issues.
 
 
Do you experiment with different materials a lot, or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
 
Without experimentation, there never would have been any Paint Objects. And every new piece of equipment has an impact, too. Like when I got my hands on a big paper cutter, the same kind that printers use to cut reams of paper, and discovered that I could layer and slice paint to make it look like chips of wood, and then collage the chips together into something that looked like a sheet of waferboard. And not long ago I brought in a heavy-duty vice that belonged to my dad, so I’m curious to see how that will change the way I work. Then there are those times when you’re separated from your equipment. A residency in Switzerland was that kind of time for me, and it was a real challenge not to have all my tools, but that actually turned out to be a good thing because it forced me to work in a different way, and it led to the start of a major new piece.
 
 










What does the future hold for this work?
 
I’m looking for ways to push its narrative potential, and I plan to do that with Roadside Attraction, a piece of work that’s coming up. This is going to be a massive slice of acrylic log, with intensely colored growth rings. It will be the biggest Paint Object I’ve ever made—huge, a real spectacle. And it’s going to be outrageously beautiful. I hope people will respond to its visual qualities, including its beauty, even with all my reservations about that. But this piece is also going to embody a story about what’s been happening to the environment, and I hope people will respond to it on that level, too.


Is there anything else you would like to add?

Another word about Roadside Attraction, the piece I just mentioned. I think it’s going to have an outsize impact on my art practice. How could it not? Making it will be one of the biggest physical and logistical assignments I’ve ever given myself. But I think the project could turn out to be pivotal in another way, too, if I can bring it to the point where it’s not only a successful work of art but one that packs a political punch. Because, look—the old-growth forests are almost gone. They’ve been almost completely disappeared. Huge, ancient trees used to be everywhere, but that knowledge is almost gone from living memory. So I want this piece to seduce people with its size and beauty. I want it to get under people’s skin. Understanding is not enough. Everything we’ve lost, everything we’re still losing—that has to be felt. I want this dried-and-cut Paint Object to provoke something more than another cut-and-dried conversation about a few dead trees.





Draped painting,