Monday, January 15, 2007

Art Space Talk: Astrid Fitzgerald

I recently interviewed artist Astrid Fitzgerald. Astrid is an internationally acclaimed artist, born and educated in Switzerland and now living and working in New York. Her work appears in major public, corporate, museum and private collections in the United States, Europe and Asia.

Fitzgerald’s installation, Amish Quilts, was chosen by the Jury of the Artcanal to represent the United States at the recent expo 02 in Switzerland. She is also the author of An Artist's Book of Inspiration - A Collection of Thoughts on Art, Artists, and Creativity - Lindisfarne Press, 1996 and Being Consciousness Bliss - A Seeker's Guide - Lindisfarne Books, 2002.

Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "I have early memories of being blissfully engaged in drawing on paper and on river rocks and making constructions with pebbles and sticks. It was many years later visiting the Tate Gallery on a weekly basis while studying in London that my desire to be a painter took root."


Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?

A. "Current society has very little, if any influence on my work. I neither aim to chronicle the banal trends in our culture nor comment on the state of social and political affairs. Rather, as I’ve seen from years of experience, creating fresh and inspiring work necessitates going deeply within, hence demanding a rather contemplative and monastic life. That does not mean that I’m not deeply affected by the chaos and injustice all over the world. But rather than depicting the chaos, I aim to hint at the order and the good underlying the appearances."


Q. What was your most important exhibition? Care to share that experience?

A. "My show "Cosmic Measures" at the spacious Muroff Kotler Visual Arts Gallery at SUNY Stone Ridge, NY was the most comprehensive and beautifully mounted exhibition of my work in recent years, receiving favorable critical reviews."

Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. "I work every day whether I’m in the mood or not. First, I spend some time looking at the works in progress - not commenting - just looking. If the work has something to communicate it will do so later, by itself, while working on it. I regularly listen to classical instrumental music from Mozart and Vivaldi to contemporaries such as Philip Glass. I also appreciate chanting, both Eastern and Western traditions, for the peace of mind it brings."

Q. If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?

A. "That’s hard to say since most of my work has been sold through galleries and agents. However, during a recent studio exhibition, I was delighted by the interest in my work of younger people and surprised when several young couples bought both older and new work. I think their common characteristic would be that they trust their own intuition and taste."

Q. Do you have a degree or do you plan to attend school for art? If so, how did it help you as an artist? What can you tell us about the art department that you attended?

A. "I never had a formal art education. During a year at the Art Students League I learned the basics of drawing and painting. Later in my career I went back to F.I.T. and the Pratt Graphics Center, both in Manhattan, to learn the rudiments of print making. These institutions served me very well for what I was looking for - technique. I never assumed art schools could teach art. Art happens in the studio after years and years of serious work, of self-exploration and philosophical investigation."

Q. Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

A. "I enjoy switching mediums often so as not to get too comfortable with them. I opt for oil when I’m aiming for subtlety and depth. I like casein for its versatility and luminosity and the fact that it’s an ancient medium, as is Encaustic - my current preferred medium."

Q. Where can we see more of your art?

A. "On my website at http://www.astridfitzgerald.com/ There are over 300 paintings, constructions, works on paper, exhibitions, reviews, books, links, and much more."


Q. Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?
A. "I’m working with an independent curator and several solo and group shows are in the planning stages."

Q. What galleries have you exhibited in? Can you provide links to their sites?

A. "For a list of recent exhibitions please go to: http://www.astridfitzgerald.com/exhibitions.htm"


Q. What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

A. "I pay no attention to trends, so I can’t really comment."

Q. Any tips for emerging artists?

A. "I would say: do as I do, keep emerging, keep working, refine your skills, develop yourself, don’t pay any attention to trends, rather look inside to what you have to offer the world."

Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

A. "Fortunately, my career took off right at the start of working as a full-time artist. It was at a time from the 70s to the mid-90s when curators filled the offices and vaults of major corporations with paintings by famous and not so famous artists. But then, as we all know, the whole corporate climate changed. Of course, an artist can’t just stop painting - creativity is a way of life, a raison d’ĂȘtre. Nevertheless, as my archive grew to enormous proportions, I began to question as to why I kept on creating art. I couldn’t find one good reason. (Call this rock-bottom!?) This low-point didn’t last long once I began reading biographies of artists whose work I admired and the writings of Kandinsky, Delaunay, Klee, Gabo, Henri, Coomaraswamy and many others. I was struck by how eloquently they wrote about art, the purpose of art, the creative process and the struggle. My enthusiasm for creating was rekindled and resulted in "An Artist’s Book of Inspiration - A Collection of Thoughts on Art, Artists, and Creativity.""


Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?

A. "I create art because I am compelled to...because I’d rather create than not...because art and life to me are inseparable."

Q. What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?

A. "The art scene in NYC is changing very rapidly and is harder and harder to define. There is some very good work to be seen in galleries and museums, but there is also a great deal of work by very young, immature painters shown in galleries run by equally immature gallerists. This is unfortunate for the whole ‘art world.’ What is encouraging to see are the enormous crowds of art lovers and young artists trooping through a Kandinsky or Klee retrospective.

As a member of an artist-run gallery in the seventies, there was a strong sense of fellowship and purpose which I don’t see now among emerging artists. The Big Apple is a very competitive environment. But, I consider myself very lucky to have lived and worked in this stimulating cultural center for most of my artistic life. Not as much for the visible art scene, as for something more intangible - the awareness of collective creative effort, often experienced as a sense of community and intense impetus to artistic exertion."


Q. Has politics ever entered your art?

A. "Although an activist on many issues, politics, fortunately, has never invaded my art work."

Q. Does religion, faith, or the lack thereof play a part in your art?

A. "I’ve always turned to the Ancient Wisdom Tradition to satisfy my quest for reality. This inquiry has led me the study of philosophical geometry including the Fibonacci sequence, Pythagorean Theorem and most importantly the Golden Mean Proportions with its inherent harmony and unity."


Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?

A. "While most of my work explores traditional modernist aesthetic concerns, it owes its basis to philosophical geometry and, more recently, to an abiding interest in mysticism as it relates to the New Physics.
Some of my works, for example the Quantum series hint at the underlying order and symmetry of the universe, as revealed in physics and astronomy, while others explore, by means of illusionism, the insubstantiality of matter. The overall aim is always to express the subtle movements from depth to surface, from the insubstantial to the concrete, from emptiness to fullness, from inner to outer realities, but always questioning the apparent solidity of matter, of surface and material. What these images all have in common is their energy and perpetual play, seen in the shifting of chaos and order coming from a single source."
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Astrid Fitzgerald. Feel free to critique or discuss her work.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

3 comments:

Michael Wiswell said...

The Art of Perfection

In a perfect world, we say, there would be peace, love and plenty. We think about it everyday because this world falls so short of that for which we hope. We are used to disappointment in life; that is life, we say. Because of this globally felt short fall, humankind in the twenty-first century has developed the deepest feeling of hurt of any of previous times. War, famine, genocide, political malfeasance, loss of fellow feeling, compassion, overwhelming anxiety and a general dissatisfaction with life are the symptoms of a world most wanting in healing. It just should not be this way.

It is to this wanting for healing that my works speak. They seek to give a smile or a warm feeling to a broken heart, a fresh breath to a mind in need of rest. Pure colors for the life of drabness, muted tints for the over stimulated soul, fantasy for the youthful, symbolism for the intellectual; these are the pigments on my palette. This body of work seeks to depict the life we would want in a perfect world, a world that humankind so desperately needs.

My vision of that world has become, I believe, a new style, or one I have never heard defined or named as I have conceived. This new style is perfectionism, the art of perfection, the ongoing process of perfecting and the representing of images imagined of a perfect world. Instead of the criterion of reality, it is the concept of what could be. Everything has its geometrical place, everything has an intelligent design, and colors appear in the cyclic order of the color prism. Everything means something. It is in imitation of the way of creation, of the way of the universe.

Of course, this style is not reaching for absolute perfection; it is forever perfecting itself. Its perfection is only relative perfection. A definition could be that which is suitable for the purpose for which it was created. There is a distinction between perfectionism the obsession and perfectionism the vision. With perfectionism as style or vision, it does not matter that our art falls short of it, because it is a process, not an end. What matters is that we envision it. If we have a vision of it and we produce works of art that reflect that vision, we are engaging in perfectionism the style. If the viewer shares in the vision, perhaps having the vision himself, he thus experiences the healing that comes from hope, the hope in a perfect world. Perfectionism the style produces abstractions just like any other style produces abstractions, the question is, therefore, not whether the artwork is about reality, but is the artwork ABOUT perfection. Does it strive to show what is in the heart hoping for something better, is it about a reality unseen but hoped for?

By contemplating what might be in a perfect world, we feed our hearts on hope, the thing that humankind needs more than anything else in this dark hour. Seeing this and having the means to do so, I intend to do whatever I can to bring some hope into this world through my art.



C. Michael Wiswell

ted said...

hi astrid -

a very fine interview and your work looks impressive and beautiful - congratulations!!

a fine contribution to educating art lovers in the inner sources of inspiration and ignoring outer trends and influences -

keeping in the light of the creative flame!

thanks, and may you have abundant blessings in your life and art!

ted knerr


visit my website: http://www.art-spirit.net

Ernie said...

hi Astrid,

having admired your art for quite a long time now, i am impressed again, this time by your interview above.

using geometry always appealed to me as an artist, however i neglected to explore its possibilities so far. freshly inspired by your work and also by traditional sand paintings of tibetan monks, i am currently exploring mandala designs based on detailed interwoven geometric shapes.

see examples on my web http://www.ernie-gerzabek.com

your friend, ernie gerzabek, australia