Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Art Space Talk: Brad Konick

Brad Konick is known for his sculpture installations. Mr. Konick is fascinated with the duality of birth and death and how this cycle endlessly reoccurs all around us. Brad view this as a metaphor for the awesome potential within us for internal rebirth and spiritual growth; to evolve from a state of darkness towards light. This is the essence of his work; exploring this quiet and powerful nature of transformation.

Brian Sherwin: Brad, When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

Brad Konick: In my last year of undergraduate college, about 18 years ago, I was going to graduate soon from the College of Architecture and was growing weary of just drawing and visualizing. I wanted to make something just for me, without a program or trying to solve a design problem. This may sound strange, but I use to smell the unique scents from cut wood or casting metal coming from the sculpture area across the courtyard, and it ignited a sensual curiosity for me. So, I enrolled for a beginning sculpture class. I found it very liberating and intimate and so my process of becoming an artist began.

BS: So you view your art as a sensual experience? Do you ever find it hard to put your work up for sale due to this connection you have with it?

BK: Absolutely, making my work is very sensual. This quality is essential to being fully and viscerally engaged with the materials/process and seems to amplify the power to bring a work to it's fullest expression.

I learned years ago to let go of the work. I think at some point, in order to be a functioning artist, it's important to arrive at this understanding. Instead of viewing this as a loss, I see it as the work finding a home with the person(s) who most connect with it for whatever reason that may be. What matters most is the process and completion of actually creating the piece; making the idea visible and giving it life.

BS: How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?

BK: Only in a very general and conceptual sense. I’m not interested in expressing specific social issues with my work. But I am interested in the innate quality of creation and evolution as the foundation of being human.

BS: So would you have an almost shamanistic approach to art and artistic creation? Do you view art as the essence of humanity... and thus... the human being as the essence of art? On in the same... in a sense?

BK: I definitely resonate with the notion of the shaman as a sort of 'metaphyscical interpreter'. In no way would I begin to call myself a shaman, but in some indirect way this cultural station clears a path to understanding what it is I am doing and decoding the symbolism within the work.

In a very general sense, when viewing indigenous cultures throughout the world, it's easy to see that 'art' was completely integrated into the social fabric and was collectively expressed in every part of a particular culture; from funtional object-making, to buildings, dance and storytelling, etc.. The common thread being that the focus was usually on some sort of divine power greater than the individual, devoid of ego.

BS: Brad, 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?

BK: I have two primary types of working processes – making and building. Making is a quiet and more organically-oriented type of work (i.e. clay, plaster, wax, etc), while building is usually ‘louder’ and more industrial in nature (i.e. steel, wood, etc.). It’s the difference between feminine and masculine ‘energies’. It’s very balancing, so I like to work in both modes. The music I listen to reflects these opposites; the quiet requires something ambient like Brian Eno or Michael Brook, while the noisier involves the likes of guitar-driven Secret Machines or the Chameleons UK. The common link in the music, as well as the work, is having both the quality of beauty and tension.

BS: Brad, 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?

BK: I have a bachelors’ degree in design and went to graduate school for sculpture. I left after one semester having realized that it would actually taint my vision instead of enhancing it.

BS: That is most interesting... so did you feel that attending grad school was draining your creative reserves? What exactly happened?

BK: In some ways it was illuminating to be around other artists and be exposed to their work, processes, etc. But, yes, in a deeper sense it became apparent it was actually damaging to me as an artist. The critiques became indicative of all that is 'wrong' in the art world. The approach was not based on clearly seeing the work as it appeared (and how it could be improved upon from that standpoint), but usually based on current trends and viewed through each persons' particular tastes and social conditioning. In other words, it was seen not for what it was, but for what someone wanted it to be.

I have very strong feelings about this subject. In as much as graduate school can be a great experience for some artists, it can easily becoming a 'training ground ' that merely reinforces cultural and social conventions. Which is why so many artist get caught up in a egoic quest for 'the new''; a lust for cutting edge work which will bring them superficial attention and put their name on the map. I believe the role of the artist is to view reality in new ways and as a result, authentic and unique expressions will follow accordingly.

BS: What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

BK: For me the most disturbing trend is that a lot of contemporary art is an extension of our celebrity ego-based culture. Though there is interesting work being done, a good number of it is overly-calculated, unoriginal and lacks substance. "See, look what I can do!" appears to be the name of the game. In the end it’s pretty empty and boring.

BS: I recently wrote an article about the sculptor Daniel Edwards... is he an example of what your suggesting?

BK: I dont' think it's appropriate or professional for me to use another artist as an example, so I'll decline to comment here.

BS: Understood... will move on to something else. What was your most important exhibition? Care to share that experience?

BK: I’ve done a few installations where the exhibition space was transformed by the careful placement of minimal sculptural elements. I intentionally left a lot of surrounding space so that there was room for interpretation. Based on what I observed in watching the viewers, they were pretty effective in creating an environment for contemplation and reflection.

BS: Brad, on average, how long does it take you to create a piece?

BK: Obviously it depends on the nature of each piece. My work is fairly labor intensive due to the repetition of elements and level of craft. Small pieces can take 30 or 40 hours while larger pieces can take 100 hours or more.

BS: What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?

BK: Phoenix Arizona is a unique place. It is an odd balance of somewhat provincial attitudes with a desire to grow and become a real city. For what it lacks in culture it makes up for in opportunity and potential. A monthly Artwalk event called ‘First Fridays’ has really taken off the past five years in downtown Phoenix . It’s very successful in building community and culture, but the long-term question is, where is it going?

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?

I hope that you have enjoyed learning about Mr. Konick. Feel free to leave a comment about his work.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

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