The Wet Collections ( 2013 ) Oil on Canvas , 200 x 200 cm
What are you
working on in your studio right now?
Most recently I was
working on a triptych which was just shown in a group exhibition in Berlin. The
work is a somewhat unconventional arrangement for a triptych, made up of two
realistic pieces and one abstract piece. It is all oil on canvas and the
hanging size of it is just under three meters in length by one and a half in
The main painting, the
largest of the three, has an image that is derived from a still from a video
clip found online from a 1970s concert and the other realistic piece is a
smaller work coming from a found photograph of a record player. Then the
abstract piece is a very structural motif, almost mathematical, that is made up
of a grid overlaid with layers of flat colour in block like shapes and is
playing off the structure and colour in the other small painting.
With the three pieces I
have been working with glazes which is something that I hadn’t touched in many
years but it is proving to be very rewarding and presenting me with a lot of
ideas and possibilities for future approaches and future work. Actually this
technique is an idea I’ve had in the back of my mind for a long time but for
some reason it has take me years to properly tackle it and it was with a
previous work about 12 months ago using acrylic on aluminum, another triptych
but on smaller scale, when I tried it out first. I should say that I am not
using glazes in any traditional way as they are used as layers of masked
structured shapes, squares and rectangles, in translucent colour rather than
the more traditional a more blended way.
This work is somewhat of
a departure from what I had been doing previously especially in a technical way
and actually I think I have spent this past year making a number of departures
from my previous work, going off in a number of differing tangents all at once
and a lot of this has been about trying to marry this more structural abstract
approach to work that lies on the more realistic end of the spectrum. But
actually when it comes down to the actual working process for me there is very
little difference even if the end result can seem to be pointing in different
directions all at once. Right at the moment I am
on a residency at the Golden Art Foundation in upstate New York and while there
I am mainly experimenting and exploring different materials which so far is
proving to be a very rich and rewarding experience.
?Undef'd Function 3495 ( 2014 )
Enamel & Acrylic on Wood , 24 panels - 120 x 168 cm
describe your working routine?
The beginning of every
day in the studio for me involves tidying up from the previous day’s work. I
tend to almost always leave the studio at the end of a day in a hurry, normally
running late for something or having lost track of time so there is often a lot
to tidy up when I arrive the next day. I like to start every day of work with a
clean slate and a clean palette, so this has become a kind of ritual for me,
maybe not one that I like very much but I think a very necessary one for me.
Often I spend quite a bit of time during the clear up and after just looking at
the work that is currently on the go and also planning what comes next and how
best to tackle it. Most days when I am in
the studio I arrive between 9 and 10 am and stay until 5 or 6 pm and I think
most of that time is devoted to actual painting. I really value the time that I
have in the studio and I try to always fill it with as much work as possible.
Somedays of course that doesn’t happen but I think that in generally I think I
am very disciplined about how my time gets used.
describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
My studio is currently
in the Atelierhaus Mengerzeile, a former piano factory which was occupied by
artists just over 21 years ago and developed into an independent studio house
with its own gallery space called the Kunsthalle m3 and a guest studio to allow
visiting artists to come and do residencies in Berlin. There are currently
about 35 artists working in the building and I have had my own studio there for
just over 9 years now. It has been a great place to work, partly because of the
amount of space that I have but also because of the daily interaction with some
of the other artists. It is a place which enjoys a very strong work ethic, a
lot of the artists have been in the building for 10 years or more and I think
by-in-large they all take what they do very seriously and on top of that there
is a disproportionately large number of painters working there which is great
for me and has been a fantastic source of knowledge and learning over the years
both technically and conceptually.
It seems absolutely
amazing to me to think that I have been there for 9 years now, I can’t quite
believe how quickly that time has past. Working there for so long has of course
had an immense impact on me and my work so much so that it is difficult to
pin-point any individual aspect that I can say has come out of that. Sadly
though it looks almost certain that we are going to have to leave this building
in the near future. It was sold earlier this year and there are plans to turn it
into apartments, which means that all of the artists will be searching for a
new spaces quite soon. We’ve tried to save the building as an artists’ studio
house but it seems that there is very little we can do and actually over the
past couple of years this has been happening all across Berlin to many other
studio buildings. The rents are rising and the spaces are becoming more scarce.
Memory( 2012 )
Oil on Canvas , 70 x 95
Reno ( 2011 ) Oil on Canvas , 180 x 240 cm
Tell me about
your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
My process has changed a
lot over the years but I think one thing which has remained constant is the
almost mathematical nature that runs through it. This is something that has become
even more prominent for me in recent years. I studied computer programming for
a few years before going to art college and this has been a major influence not
only on what I paint but also how.So
for me the process is often a very defined by a structured set of procedures. I
realise of course that this can seem like a very alien approach to painting
which is so often defined by ideas of expression, intuition or spontaneity. For
me all of these things still exist within my process but they take place at the
micro level rather than the macro. And I think on that micro level my process
has be defined by a very slowly developing love affair with the very material
The process in my work
is something that is always evolving and changing. I will spend months or years
establishing a way of working and developing what can often be a very elaborate
process and then once I feel comfortable with it I will switch to something new
or make some dramatic shift in my approach or process. This is not something
that I do consciously but I have become aware that it is definitely a pattern
that has developed. It is a contraction in a way because I don’t make this
change because I am dissatisfied with a certain approach but rather because I
am happy with it. I am always striving to find a process where each and every
work suggests new and previously unthought of possibilities for the next work
and it is when those suggestions stop happening that I make more dramatic
shifts.Also for me it would seem that
the longer I have been working the more restless I begun to feel about all of
the ideas that I want to try out and recently I have felt more comfortable
about following multiple tangents at the same time. For me a big part of it is
about defying expectations, both my own and those of people that know my work
and together with that it is about breaking the rules, even the self-imposed rules,
especially the self-imposed rules.
What are you
having the most trouble resolving?
I have almost always
been working with and from found images and the most perplexing issue for me
has always been the choice of subject matter and source material. I have
approached this from a number of angles and using different strategies but it
is something that for a long time I ultimately was very unsatisfied with on a
whole. I guess that this must be an issue that many artists are challenged by
especially artists that work with found source material and especially now with
the abundance of possibilities available on the internet. I have never been
someone that can just keep making work using one or two motifs, I have always
found the idea of working in series based on a single distinct theme to be
unsatisfying and simple arbitrary selections have always seemed too
uncommitted. I think what I have been chasing for a long time is some sense of
narrative that can inform the selection process and that can be eluded to in a
very open-ended way in the resulting body of work. The exhibitions that excite
me are just like that, when an artist mixes styles, motifs and even different
media, and the individual works play off each other in such a way that there is
a thread, a hinted narrative that runs through it which can be read in any
number of ways. I think with my current work I am getting close to something
like that but we'll see how it develops.
I try going forward but my feet walk back - Moon / Horse / Cow (Automatic Return),
2014, Oil & Acrylic on Canvas, 140 x 280 cm
(Triptych: 140 x 170 cm, 60 x 80 cm & 60 x 80 cm)
experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within
Over the years I have
worked with video, photography, sound art, text, books, and even public art
installations but painting has always remained the central focus. However
within painting itself for quite a few years I tried to concentrate on a
developing a single style, using a single medium of oil on canvas and allowing
the style to evolve slowly and naturally with each new piece but over the past
3 or 4 years I have become less pure about it and far more experimental in my
approach to using different mediums and materials. So yes at the moment I do a
lot of experimentation with different mediums and material. Most of those
experiments may never see the light of day but they have been the source of
I’ve always had the idea
that art making is about invention and part and parcel with that is the idea of
problem solving. Experimentation for me, is mostly a process of making things
difficult for myself or creating challenges and then trying to figure things
out and a lot of the experimentation in my painting work is actually informed
by the things that go on around it such something as mundane as cleaning
Also one thing I have
been doing recently, while I am working on one painting I will have a smaller canvas
on the go beside it, a little brother or sister for the main painting, and I
try to allow them to feed off each other while also using the smaller piece to
try out experiments in a more unplanned way and then using that to inform the
process of the large painting. The funny thing is that a couple of times at the
end the two paintings work so well together that I don’t separate them and
always show them together.
Omega_b ( 2014 ) Acrylic on Canvas , 80 x 60 cm
What does the
future hold for this work?
This current work is
part of the first stages of a new body of work. At this point it is hard to say
how that will develop but I would hope that within maybe the next 2 years I can
have it at a point to exhibit it in a solo exhibition. I have started some work
on an accompanying book project that gathers together items of the research for
the current work and I would like get back to that at some point and develop it
anything else you would like to add?
Just to say thank you Valerie
for inviting me to do this and to be part of the Studio Critical website and
sorry again for taking so long to get back to you with my answers.
This first answer is
from August, when I began writing this piece.
My 'studio' for August is the backyard of a fishing 'shack' in RI. For
years and years I've worked in natural environments and there developed imagery
that comes back with me to NYC. I brought a heavy-textured watercolor book I
began in my Queens studio. I was listening to jazz and became taken over by
thoughts of my mother, who played jazzy piano and died 8 yrs ago. This book has
become about thoughts of her life and her early decline. This is now spliced
with garden imagery.
I'm working on new canvases, creating rhythms and linear characters as the
animation around me soaks in. I’ve brought small unfinished canvases from the
last months and years. My abstract paintings try to express living presences in
the forms I delineate by drawing w/ the brush and graphite. One painting
suggested two abstract figures in cage-like structures; one comfortably
ensconced and the other struggling to get in or out of its cage. This was an
interaction I saw but could be read or not read any number of ways by the
viewer, and has since disappeared anyway! That struggle is gone and it now
seems to be about a window to the boat marina across the street with a figure
trying to look out. Another suggests a tree-form gaining traction with a
slumbering cloud-rock form above it, like Zeus holding the weight of the sky,
and now has an amber barely visible dusk light. Narrative elements arrive for
me after the automatic drawing and forms have begun to inhabit the space.
I develop or discard them according to what the painting is trying to express.
Can you describe your working routine?
It takes me a long time to get to painting. I read, I write, I
peruse the computer (here at this retreat I do outdoorsy things) I have to get
through veils and veils of consciousness and emotions. After hours of this,
much of it happening in the studio while taking in my work I 'give in' or 'give
over' and I start. A deep rhythm catches hold between all the pieces and I'm
off. Working on new paintings always frees up the older ones. At home in
Queens, and before that in Williamsburg, by far my most productive work periods
start in the afternoon, when the rest of the working world is coming home! From
about 4-10pm. When I have shorter periods to work. I'll develop a body of works
on paper, or focus on one or two larger paintings I'm involved with.
Can you describe your studio space, and if, at all, that affects your work?
My studio space has been a portion of my home or loft for 20yrs and has
been a strong presence in developing my vision of the world. What becomes dramatized in addition
to the light and structures is the inner-outer play between inner life, studio realm and outside world.
My current studio in Queens is the front room of a first floor house apt. with
a wall of windows facing the tree-lined dead-end street. This after 17yrs of being suspended in a concrete box over
the East River and Williamsburg Bridge!
My initial work here was an abstract meditation on coziness, furtiveness:
The weathered browns of the wood floors and doors, the shade of the big
sycamores and the procession of Queensy semi-attached houses. In the loft, with
a wall of windows overlooking the bridge and river from up high, my work in one
form or another took in that expanse. I saw color as blocks, sheets and panels
of light, with the linear imagery of loft or bridge elements woven in. It was
at rural residencies where I not only continued my parallel involvement with
landscape but began dividing the canvas into quadrants as a response to the
studio windows cutting landscape into separate compositions - I began 'reading'
the imagery from top left(nw) to bottom right(se). These divisions of forms
resonated on a primal note with my psychology as an identicaltwin with identical twin brothers
– one of a set, and a set amongst two sets: The push-pull of identity, the
incremental changes that make each twin unique. It also fed my interest in
narrative readings of abstract paintings. Imagery sometimes took on the look of
'specimens' resting in shelves. I saw or read the imagery simultaneously and
these separate but connected rhythms was important to me.
painting in RI
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve, etc.
Firstly, with the oil paintings I don't work on white when I start, I tone
the gesso out with a color.I then start drawing creatural forms. The line in art is the essential
ingredient that inhabits my imagination. Forms can be branch-like,
crazy-figurative hybrids, rocks, pillow-forms. Often they are unseen energy.
The energy of the forms needs to inhabit a space, which as I've referred to
above, gets worked in. There is a power-play between large and small forms.
Forms reach toward one another, pull away from oneanother, or maintain a
solitary distance. In my life I've generally been attracted to big
personalities – this took root with my father, my sister and then onward. The
dynamic is there and fuels my work, which in a way is a pushing back at these
personalities. This leads to colors that bolster that – heavy and intense,pale and fragile. Red and
black are alive and demonstrative, green and blue are soothing. Pastels are
unsure, guiltless. Yellows, life-affirming. And there is anger there: I
want some of the forms to be safe, enclosed, and others to be looming,
oppressive. This place I go in the last several years tends to be an invented
landscape – I want the viewer and myself to be able to move into a realm.
Landscape doesn't push back, like the world. It just is, in all it's generous independence, unlimited stature and
fragility, minute animations, causes and effects.
I work from all 4 directions, 4 scenarios. Works sit for awhile, then I add
transparent areas of color to create a density that I like. I start to work on
top of that with new imagery, and wipe back to forms from below. There is a
metaphor for the interior spaces and consciousness we have while maintaining an
exterior whole. They're also like secrets, or like seeing the totality of a
landscape and then noticing the little rabbit under the brush. I incorporate
memory: A landscape I've visited can stay in my mind for months, years, as a
personal archetype of a journey. There's a lot of destruction, losing earlier
imagery to build new tensions. Unresolved paintings get picked up again - this process
goes on for months and years. Others funnily can start and conclude, like
hopefully ones here at the beach, and be a wrap.
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
I am trying to resolve paintings for a show in a few weeks and I'm not sure
what they need, or what needs to be taken away. When a painting is nearly there
I have a terribly difficult time seeing it to the 'end'. Generally what I see
is not what others will see. When that comes together, or the differences are
articulated, that process is invaluable. Paintings that are worked on
over a long period of time are the most difficult to resolve. You lose touch
with the possibility for clarity. You need to either go for destruction – the
big moves -or adapt the slower skill of burnishing the details, making every
relationship count.Paintings that start fresh look good – light, clean,
hopeful, like children. This is suspect, as we all know it's easy to start a painting
and hard as hell to finish one. This is a philosophical dilemma, but I force
myself to mess it up, deepen the space, complicate it, and then return
eventually to clarity. The painting tells you after a while if it no longer has
the tension to sustain it and needs development. That said, there is so much
growth in starting new canvases – they can give us more than the staid older
ones, which reference another time, another you.
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within
I'm straightforward and rather traditional: My parameters are mixed media
on paper, oil on canvas, panels and gessoed paper. I'll add new kinds of
pigments to the works on paper – like adding Guerra pigments a few years ago,
and different papers, like this heavy watercolor that is handmade, or very thin
rice paper, or graph paper. I started painting the oils on wood panels that I
found on Williamsburg streets and gessoed foamcore. On the panel paintings I
found myself drawing by cutting away with a blade to the layers of color or
white support below – I love this somewhat violent act, because it's delicate
at the same time. I've also done quite a bit of collaging drawings onto
canvases - one rectangle within the larger whole – there's a footnote,
inner-outer dialogue I like. It's like experiencing a place and then the small drawing is the memory of
that place seen simultaneously. I often mount painted paper onto a stretched
I recently started a group of collages, cutting up old works on paper and
reconfiguring them – this is something I've really never done, and is a great
process. It is more crafted, gluing flat pieces of drawings and watercolors
together to create new shapes. I was teaching elementary school art last year
and the kids did great collages, they were an inspiration to me.There was a period years ago when I was making drawings of men I was in
relationships with, like intimate drawing diaries, and I created tableaus
collaging them into painted wood wine crates. Paintings opening up to little
theaters. One day it would be interesting to return to those.
Marina, oil on canvas, 18 x 18", 2014
What does the future hold for this work?
I've not been using the 'quadrants' for awhile and will probably continue
this way and then possibly return to them. I need the work to be more and more
emotionally present. I want to push the place that the painting occupies in amore dynamic way. This means I
have to be really present and unguarded. We have secrets, hidden personas that
should be out there. Also more texture within the imagery to get in between
forms as my aesthetic is rather graphic. I've been enhancing my color
again, after this 'brown' period. My drawing-based work can get so frail,
championing the moth over the steer, I want to oppose that.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
I'd like to thank Valerie for her interest, kindness and patience in
putting this piece together. Also, I'd like to mention my upcoming show at Andre Zarre gallery,
Chelsea, opening on Nov.13, 2014.It is with Dana Gordon and Irene Rice
Currently I am concentrating on 42" x
36" paintings with smaller works in the periphery. In the next month I
will begin a group of 72" x 60" paintings. It has been many years
since I have worked at this scale so there is an anticipation I am enjoying
before I begin.
Can you describe your working routine?
I am usually in the studio by 10 am, rarely do I
immediately enter into painting. I typically spend an hour just looking at what
was done the previous day and try to prepare myself for reentry into the work.
My goal every morning in the studio is to dissolve the day. I find the best
work is created when I lose track of time, afternoon becomes evening and I have
not ceased activity once. I wish these days came more frequently but honestly I
struggle a great deal, I redraw paintings, I make notes, and I try to rid my
studio of extraneous work. When I feel I am hitting a dead-end or not attaining
desired focus I find physical exercise clears my mind, interval training at the
local soccer field seems to work best. Rigorous exercise gives me clarity and
makes me feel prepared for the studio.
Can you describe your studio space and how, if
at all, that affects your work?
I work out of a home studio that is quite small
(200 sq ft) and inevitably the paintings move into the entire house. In
addition to taking over flow from my studio the house is filled with an
ever-growing collection of art, antiques, books, and records all of which are
important to my creative process. I am very fortunate my wife enjoys living in
a visually dense space but for me spending most of my day in the studio/home I
often wish for more room.
It is important for me to keep our home and my
studio organized, I am always trying to impose some order on the chaos that is
our living space. Similarly the space limitations of my studio require removal
of anything unnecessary to my work. I find this practice reflected in my
paintings, constantly adding layers of color and form, simultaneously trying to
arrive at a refined powerful image. This seemingly contradictory struggle is
something that keeps me engaged with my work and I feel in my most successful
paintings the reward is a sense of visual and psychological tension.
Power Form v.14 Red Shift,
2014, oil on canvas, 42" x 36"
Tell me about your process, where things begin,
how they evolve etc.
A lot of my time is spent reading, taking notes,
and making small loose sketches. I find writing quick notations, recording
phrases, or making simple written lists often stimulates drawings that can
become a portal to explore an idea in the form of a two-dimensional image. Most
paintings are started with these preliminary drawings or informed by existing
works. If feeling stifled or inhibited and a new course is desired I respond
with accident and chance making marks and forms intuitively until I find a
passage into a painting. Regardless of my entry point, once an image emerges I
am able to start making critical decisions that will determine the identity of
the work. I can spend anywhere from two weeks to eight
months on a painting. Although I am trying to finish paintings faster these
days, I do not determine the success of a painting based upon the amount of
time spent. Some paintings are realized with relative ease others demand more
attention. Either course long or short will lead to one of two things a new
image or a new beginning.
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
I am in the process of scaling up the size of my
paintings and my available space is a major concern. I tend to work on five to
ten paintings at once, which congests my studio. I certainly do not have the
room to work in this manner at a larger scale.
Top: Untitled, 2014,
oil on paper, 11" x 8 1/2"
2014, oil on paper, 11" x 8 1/2"
Do you experiment with different materials a lot
or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
Experimentation is crucial to my image making
process but not much in terms of materials. I keep traditional oil painting
mediums as my primary tools for manifesting an image. I experiment with process
and mark making in pursuit of strong visual imagery and psychological tension.
I try to vary the methods in which I apply paint, the amount of time I spend on
each work, and whether I attempt to follow a path of intuition or
determination. Parameters set for myself typically consist of scale,
orientation, and color. I find that restricting physical characteristics of the
work invites deeper psychic involvement.
What does the future hold for this work?
Over the next four months I am focusing on a
group of paintings to be exhibited at TOPS Gallery in Memphis, TN in March
2015. TOPS is one of the most innovative spaces in the southeastern United
States, the subterranean gallery has a mood and energy unlike any other in this
Is there anything else you would like to
Thank you Valerie for giving me this opportunity
to discuss the day-to-day aspects of painting. Sites like StudioCritical and
some other personal favorites AbstractCritical, StructureAndImagery,
CuratingContemporary, and PaintersTable make being an artist outside of the
major art centers of the world much easier. I appreciate your interest and
support of artists across the globe.