Scott Silvey: I feel very fortunate to have been in Atlanta during a time when the art community there was beginning to develop a strong sense of it’s own worth both nationally and internationally. During the years following the 1996 Olympics, the artists in Atlanta nurtured an already budding artistic community into something much more complex and multi-faceted.
Since graduating from Georgia State I have continued to pursue many of the same subjects I did while in school. History, natural systems, resonance, architecture, spirituality, authenticity, interconnectedness, mortality, liminality, sexuality, perception, and the essential nature of things all continue to be influential themes in my work. During the last several years however, my treatment of them has become more refined and my technical skills for realizing my ideas have continued to improve.
Nourished by Change, steel, suitcases, soil, 49.5 ft. x 11 ft. x 7.5 ft., 1999
BS: Before going to school for sculpture you studied psychology at Earlham College. How have your studies in psychology influenced your art?
SS: I’m not sure my studies in psychology influenced my art necessarily but rather my interests in art and psychology sort of both sprang from the same source. I believe both fields find their origins in the pursuit of understanding. Whether it is the relationship of cognition to behavior or figure to ground, both endeavor to make sense of the world.
BS: Scott, I've noticed that you have been involved with several group exhibitions in Japan. Based on your experience, can you explain some of the differences on how art is viewed in Japan compared to in the States? Is there a noticeable difference in tastes, so to speak?
SS: To be perfectly honest, I haven’t noticed any fundamental difference in the way that art is viewed or made in Japan versus anywhere else I have been. Because of the Internet I think a kind of global aesthetic has developed among the artists of the world. Perhaps, themes and images from Japanese history appear more regularly in the work made here but beyond that, I think it would be difficult to place the work geographically. Concerning the way the work is viewed, the only difference I might site is the fact that the Japanese audience might be a little more hesitant to approach the artist personally and ask them a question about their work.
The Twilight Juncture, soil, steel, wood, felt, dimensions variable, 2000
BS: You were involved with an exhibit sponsored by Takashi Murakami. As you know, he appropriates popular themes from mass media and pop culture, then turns them into thirty-foot sculptures, "Superflat" paintings, or marketable commercial goods such as figurines or phone caddies. He is also credited with starting the Superflat style. Would you like to share some memories about this exhibition?
SS: The event was akin to many of the international art fairs one can currently find around the world. It was a big, multi-media affair with hundreds of artists represented and an even larger audience. The work there was pretty varied however it became clear how many Japanese artists are influenced by manga and anime when viewing them as a group. There were a few other foreigners represented but I think our numbers added up to less than ten.
It was a great opportunity to have a very large number of people view my work in a short amount of time. I met some nice people there and made some good contacts. However, I left the event having some mixed feelings about Murakami’s intentions for creating the event. The exhibition was only one day and every artist that participated had to pay a substantial amount of money to show their work. Murakami promotes the event as a chance for young artists to be exposed to a large audience. In the end though, the event seemed less like an opportunity for young artists and more like an advertisement for Murakami.
Developing what seems at the expense of what is, steel, mirror, mahogany, walnut, 4.5 ft. x 6 ft. x 11ft., 1998
BS: Scott, in what others ways have your travels influenced your work?
SS: Probably the two biggest ways my travels have influenced my work is in my use of space and symbology. I am very interested in the cultural adaptation of space especially within residential and religious architecture. Every culture has traditionally developed spacial relationships that reflect the social, economic, spiritual and physical foundations of their societies. Seeing how each country with it’s own unique circumstances deals with the issue of space has enriched my thinking about spacial relationships in my own work. Also, the folk culture and tales of the countries I have visited have at times become sources for symbols that appear in my pieces.
For example, I lived in Seoul, Korea for a year before moving to Japan. While living in Korea I discovered that according to Korean folklore a magpie landing on one’s house was a sign that a visitor would soon be coming. In a series of paintings called "the vain indispensable," I took the image of the magpie and mixed it with images drawn from Dutch vanitas symbolism to create a conceptual situation in which the visitor coming might be one’s own realization of the brevity of life.
BS: Scott, in 2001 you did some collaborative work with Beacon Dance at the Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center. Can you tell us about that project? Also, what do you enjoy about collaborative work? Do you plan to do something like that again in the near future?
SS: In 2001, Beacon Dance was in the middle of a four-year cycle of performances each dealing with one of the four cardinal elements. I was lucky enough to have Patton White, the leader of that group, see my work at the time and invite me to create the set for the "Fire" installment. It was a very invigorating and enlightening process for me. My work for the piece grew in proportion to the development of the dance and the conversations between the dancers and myself. The potential for the direct engagement of my work by another human being was very exciting to think about.
In addition to that piece, I have also collaborated with my father John Silvey, Mio Sasanotti, and the video artist John Daniel Walsh. I always enjoy the potential for surprising new configurations that can develop because of the confluence of ideas and styles. I would definitely be interested in doing more collaborative work in the future but at this time I have nothing planned.
BS: Scott, tell us more about your artistic process and the philosophy behind your work? What is your motivation for creating?
SS: Like most artists, I was born with a natural curiosity about the way things are or could be. Art-making is for me a way to make sense of the things around me. I seek new connections between, ways to synthesize or distill the information I encounter. At times, creating work is also just about the joy of bringing something new into the world.
My process for creating is somewhat different depending on the media I use. For painting, the ideas and images for the work usually grow out of the particular geography and environment of the place I happen to be at the time. The sculptural/ installation work that I do is more concept driven. As a consequence, the work usually starts as an idea and then the imagery is developed from there.
BS: Where is your studio? Do you follow a routine when working? Do you work alone or do you prefer company?
SS: Because space is at an absolute premium in Japan I am currently working directly out of my apartment. The fabrication of the kind of sculpture I do requires bulky power tools and a large studio so consequently I am making no sculpture at this time. I have been on the search for some space for fabrication and storage but currently it’s ongoing.
I don’t really follow a strict routine when working. Like most artists, whatever project I am working on at a given time is always very present in my mind. The process of resolution takes place on train platforms and temple steps, wherever I have a chance to reflect on the work. The bulk of my studio practice however happens on the weekends.
My studio time is generally solitary. As I said before I like to collaborate, and a good critique is extremely important to me, but when I am physically executing a work I don’t like to be distracted by others. The proper tools and some good music are all I need.
Ginseng (from "Civic Remedies"), acrylic/ carbon on panel, 53 cm. x 45.5 cm., 2007
BS: Scott what are you working on at this time? Also, do you have any upcoming exhibitions?
SS: I am currently working on a series of paintings called "Civic Remedies." The pieces imagine Tokyo as a city devoid of it’s former human inhabitants. All that remains are their skeletal homes and symbols of their consumption. Vending machines, meters, and electrical lines stand like ghostly artifacts of the ones who created them. Within this spectral landscape soil and medicinal herbs are gathering in abundance. Their restorative potential has returned to heal an urban landscape that has become sick.
Presently, I am in the process of arranging an exhibition of this series at a Buddhist temple here in Tokyo. The chief priest of this particular temple is a patron of the arts and often exhibits artist’s work in a gallery on the temple grounds. In addition to that I am scouting for a gallery space in the United States to show "Civic Remedies." At this time I have a few places in mind for the exhibition but nothing is concrete yet.
Violet (from "Civic Remedies"), acrylic/ carbon on panel, 65 cm. x 53 cm., 2007
BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the artworld?
SS: I endeavor to make work that can be appreciated on a number of different levels. It is my desire that everyone from a layperson to a studied art historian might be able to find something valuable in it. I always keep the image of a flower at the forefront of my mind when I am creating. On the surface it can be appreciated merely for it’s superficial form and beauty, however, if one is willing to go below the soil a much deeper reason for it’s being can be found.
You can learn more about Scott Silvey by doing a search for his name on the main site. You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page-- www.myartspace.com/interviews
Take care, Stay true,