Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Art Space Talk: Van Renselar

I recently interviewed artist Van Renselar. Mr. Renselar has travelled extensively. He grew up in South Wales and London, where he now lives and works. After committing himself fully to abstract painting 10 years ago he has rapidly become one of the most original of the emerging modern abstract artists in the UK. He has exhibited at many venues, including Art Basel, Miami, USA.

As an abstract artist, Mr. Renselar produces colourful abstract art that is concerned more with form, composition and colour as an alternative to subject matter. Across his range of colourful abstract art, there’s no defining key of symbols. There is no ‘language’ for the viewer to learn. Each piece of work establishes itself on its own visual merits and the viewer’s interest.

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

A. "When I left school and my formal contact with the practice of art was cut off. I realised then that I needed to replace that provision myself. I don’t believe anybody becomes an artist, you are born one.
Ever since I was a child I have found myself attracted to making abstract shapes with line and colours. I remember seeing some paintings by Miro at a very early age, and found myself quite excited by them.
I was never particularly drawn to ‘reproducing’ the world that I could see, I mostly wanted to make images of things that aren’t usually seen. I have been making these pictures all my life, but it is only within the last decade that I decided on ‘going public’."

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

A. "Whether I like it or not, society has an influence on me, ergo it must influence my art. Having said that, there are very few attempts on my behalf to comment on society. Mostly my work is about how I interpret the world I see and experience around me and inside me."

Q. On average, how long does it take you to create a piece?
A. "I tend to work in a sporadic fashion, often on several pictures at the same time. Sometimes I leave a picture for weeks before coming back to it. This is usually because I sense something is not working the way I want it to but can’t put my finger on it. A space of time is an ideal way of coming back to a picture with fresh eyes and seeing exactly what it was that bothered me."

Q. Can you share some of your philosophy about art and artistic creation?

A. "For me, integrity has got to be the bottom line – do what you do for yourself, not with an eye on sales.
My inspiration comes mainly from within my own mind where I see things in terms of different shapes and colours. I often regard myself as a ‘translator’ – taking those visions, experiences and thoughts and making them into their equivalent shapes, colours and images.
With my pictures, creativity often comes about through improvisation."

Q.Where can we see more of your art?

A. www.van-renselar.com

Q. Is it true you are self-taught?

A. "Yes. For years I felt as though I was somehow lacking, having missed out on something vital. Now I sometimes regard this as an advantage. It means I don’t feel inhibited by the weight of historical knowledge, I can just try things out myself - they work or they don’t. Great art has often been made by rule-breakers."

Q. Can you tell us something about your technique or the process by which you create a painting? Where do you start?

A. "My pictures begin with a feeling, an impression of what they will look like when completed. Only that – an impression. I make many drawings and small painted elements which are then scanned into a computer and collaged together in Photoshop.
During this process intuition and experimentation kick in and I discover that the picture can be improved with an addition here, a colour tweak there, a compositional adjustment elsewhere...The picture then creates its own life - its own logic. It starts to create its own energy - the picture becomes its own subject.

The final picture is then ‘output’ ie. printed via a giclee printing machine onto canvas."

Q. What materials do you like to use? Are there some materials that you feel more confident using? Why is this?

A. "In the past I have used house paints, pencils and felt tip pens, but most often it has been gouache, oils, then latterly acrylics. Currently I use anything that comes to hand.
I work sporadically, sometimes very swiftly, other times painfully slowly. My particular working method has evolved over a period of time and now I wouldn’t even consider changing it because it suits my erratic work patterns.
The computer allows me to make endless changes and improvements and I don’t have to worry about paint drying. I use paint and ink (and even the occasional bit of photography) to create the initial elements prior to scanning them because those parts are often done quite spontaneously and therefore have an inherent honesty.
It would be easy to overwork these elements, but I don’t need to concern myself with that because they are just parts of an ‘overall’ picture which only comes into existence when all the pieces are put together in the computer."

Q. You are usually described as an abstract artist, yet your paintings sometimes have non-abstract elements, how should we understand them?

A. "These are spontaneous symbols. I have no ongoing iconography of symbols, they are just things that occur to me when making the particular picture, hence their meaning can differ from picture to picture.
They seldom have a meaning related to what they actually resemble. I don’t really aim for my pictures to be understood literally - deconstructing a picture would be like dividing a poem into its component words.
I want my art to be interpreted by every viewer in their own way. It is for this reason that the titles are often cryptic or even wilfully misleading."

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 often start work with music playing loudly, fully intending to carry on this way. But usually I find that the music has finished an hour ago and I hadn’t even noticed."

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

A. "I like mystery and being forced to make my own interpretation of the picture I look at. Sometimes when I’ve been working in an ‘intuitive flow’ I don’t understand my own finished picture, I just know I like it, it makes me feel something.
I suspect that people who buy my pictures feel the same way as me. Perhaps this is why my pictures go down well in corporate environments – abstracts don’t have to be interpreted, they can be treated as just pleasing shapes and colours."

Q. Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?
A. "No, I’m not represented by a gallery at present, but I think I would like to be. I have appeared at many art fairs and shows, but I always enjoy the smaller shows more.
The best sales have always been from shows at small galleries, bars and restaurants, although my website at www.van-renselar.com does help pay the rent.
The next show I am at is Wet Pixels in the Peacock Gallery in Poole, England in June this year. This is a show devoted to digital art, which although I am not a digital artist, spreads it’s umbrella wide enough to cover my work."

Q. Discuss one of your pieces. What were you thinking when you created it?

A. "‘Amongst Us’ (image above) is slightly unusual in my body of work in that it is something of a graphic representation of its subject.
Some years ago two young boys abducted a toddler from a shopping mall, took him to some waste ground where they killed him. The way they did it put me in mind of the way children sometimes torture and kill insects and other small animals. This was one of the saddest events I know of. The central motif in my picture is taken from a CCTV picture of the two boys leading the victim away, a picture that has stayed with me for years.
In it the event is still before them, the act not yet committed. What prompted me to make this picture was learning that the two boys have now been released after serving their sentences and are now back amongst us."

Q. Any tips for emerging artists?

A. "I would say – be honest to yourself, don’t compromise. Keep trying however hard it seems in a world where no-one seems to notice. Your art is YOUR art, nobody else can do it the way you do, it is unique to you…it is you."

Q. Why do you create art?

A. "Because I love doing it. Because I need to do it. Because I want something out there that is uniquely me. Because I want to make something that nobody else has made."
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Van Renselar. Feel free to critique or discuss his work.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not a "digital artist" but uses Photoshop, and the final work is a digital print?