Friday, September 28, 2007

Art Space Talk: Eric Blum

Eric Blum has been mastering the difficult medium of encaustic since its re-emergence in the 1980s. Currently living and working in New York City, Blum has exhibited widely nationally and was featured in the seminal publication on encaustic painting, "The Art of Encaustic Painting" (Joanne Mattera, 2001). He was educated at UCLA and St. Martin’s in London.

Encaustic is a difficult medium to work with. However, Eric reveals a strong sense of control with his abstractions. By repeatedly alternating many layers of pigmented wax and watercolor, Eric creates a sense of luminosity and infinity in his work. The surfaces of the paintings are smooth and the edges are deeply rounded enhancing the implied third dimension of the painting/wax sculpture.

No. 519, watercolor and resin on wood panel, 20 x 20 in., 2006

Brian Sherwin: Eric, your work was represented by Julie Baker Fine Art ( at Art Chicago this year. Many critics stated that the validity of Chicago as an 'art world power', so to speak, would be decided by the success of Art Chicago. In your opinion, has Chicago shown that it is still a force in the world of art? Would you say that it should have never been questioned?

Eric Blum: I've never attended Art Chicago while my work was exhibited, but from what I've heard, it has lost some luster. When it was on top, there were fewer domestic art fairs... there wasn't much of one in NY and not yet a Miami/Basil.

BS: What about the art market as a whole- are you wary of the current boom in the market?

EB: It hasn't personally affected me one way or the other. My guess is that it has peaked and will sober up, but regardless of the climate, and these are catastrophic times, there will still be someone willing to pay for the extra zeros at the end.

No. 472, watercolor and beeswax on wood panel, 27 x 19 in., 2006

BS: At LittleJohn Contemporary ( you have two series of work on display, the abstract paintings and the portraits. Can you tell us about these two bodies of work. How do you switch from one mode of creation to the next without loosing direction in between. Do you every have problems staying equally focused on your work when you are creating in two different modes, so to speak?

EB: These two bodies of work may be perceived as quite different from each other, but from my point of view, they both have something to do with the same urges. With the semi-abstractions, I am confronted with multiple choices at every turn, whereas the portraits are a more direct route from A to B. I'm a multi-tasker, so I do both. Actually, I only make the portraits once every year or two, but shifting one's focal plane occasionally is good for the vision.

BS: Eric, you have been the recipient of Pollack-Krasner Foundation ( grants. Can you recall how you felt when you were chosen?

EB: It put me in a really good mood.
No. 484, watercolor and beeswax on panel, 13 x 16 inches, 2004

BS: Eric, your work often deals with themes that focus on the desire to possess that which cannot be possessed- and the conflict that stems from it. Why did you decide to convey this with your art? Can you go into further detail about your artistic philosophy?

EB: My early first impressions from infancy have played an important part in my approach and I have spent my adult life interpreting the images stamped from this period ...not the literal images, but their blurred and implosive nature. I'm interested to portray forms as they appear before closer inspection. The irretrievable glimpse as seen from the corner of the eye can lead to some odd and poetic interpretations. It stimulates my desire. One way for me to deal with this desire is to make something that may resemble it.
No. 456, watercolor- oil/alkyd & beeswax on wood panel, 23 x 23 in., 2003

BS: Eric, can you tell us more about your artistic process. How do you begin a piece? When do you know that a piece is done?

EB: I begin a painting with a specific direction but I don't over-think or sketch. I jump right in a little recklessly with the first semi-transparent layer, splash around, seal it up, then do another the following day. I work in a way that doesn't allow me to see the results of my actions until the end of a session, so there's a bit of suspense. The layers are loosely linked to each other but typically wander far from the original intent. I will always start new paintings before the previous ones are complete. If I am able to live with it for a period of time, view it through a variety of moods and times of day, without the compulsion to add or subtract ... I can let it go. There are times when I think I've completed it, only to unravel it later. Fortunately, I have the luxury to be able to strip back layers to return it to a more innocent state.
No. 535, watercolor and resin on wood panel, 9 x 9 in., 2007

BS: Eric, tell us about your studio practice. What is your studio like? What are the conditions you need in order to create? For example, do you work in silence... or do you prefer music playing in the background?

EB: My studio in Manhattan is rather small. I look out the window a lot. Solitude would certainly be one of the essential working conditions. I rarely use an assistant. Music always, usually in the form of a shuffling iTunes playlist. Sometimes I work to my own recorded compositions, or I'll play the drums. Working to a self-made soundtrack crystallizes the inclinations.
No. 527, watercolor and beeswax on wood panel, 27 x 19 in., 2006

BS: Eric, do you ever collaborate with other artists? If not, can you see yourself doing that in the future?

EB: I haven't collaborated before. Making this kind of work is a private pursuit.

BS: What are you working on at this time? Care to give our readers insight into your current work?

EB: It's pretty much a seamless continuation... one painting follows the other. I don't mean to sound like I live in the clouds, but much like the blindness that prevails while making the daily layers, the same holds true for the body of work as a whole. I would not be able to really see it clearly until there is some distance. Even then, descriptions may elude me.

BS: Eric, do you have any upcoming exhibitions? Where can our readers observe your art in person?

EB: Nov. 29, 2007 to Feb. 14, 2008 at Lemmons Contemporary ( in NYC.
No. 511, watercolor and beeswax on panel, 50 x 50 in., 2005

BS: Eric, do you have any advice for artists who are just starting out? What should they look out for when seeking gallery representation? Are their any pitfalls you would like to warn about?

EB: I'm not very good at offering general advice. Everyone's situation is unique.

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

EB: The "artword," if it exists, is more than an industry... to call it that would be frowned upon and spoil the effect. It's a kind of seductively-presented alternate society with rules and codes of behavior, where everyone seems to know each other...its perhaps a first cousin to the fashion world. When its engine roars, rich people spend. Regarding my own work within this context; I make a painting and toss it out there. Who knows how it will land.
You can view more of Eric's art by visiting his website- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page-
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Art Space Talk: David Stoupakis

David Stoupakis is a dedicated painter who has quickly earned international recognition for his art. David has stated that his paintings are about the strength of imagination, innocence, and the truth that children are are far more intelligent than most adults give them credit for. In a sense, David explores his own world through his imagery-- a world that often conveys a fairytale-like quality... yet it contains the essence of reality.

David's paintings, like fairytales, are open to interpretation. Viewers have had mixed reactions about his work. Some observe a sense of purity within David's imagery-- while others see only brutality. The reality of David's imagery is that what you see is in the eye of the beholder. Thus, his paintings have an aspect of psychology about them-- it reminds me of Carl Jung's theory about the 'shadow self'.

The Tea Party, oil on board, 24" x 24", 2006

Brian Sherwin: David, can you tell our readers about your youth? Do you recall any key events that helped guide you toward the direction your are going today?

David Stoupakis: When I was a young kid I found an old wooden chest while looking through the window of my neighbors ran down barn. While I was peering in I got startled by a noise and ran. That night I couldn’t stop wondering what could be in that chest. The mystery of not knowing was running all kinds of stories through my head. It was the first time I recall really feeling the power of what imagination and story telling can do for you. I feel it's moments in my life like that one that play a large part on the direction I take my art in today. The idea from a vision and the curiosity of the unknown.
Balance, oil on board, 16" x 19", 2005

BS: Do you have formal training in art? If so, where did you study? Who were your mentors?

DS: I did one year of art school at the Art Institute of Boston before making the choice to study on my own. I think art school can be amazing and be really beneficial. However, at that time I just wasn't ready to go through with another 2 to 4 years of schooling.

BS: David, what about early influences? Were you inspired by certain artists or musicians?

DS: My early influences came from fairy tales, horror movies, and most of all comic books. Almost all my early work was heavily influenced by comics. I also studied some of my favorite artists like Sargent, Vermeer, Bosch, and Goya. Music has always played a roll overall. After all, we all need soundtracks to are life.

Frozen, oil on board, 16" x 28", 2004

BS: I've read that you started out as a mural painter... do any of these murals still exist? Can you tell us where some of these can be found... or would you rather forget your early commercial work?

DS: I started out doing murals, signs, and video games. I'm not sure if any of the murals are still around because I haven't been back to visit any of them but in no way would I want to forget any of the early commercial work I did. I feel like everything I have done has helped me grow into how I am today.

Mary And Her Lambs, oil on board, 16" x 28", 2004

BS: What made you decide to make the jump from doing commercial art to personal art? Do you still do any commercial art on the side?

DS: I just had my own stories to tell. It wasn't really ever a jump over from commercial to personal. I've always done my own thing outside of the commercial art gigs. I think I was just still trying to find myself as a painter when I was taking on those jobs. Then when Aprella and I moved to NYC that’s when I made the decision to step way from the commercial art thing and really try to put myself out there with my own work. Now I only get involved in select projects outside my personal work that I believe in and truly want to do. That's not to say the commercial art world is bad. It can be a really amazing money making job. But, the long hours needed give no time for personal work and being my own artist was what I wanted most.

BS: David, in recent years your career has really had a boom- you've had interviews in Juxtapoz, Hi-Fructose, and have been very involved in the scene... does this form of success ever make you wary? Does it put pressure on you? Or do you just let the chips fall, so to speak?

DS: It's been a great year and I just take it as it comes and roll with it. I am extremely grateful to have the opportunities that I've been given. Sure, it's high stress at times, but it's not worth complaining about. Life can be truly amazing when you work hard at it and anything is possible if we just set are hearts to it.

The Day The Frogs Rain Down, oil on board, 18" x 24", 2005

BS: David, some people view your work and only see disturbing images of children... they miss the point of what you are trying to do. Based on what I know of your work- I'd say that you are trying to give voice to children who have never been heard- voice to the abused and broken. That is what I see in your work. Would you like to clear the air and say, in your own words, what your imagery is about and the motives you have behind it?

DS: I feel that most of the time people see negativity in things because of the conflicts they are working out in their own life. So they seek and dig for something disturbing or some sort of negativity in something. I have never seen what I do as disturbing. My works are about imagination, innocence and the truth that children are far more intelligent than most adults give them credit for. I work with antique photos of children that I find and purchase quite a lot. For me it's sad to think of these abandoned or sold off images of children just sitting in a box in a dusty store. So, I bring them home and paint a world for them to live and tell their story in.

BS: Can you go into detail about your process? How do you start a painting?

DS: Mostly I paint on board. I start out with a lot of gesso and sanding. Most of the time I do an under drawing then I just get into the oil paint. I always try to experiment with different ways to do the process. So I can try to keep it new and growing.

Red Ribbon, oil on board, 24" x 26", 2006

BS: David, tell us about your studio... do you work in a small space? Large space? What is it like to be in the studio of David Stoupakis?

DS: It’s a good size space. There's quite a good deal of antique photos, fairy tale books, misspelled writings and an overall trash pit of paper, empty coffee cups and supplies. The most important thing about my studio is that I share it with Aprella. We both work everyday-- as much as 12 hours or more a day sometimes. So if we didn't share the space we might never find the time to see each other.

BS: In many ways you remind me of Chet Zar in that you have created a unique world with your paintings. Like Chet, you don't really seem to care about what is popular at the moment... you continue to dig into the world you have created without looking back. I assume that you will continue to dig deeper into 'your world' no matter what fate brings you as far as success is concerned. Would you say that I'm correct in feeling this way about you and your art?

DS: It's just all about me trying to understand more about what I am doing. So, yep-- you got it. For me it’s never been about what’s popular. It’s always more about me working out whatever I am going through at the time-- as I am sure it is for many other artists as well. I'm on a quest to understand this world I have been creating and if it happens to put me on a path of being unsuccessful that will suck, but I'll still be me doing what I do. I am not selling paintings to match your couch.

The Messenger, oil on board, 36" x 36", 2006
BS: Do you have an suggestions or advice for artists who are just starting out?

DS: Make art all the time-- and really all the time. You won’t grow unless you do, and the art won’t make itself. If you have a TV-- get rid of it. When you feel you are ready figure out whatever field it is you would like be involved in and approach them. They don’t know about you so you need to let them know who you are. If you are trying to get involved in the galleries pick up this book "Taking the Leap" it's an insider's guide to exhibiting and selling your art by Cay Lang. Don’t let criticism get you down. The art world can be really overwhelming at times. You definitely need to work really hard at it. If one place turns you down keep moving on to the next place and just keep on hitting it and don’t ever lose site on why you make art. Your art is who you are. The most important thing is to just believe in yourself.

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

DS: I am so very grateful to be where I am today. It is a dream come true to be living from my artwork and I am so looking forward to the road ahead for Aprella and me. I'm an extremely fortunate person.
You can learn more about David Stoupakis by visiting his website, You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page,
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Art Space News: Censorship? Pornography?... You Make the Call

A photograph from a controversial art collection owned by Sir Elton John has been seized by police in a child porn inquiry. Sir Elton's website declared that he owned the controversial piece and that it was on loan to a gallery. The photograph was seized by detectives the day before an exhibition of the musician's private collection was due to go on public display at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, Northern England. The rest of his collection was displayed as planned. Ironically, the photograph was reported to police by the management of the Baltic.

The Baltic management has declined to comment since reporting the photograph-- aside from a spokeswoman who stated, "We are working alongside the police and are not in a position to comment further". A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: "We attended the Baltic last Thursday at the invitation of management who were seeking advice about an item from an exhibition prior to it going on public display. This item is being assessed and Northumbria Police in consultation with the CPS are investigating the circumstances surrounding it".

The photograph, entitled Klara And Edda Belly-Dancing, depicts an image of two naked young girls and was taken by controversial American photographer Nan Goldin. The girls in the photo are laughing and playing-- one is on her back with her knees bent under her and the other is wrapped in fabric. Police and Crown Prosecution Service lawyers must decide whether the image owned by Sir Elton is pornography or art. It is now being examined by Northumbria Police to see if it breaches UK pornography legislation.

Klara and Edda Belly-Dancing, which was purchased by Sir Elton from the White Cube gallery in London in 1999, is one of 149 images that comprise Goldin's Thanksgiving Installation. The collection is said to document Goldin's life between 1973 and 1999. It has been widely published and has been exhibited throughout the world. In the past the photograph has been offered for sale at Sotheby's New York. Based on what I've read there have never been any objections to the photograph in the past-- even when it was exhibited in London.

Insiders have stated that the Northumbria Police are focusing on who may have been involved in the production of the image-- which would include Nan Goldin and anyone involved in the images development-- and anyone who has previously owned or displayed the photograph as a part of their investigation. Others have stated that the police are focusing on Goldin's past heroin addiction and the fact that her work has been involved in past child-porn inquiries.

What do you think about this case? Should all artists feel threatened by this censorship? Is this just a sign of our times? Is it justice? Should Sir Elton John, Nan Goldin, White Cube gallery, Sotheby's and any other individual or organization that has possessed Klara and Edda Belly-Dancing-- either the photograph itself or a reproduction-- be held responsible if it is deemed to be child pornography? Will this charge hold up if it is brought to court? Is Nan Goldin an artist or a criminal? Is Elton a collector or a criminal? Did the management of the Baltic stab the artworld in the back? Do fine art photographs like this one give pedophiles an excuse for having child pornography? Could this be a form of publicity stunt? Discuss.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Art Space Talk: Carol K. Brown

Carol K. Brown began as a traditional sculptor working in metal. Her work evolved into installations that involved multiples of what appears to be an imaginary species. These creatures seemed to re-create or replicate within a given space-- a theme that has been dominate in Carol's work. Her current work consists of specific studies of common people caught in motion. These figures are combined in infinite arrangements-- they multiply. Carol's work reveals an interesting aspect of life... that things are not always what they seem. Carol has exhibited at some of the most prestigious galleries in the world, including the Nohra Haime Gallery and Ambrosino Gallery. She has exhibited at several major art fairs-- Art Basel, Art Chicago, Scope- just to name a few.

Pedestrian (63015), acrylic on paper, 17” x 24”, 2006

Brian Sherwin: Carol, where did you study art? Who were your mentors? What were your early influences?

Carol Brown: Because I already had young children when I started school, I didn’t have the luxury of choosing where to study. I always went to school wherever we happened to live at the time, and only could attend courses based on babysitters’ schedules. I got degrees from University of Miami and University of Colorado, Boulder. I learned a lot from watching one particular teacher who was in Miami while I was there, Dick Gillespie.

BS: Can you recall any events from your youth that directed you on the path you are on today?

CB: Nothing specific. I had no idea what an artist actually was, except that growing up in New Orleans; I assumed it generally had something to do with those people in the French Quarter who made likenesses of tourists around Jackson Square.

Details- an installation consisting of several hundred small unique bronze castings--various sizes up to 14” h.This project was completed in 2000

BS: Carol, from 1999 to 2000 you created several hundred bronze objects. These objects, which took on organic forms, were scattered upon the floor when displayed. The space between each piece revealed a sense of isolation, a theme you have continued to use with your more recent work. Why do you utilize a sense of isolation with your art? Is it something many viewers relate to?

CB: I have no way of knowing what viewers relate to, but it’s certainly something I relate to…

BS: Of these sculptures you have stated the following, "I've made an installation of many hundreds of them. This is a detail, a component of a monument that has now shrunken to the status of clutter, literally, an object in our path... a thing we might trip over.". I must ask, with this work are you also stating the fact that many people do not appreciate larger public sculptures? Would you say that people living today do not respect sculptures as they would have in the past?

CB: Certainly the roll of public sculpture in most people’s lives, or any visual art for that matter has decreased. Few people today consider it important. Unless there’s controversy, few people care-- hard to compete with all those ipods and video games and American Idol.… And without wanting to be a Philistine, I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing since there’s some pretty awful public sculpture out there… Maybe I was thinking that by leaving it where one might trip over, it had to be confronted…

Edgewater Ballroom (#12), photographic print combining digital manipulation and paint, mounted with acrylic on sintra, 26” x 38“, 2003

BS: Carol, I've read that you are ambivalent about the use of new technologies to create art. In your opinion, technology reduces the physical labor required to produce objects, thereby eradicating the hand of the artist and leading to images short on humanity. However, at the same time you have used a computer to manipulate your hand-painted images. At what point do you think the use of technology in art gets out of hand? Or have you changed your position about the use of new technologies to create art?

CB: I was referring to an ambivalence I felt towards the seductive quality of new media, but that was written a number of years ago--I’m constantly changing my mind about most things, and that idea seems off to me today. I was also bemoaning the fact that technology should reduce labor, but in my case, I always manage (accidentally) to find ways to use any processes in rather convoluted ways that invariably manage to increase the labor involved. I.e., rather than making videos by using a video camera, I drew many hundreds of stills in Photoshop and imported them into a movie making program to imply movement. Computer people tell me that’s a really dumb waste of time and you get a choppy effect, but that’s the effect I want.
Doing it the "right" way invariably looks slick, more like an ad, which is not what I’m after. Having spent so many years working in more traditional media, I did have an initial reluctance to give up the tactile quality of a physical object, but now I’m just as happy working at a computer as in a foundry. But I always seem to keep returning to painting or sculpture, as if I still need to get my hands dirty.

Edgewater Ballroom (#14), photographic print combining digital manipulation and paint, mounted with acrylic on sintra, 26” x 38“, 2003

BS: You are well-known for you abstract sculpture... so why did you decide to use a computer to manipulate your hand-painted images. Did you feel it was time to find a new direction? Or would you say that it is important for artists to explore other mediums from time to time? Were you able to take anything that you had learned back into your other forms of creation?

CB: I don’t think of my work as being medium-based, meaning, I don’t wake up and say, what should I blow in glass this morning. I tend to shift my interests periodically, and I have to then look for the best materials to use to pursue that interest, rather than the other way around. I do tend to shift often because there are many things that interest me. I also find it interesting that you say I am known for abstract sculpture—in my mind, my work is not so abstract, but always related in some way to living form, imaginary or otherwise.

Pedestrian (63011), acrylic on paper, 17” x 24”, 2006
BS: Carol, your series, PEDESTRIAN, consists of acrylic paintings on canvas and paper and a video animation that capture the lives of anonymous individuals who find themselves, unknowingly, under your scrutinizing eye. Can you go into further detail about why you decided to do this series? What was your motive behind the work?

CB: It’s hard to walk around and not notice people. The term pedestrian means both one who walks, but also ordinary or commonplace….I think these people I’ve painted are anything but….. While painting these, I realized that while I was interested in people on the street, or the public facade of private people, I was also interested in how we react to each other.
I’ve been working hard on a new body of work I’m tentatively calling "Passersby". They are paintings of homeless people or those people most of us would rather pretend not to see as we walk by. I also love the irony of the fact that someone will probably pay a lot of money in a pristine white walled rarefied space of a gallery or artfair for an image of a person who’s hungry….and that same purchaser will try hard to avoid that same subject on the street.
I’ve also had a completely different project I’ve been working on for a long time. It has to do with my completely overwhelming sense (fear) of what it means to be a parent. My working title for the project is "Offspring" but it probably won’t be completed for ages, I often work on several things at once.
Pedestrian (63018), acrylic on paper, 17” x 24”, 2006

BS: Carol, can you give our readers a brief outline of how these images came into being? What were the steps you followed toward their creation?

CB: I’ve used a variety of different painting techniques but everything begins with stalking someone and taking as many photographs as possible with the tiny camera I always have with me, preferably without their knowledge. I’d be lost without the source photos. I’ve experimented with many different techniques but all of them seem to involve a very small brush and a very large magnifying glass, attached to my worktable….I always seem to get lost in the details.

BS: There is a voyeuristic nature about the PEDESTRIAN series. Would you say that the fact that the images you captured were not staged helped the success of the series? Are these 'stolen moments' part of what makes this series so unique?

CB: While I certainly hope my work is unique, I have no idea if others out there may be working in a similar vein, so I can’t be concerned with that… I just try to make work that seems relevant to me, and I hope that it might seem relevant to anyone else.
Pedestrian (63018), acrylic on paper, 17” x 24”, 2006

BS: Carol, I find it interesting that your recent paintings share some of the same structure as your earlier sculpture. They share a sense of isolation... and are spaced out in a similar manner. Would you say that your early work has served as a reference for the work you are creating today? Also, do you plan to sculpt again?
CB: While I don’t have any specific plans to go back to metal working any time soon, I won’t rule anything out until I’m dead.
BS: Carol, you have been involved in several major exhibitions of art- Art Basel/Miami, Scope New York, Scope London... the list goes on. What do you like about the huge art fairs? What do you dislike? Do you feel that large exhibitions of art are important... or do you prefer to have your art exhibited in a smaller space?

CB: For me the beauty of the fairs is that the work is seen by a much larger audience than ever comes to a single art show. Of course the downside is that everyone’s brain has become toast because of vast visual over-stimulation. I sometimes feel like you need to train for the Miami/Basel artfairs like a marathon runner who stokes on carbs before a big race. I’ve long associated the concept of pain with seeing great art…there’s foot pain of standing long hours in museums….but what happens during the fairs is seriously taxing on the body if you try to see everything, and I’m an image junky so I can’t imagine not trying to see everything.

Pedestrian (61023) acrylic on paper, 17” x 24”, 2006

BS: Carol, your work has been featured in Art in America, New York Times, and several other publications. Has your work ever been published in a book? Do you plan to release a collection of your work in the near future?

CB: It has not, but I certainly would be amenable to the idea.

BS: Carol, tell us about your studio space. What conditions must you have? Do you work in silence? Do you follow a certain routine?

CB: The routine… absolutely. I get up--I work. That’s about it. But I don’t really think of it as work…it’s like just what I do, what’s normal, kind of like breathing. If there’s something else that comes up, like lunch or a dentist appointment I go do it, then I go back to work. I love that I now work in the same place where I live, because time doesn’t have to be a factor in my schedule.

I used to work in a warehouse that I had set up as a metal shop, and I would draw in a cleaner area, at a drawing table. Now I paint at a drawing table on paper or unstretched canvas, so I can look through a large magnifying glass attached to the table to see detail. I keep the canvas unstretched so I can roll the painting onto my lap to get to larger sections…I tape it to the wall to stand back to see what I’m doing, then stretch the canvas when I’m finished.

I always like noise—loud music in the shop and music or TV when I’m at my drawing board, which I hear but never see since my head is in the work. I also now have the freedom to travel between New York and Miami, which I do a lot, because I only need a drawing board to keep me happy….I can have a drawing board in both places. The only thing that I "must have" is the supply of Diet Cokes.
Edgewater Ballroom (#3), photographic print combining digital manipulation and paint, mounted with acrylic on sintra, 26” x 38“, 2003

BS: Carol, do you have any suggestions or advice for artists who are just starting out?

CB: I wouldn’t presume to give advice to anyone-- that implies I know more than they do and I’m pretty sure I don’t.

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

CB: Naah!
You can learn more about Carol K. Brown by visiting her website: You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page:
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Art Space News: Will Mass MoCA Display Installation Without Consent?

A part of an installation is hoisted into a warehouse for a Christoph Büchel exhibit-- but is it really a show of his work?

A Federal Court judge has ruled that the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art can display materials assembled for Christoph Büchel's unfinished 'Training Ground for Democracy' installation. U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Ponsor issued his ruling following a hearing on motions filed by both Christoph Büchel and Mass MoCA. In granting Mass MoCA's motion to allow the museum to display the installation, Ponsor also denied Büchel's motion to prevent the piece from being displayed in the museum's football-field size Gallery 5 (one of the largest gallery spaces in the United States). Ponsor's decision was due to the amount of space needed for 'Training Ground for Democracy' to be adequately displayed.

Büchel's design for 'Training Ground for Democracy' was indeed large-- both in size and cost. The installation, which cost the museum over $160,000 to assemble, is based on a mock village used for U.S. military training. Staff members were to obtain the items Büchel needed for his design. His list of required items included a leaflet-bomb carousel, a two-story Cape Cod cottage, an old bar from a tavern, a vintage movie theater and various "banged-up" vehicles. The artist had requested nine full-size shipping containers and had planned to design a re-creation of Saddam Hussein's hiding place-- commonly referred to as the 'spider hole'. However, Büchel's plans were scrapped due to disputes with the museum in January.

By the end of January, well past the scheduled Dec. 16 opening of the exhibit, Büchel departed from the project-- which resulted in several negative exchanges between the artist and museum officials. Büchel claimed that the incident has damaged his reputation and refused to have his name associated with the unfinished project because museum workers had continued to work on the installation without him -- the museum argued that it has a responsibility to deliver a show to the public and that its reputation is on the line as well. Both parties ended up in court over the issue and critics have stated that the ruling, which favored the museum, is a blow to artists’ rights in general.

During the case Büchel accused the museum of un-professionalism and went on to state that the museum had interfered with his work and had wasted his time. The museum claims that Büchel agreed to a $160,000 budget and that the project had cost more than twice that by the time Büchel had left the project. However, Büchel claims that an amount was never agreed upon and that the installation should not carry his name or be displayed in public since he did not oversee its completion. The court ruled that Büchel's work was not protected under the (VARA) law and that the museum can display the installation as long as they mention that it is not complete.

Many artists, art critics, and art advocates have proclaimed that the museums actions are not in the best interest for art as a whole (which conflicts with the museums mission statement). The debate has opened the door for discussions on ethics in the art-world since Büchel is being forced to exhibit work that he does not consider finished or acceptable for public viewing. There is strong concern that this case will allow future works to be shown without consent and that the ruling has created a loop-hole in laws that have been created to protect artists and their work.

In my opinion the financial loss the museum endured was a poor business expense on their part. I don't feel that Christoph Büchel should be punished since there obviously was not a clear contract involved with the work situation. This case has made a villain out of the artist, but I would think that the museum is in the wrong as well since they should have made things more clear. It is crazy to throw that kind of money around without a contract. It appears that the project was flawed from the start.

Büchel conceived 'Training Ground for Democracy' and oversaw the installations construction until his departure in January. The key word is 'departure'-- Büchel left the project! So how can this piece be considered his work? Especially if he does not want his name associated with it? Is it his fault that the museum threw money at him left and right and that they tried to force him into deadlines? The fact that the museum lost thousands over this project does not matter to me... the fact that an artist has been forced to put his name on something that he does not see as finished does! Both sides should have cut their losses and moved on.

I'm not the only one annoyed by this ruling. Many people feel that the museum has broken trust with the artist, the viewing public, and art in general. There are real fears that this case could lead to more troubles for artists and exhibit spaces in the future. What do you think? Was the ruling fair? Should Büchel accept it and move on? Would you be OK with your art being exhibited unfinished? Is this a blow to artists’ rights in general? Do you think Mass MoCA should go on with the show? Discuss.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Friday, September 21, 2007

Art Space News: Naomi Kasumi's MEM: Memory Memorial

Photo by Punchlist Design

Two parts of Naomi Kasumi's MEM: memory memorial installation series are on display at the Simmons Visual Arts Center at Brenau University. The exhibit deals with the artist's experience with having an abortion. "I know I am not alone in dealing with this experience", proclaimed the Seattle based Kasumi-- recalling the procedure and psychological aftermath.

Kasumi has stated that the creation of art is like a cathartic ritual experience. The Japanese-born installation artist stated that her process of grieving and healing began nine years ago after she, as a young college student, chose to abort a pregnancy-- "Coming from Japan, I have a different cultural background and perspective. Abortions are considered taboo and such events must be kept secret. Through my art, I found that I could share my concealed emotions and personal experiences in public. Sharing the truth of my experience with others..." Kasumi explained.

One part of the exhibit features 108 slip casts of Kasumi's hands, open and extended. Another part features 5,000 egg shells from which Kasumi removed the white and yolk-- a process that spanned the course of 18 months. The artist stated that visitors sometimes place a gift or message in the hands. In a sense, the audience builds upon the space that Kasumi has provided-- making the installation a very interactive experience that enforces positive dialogue.

Controversial themes, like abortion, are often viewed in a negative manner by onlookers and the media when it comes to artistic expression. However, Kasumi has had positive reactions in regards to her work. One would think that an installation like this would stir political debate, but the MEM: memory memorial installation has yet to polarize anyone. Viewers have focused on Kasumi's experience rather than politics when viewing the installation.

In my opinion, works like this are important because they allow people to see a different side of issues that are often the source of political bickering. MEM: memory memorial provides viewers-- no matter what their political agenda --with an experience that allows them to discuss a tough issue on common-ground. In a sense, Kasumi has made an aspect of her private life public in order to help others who might be dealing with the same struggle and to foster peaceful conversations about the issue of abortion.

What do you think about this exhibit and the intentions of the artist?

(The exhibit runs through October 7th at Brenau University's Simmons Visual Arts Center in Gainesville, Georgia.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Art Space Talk: Jennifer Dalton

We all know that there is a great deal of controversy in the artworld in regards to business practices and how artists are marketed. However, it is rare for an artist to have a concentrated focus on this issue and to directly reflect it within the context of his or her work. Installation artist Jennifer Dalton has done just that. One could say that she has brought this attention to the next level by devoting entire bodies of work to this theme. Since graduating from Pratt in 1997, she has created bodies of work that take a critical look at various angles of the business of art. The auction market, influence of the press, and art collectors have all been a target of Jennifer's work-- installations that appear to be a form of documentation of her experiences while engaged with the art world's trends and expectations.

Would You Rather be a Loser or a Pig?- 2006

Brian Sherwin: Jennifer, you received a BFA in Fine Art from U.C.L.A. and an MFA from Pratt Institute. Who were your mentors at that time? Have you remained in contact with those former instructors?

Jennifer Dalton: I did have some great professors at both places. At UCLA I was strongly influenced by the photographer Connie Samaras, who introduced me to feminist theory and taught me to conceive of art from a conceptual basis. At Pratt my strongest influence was Robert Zakarian, a sculptor who was brilliant at helping students learn how to analyze artworks, including our own, and he taught us how to see what makes great art great and where to aim to attempt to make great work.
How Do Artists Live?, 20-image slide show- 2006

BS: Can you tell our readers about your recent solo exhibit, 'What is the Art World Thinking?' at Smack Mellon Gallery. Tell me... what is the art world thinking?

JD: "What is the Art World Thinking?" is a project I'm doing at Smack Mellon Gallery in Dumbo, Brooklyn. It's an ongoing series of anonymous short surveys I'm creating to query the art world (or at least a segment of it) on various subjects that interest me. Sometimes the surveys relate specifically to the current exhibition at the gallery, or other times they just reflect ideas that I'm interested in at the moment. So far I've asked people about the necessity of all-women art shows, what it takes to be a mid-career artist, and what artgoers' philanthropic habits are. The next survey is going to have two simple statements and viewers are asked choose the one with which they agree more strongly: "I am inspired by art" or "I am depressed by the art world." We'll see what they say!
The Collector-ibles- 2006
BS: Jennifer, you are no stranger to asking questions about the artworld with your art. Would you like to discuss some of the concerns you have with the artworld at this time? Perhaps you could discuss you piece, 'The Collector-ibles'?

JD: Well, "The Collector-ibles" consists of five large cabinets containing little figurines representing the top 200 art collectors according to ARTnews magazine. I really enjoyed the feeling of turning the tables on these very important people whose tastes influence so strongly the kind of work that is created and shown, turning them into trinkets and containing them in a cabinet. It made me feel momentarily omnipotent, which is an unusual feeling for a young(ish) artist.
The Collector-ibles- 2006(detail)

BS: When I attended the Scope, Pulse, and Armory Show press previews a few months ago I heard many people say that the traditional gallery system is being over-shadowed by the "huge art fairs". Do you think that Scope, Pulse, and other major art fairs are dangerous for the stability of the 'artworld' and art market? Or do you think these concerns stem from gallery owners who fear that they will have to compete with other galleries on a yearly basis just to stay in the market, so to speak? Do you think the stability of brick and mortar galleries are at risk due to these fairs? Do you think this shift will harm artists or does it place more power in the hands of artists?

JD: Hm, well at first I was fearful about the rising importance of art fairs because I felt that they rewarded only artwork that was the most sensational, that had the fastest read, and that could compete instantaneously to stand out from the very crowded walls as people strolled by. And perhaps it is stating the obvious to say that that work might not always be the most ultimately rewarding or worthwhile. But I am now thinking that we are witnessing an evolution in the creating, viewing and marketing of visual art, and that interesting things might come out of it. It makes me think of the record companies and newspapers, who are being forced to evolve quickly to respond to new technologies, but ultimately there could be exciting new opportunities if we rise to the challenge and respond creatively. Of course I do hope and believe that galleries will continue to exist as physical addresses, because it is very hard for artists to be satisfied with working so hard for a 3 or 4-day "exhibition," and most of us believe that our work warrants more sustained attention, and benefits from a quieter environment, than art fairs can provide.
What Does an Artist Look Like? (Every image of an artist displayed in the New Yorker magazine 1999-2001)

BS: You have been reviewed in several major art publications- ARTnews, Art in America, Artforum... just to name a few. Did you expect that your work would have the impact that it has had in art-related media? Or does it still come as a shock?

JD: I never expected to get much attention at all from my work, but I think that since some of my work directly addresses the art world as a subject it's very easy to write about and I have benefited from that.

Getting to Know the Neighbors

BS: Jennifer, you obtained a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 2002. Do you have any advice for artists who desire to obtain grants or other funding?

JD: Keep trying. Get in the habit of applying and apply for everything. I only get about one thing for every ten that I apply for, and I have had many other people tell me the same is true for them.

BS: I read that you were involved with the Yaddo Artists' colony. Can you tell our readers about that experience?

JD: I have visited a few colonies and always had wonderful experiences there. It is heavenly to have all the time in the world (for a few weeks, anyway) to focus exclusively on your work, except for the time you spend socializing with all the other fascinating smart people around you. Yaddo in particular was great because it is on such an incredibly beautiful old estate.

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

JD: That's all I can think of. Thank you very much for inviting me to participate!
You can learn more about Jennifer Dalton and her work by visiting her website: You can read more of my interview by visiting the following page:
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Art Space Talk: Thornton Willis

Thornton Willis observes abstract painting as an abstraction of personality and nature. In that sense, his paintings are a reflection of himself and his experiences. Thornton is known for being a powerful painter, but his most recent work reveals the strength of his painterly technique and knowledge that derives from decades of exploring his artistic practice. His work is bold, but at the same time it conveys a sense of delicacy. His triangular forms seem to map-out his experience as well as our collective experience-- the essence of the human condition.

Full Spinner, oil on canvas, 24" x 18", 2007

Brian Sherwin: Thornton, I've read that Mel Price was your mentor during college. After your studies Mr. Price, a close friend of painters Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning, encouraged you to pursue your career in New York City. Can you recall any unique experiences of those early years? Also, can you explain how Mel made an impact on your study of art?

Thornton Willis: It is true that I studied painting with the Abstract Expressionist painter Melville Price at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, in the early l960’s. Price was an inspirational example of what it meant to be a painter of integrity. From Mel I learned that the idea was to "live the work." To "be in" the painting and to see the work as an extension of one’s self, and it has always been with this attitude that I approach my painting.

Mr. Price had been in New York City during the 10th Street years and had been a member of the "Club." He was friends with the "First Generation of Abstract Expressionists" he knew their work and they knew his. When New York artist Theodoros Stamos came to the university to give a lecture I asked him if he thought I would have a greater advantage if I were to go to New York to study painting. Stamos replied " not necessarily, so long as you’re working with Mel Price." When I graduated Mel encouraged me to go to New York City.

Counter Cluster, oil on canvas, 24" x 18", 2007

BS: Thornton, in the early 1980s, you were often grouped with such painters as Elizabeth Murray, Bill Jensen, Alan Uglow and Sean Scully. Art critics have stated that in recent years you have†tried your best to†keep a lower profile in the art world. If this is so, may I ask why?

TW: Well, Brian, I didn’t intentionally keep a lower profile through the l990’s; it was a result of circumstances. For example, most if not all of the galleries with whom I had some affiliation in the 70’s and 80’s were closed by the early 90’s. These included Bykert, Paley & Lowe, Oscarsson Hood, Twining, and Sidney Janis Galleries. The art market was going into a real depression along with the economy. That was when the galleries closed down in Soho and began their eventual move to Chelsea. Some of the other artists you mentioned went to Europe, which was somewhat sheltered from the recession here. Many artists were hurt during that downturn and painting took a hard hit.

We had just had a little baby girl and I decided to stay home and raise her and paint until times got better for painters again. (I keep waiting for that day.) But I did show in numerous group shows during that time here and in Europe. I have never stopped painting.

Preacher, oil on canvas, 24" x 18", 2006

BS: Thornton, what are you working on at this time?

TW: The paintings I am working on now are based on a system that I began developing in the early 90’s. In l993 I had a one person show at Andre Zarre Gallery in Soho and the paintings from that show, the ideas and the system have continued to evolve. I am also putting a show together of some earlier work, including the early "Slat" and "Wedge" paintings. The exhibition opens October 13th at the Sideshow Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (I like the artists and galleries in Brooklyn) The show will include major work from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s as well as some paintings from the 90’s and a few current paintings and works on paper.

Lowdown, oil on canvas, 80" x 69", 2006

BS: Thornton you have received several honors and awards-- including, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (painting fellowship), The Pollock-Krasner Foundation (painting fellowship), and the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Fellowship. How do you feel when you have learned that you have been chosen for honors, awards, and grants? Do you feel nervous? Excited?

TW: Brian- it is a very wonderful experience to be given a grant; it has to make you feel encouraged and energized as an artist. You always know that lots of other fine artists went up for the same grant and it is very flattering when I have been fortunate enough on a number of occasions to receive much needed financial support for my work. The feeling or the emotion I have is mainly one of gratitude.
I also try whenever I can to nominate artists for the grants I have received and written many a letter of recommendation. Right after 9/11, The Pollock-Krasner Foundation called me about artists living near the World Trade Center and how to contact them for much needed emergency money. Actually I wish there were more grants for more artists.

Redeemer, oil on canvas, 79" x 62", 2006

BS: Thornton, you have exhibited at several prestigious galleries and spaces-- The Museum of Modern Art (NY), AndrÈ Emmerich Gallery, Elizabeth Harris Gallery... and several others. Can you recall your first exhibition? Where was it? How did you feel going into it? Also, do you have any suggestions for younger artists who are seeking gallery representation?

TW: The first solo show I had after graduate school and moving to New York was in 1963 in Washington D.C. at the Henri Gallery. The Henri Gallery was actually the first gallery in Washington to show contemporary art. A friend of mine, Ed McGowan was showing with her and he introduced me to Henri. She liked my work and gave me the show. I remember it well, but I remember even more the first show I had in New York, maybe because the paintings that I did in that first year in New York were so pivotal for me?
The first gallery I showed with in NYC was the Paley and Lowe Gallery in Soho. They sponsored my first one-man show in New York in l969 where we showed a number of large "Slat" paintings at the sculptor Alan Saret’s alternative space at 119 Spring Street. Paley and Lowe was new gallery and they opened with a group show simultaneously while my show was up at Alan Saret’s space. Mr. William Paley, then President and CEO of CBS, acquired the one painting I had in the group show. I was amazed when I heard about it, and for many years, until his death in the mid-90’s the painting hung in the CBS building (it is now installed at the Museum of Broadcasting on 53rd Street which he founded before he died.)

But finding gallery representation for an artist at any age can be very difficult in New York. It is mainly a matter of being prepared to take advantage of opportunity when and if it arises. And making some of those opportunities happen for you. That is why it is good to show in groups with friends or with artist with whom you have an affinity. It is also good to show in galleries where the dealers are really interested in the art. Showing at Sideshow is a pleasure because Richard was an artist before he became involved in running a gallery. Elizabeth Harris is the kind of person who really sees art and loves it.

Fighter, oil on canvas, 80" x 63", 2005

BS: Thornton, You have taught and done guest lectures at several prestigious educational institutions-- Princeton University, Art Institute of Chicago, Carnegie-Melon University, Pratt Art institute... just to name a few. Can you tell us about your educational philosophy? What is your instructional method like? Also, how did you balance the role of being both an art educator and practicing artist?

TW: Brian, the schools you mention are schools whose art departments invited me as a visiting artist or guest lecturer with the exception of Princeton University. My contact with the art students at Princeton came as a result of my friend, Sean Scully who was teaching there at the time. He brought a group of his students to my studio and we talked informally for more than one session.
Teaching painting and drawing is something I have done but I have not had what one would call a pedagogical career. When I have taught it has been at the college level over a semester or more. My ideas about teaching art are based on the individual student: I try to understand what each is thinking about what they are trying to do and why. Since this kind of individualized teaching is very difficult to do, and almost impossible to balance with my own work, I stopped teaching some years ago.

Also, there was quite a long time when many of the schools around the country had eliminated Painting from their programs. This was in some ways a result of accepting the notion of Post Modernism. (Every decade someone tells me a new theory of why "Painting is dead") But I think that this has been slowly changing as I meet young painters. The idea that the basic tenets of Abstract Expressionism, coupled with Cubism, are ongoing and the backbone of mainstream painting is coming once again to the forefront is a good thing.
Downtown Slam, oil on canvas, 40" x 30", 2002

BS: Thornton, Jed Perl said the following about your art, "Abstract painting is an abstraction of character and personality as much as it is an abstraction of nature." Do you agree with this statement? If so, do you care to add to it? How can a viewer learn to understand and appreciate abstract art?

TW: Yes, Brian, I do agree with Jed Perls' statement. In order for a painting to have meaning it must be an honest reflection of the artist’s personality, otherwise it is illustration. I think that the best way that we can understand abstract art is to look at as much art as we can. Look at Pollock, deKooning, Kline, Rothko or Rembrandt and look some more. Try to figure out what they are doing.

BS: Thornton, you have said the following about your art, "In my paintings the forms are locked in this flux. It is part of the dynamic of the work and meant to be so. In this work, figure and ground, positive and negative are all equal." You have also stated, "The best painting is always "open-ended." It asks questions, and partners with the viewer to bring the experience to closure, or it might excite another painter to respond--this is what I aim for in my work." Can you go into further detail about your artistic process and goals as a painter?

TW: Process and systems are part of what my art is about. That is, I invent, find, and borrow ways of making painterly statements, which reflect my person to the extent that I am able to reach into that core of my being. It’s a kind of self-analysis that requires a balance between the rational and the intuited.

My painting has been primarily influenced by the two major movements of the 20th century, Cubism and Abstract Expressionism. But I have been, and still am like a sponge with a sense of discretion. I absorb what I choose for whatever personal reasons. What I hope to accomplish is a dynamic and powerful painting that takes a very special place in the world of objects in that it reflects life and personality through its esthetic properties. That’s my goal. It has nothing to do with the reverence or irreverence of past or present social or cultural convention, (which seems to be the primary aim of some current art in the popular marketplace) other than the fact that we are able to practice and make our art represents a kind of political freedom.

Konstrukt, oil on canvas, 24" x 18", 2003

BS: Thornton, do you have any further advice for young painters? Or for painters who desire to explore abstraction?

TW: I once had a Jazz musician friend who often said, "There ain’t no vice like advice." I suppose there may be some truth in that saying. Even so, I think the advice to anyone who wishes to pursue abstract painting is to look at the great art of the 20th century and to learn and know as much about the history of what we call abstraction in painting as possible. Then of course hard work is usually required to learn how to make the work that he or she wants to make.
To sum up, focus on what you are interested in. Then go see as much of that kind of painting you can find. Museums and galleries can be a place to learn and obviously you should read and inform yourself. Continue to educate yourself and paint as much as you can. I think that is what artists have always done.

Cayote Dreams, acrylic on canvas, 90" x 72", 2002

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

TW: There isn’t much I can say about my painting except that it always changes and it does after all speak for itself.

As for the art world, it is as real as Hollywood and at least as fashion conscious. I think that we are aiming for something less ephemeral, less slick, and less easily packaged. I believe that it is important for the artist, painter, poet, dancer, etc. to keep in mind that it is the art that drives the art world and not the other way around. Artists and other people of intelligence have the power to bring deeper content to our culture.
You can learn more about Thornton Willis by visiting his website: You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page:
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Art Space Talk: Timothy Hawkesworth

The art of Timothy Hawkesworth is known for conveying a sense of urgency and disruption. One could say that his work is a visual translation of the chaotic flow of creative energy that stems from the soul of this artist. These battered surfaces reveal the passion that Timothy has for his work and for life. I feel that his images convey a sense of raw purity that has been caught in a twisted maze of chaotic uncertainty and peril-- a perfect reflection of our times. Timothy's paintings are the survivors of this creative exploration-- they shed insight into the very essence of humanity.

Out #18, Oil on Canvas, 30" x 30 ", 2007

Brian Sherwin: Timothy, you have exhibited for over three decades in New York, Los Angeles and Dublin. Can you share some of your insight into how the artworld has changed during that time? Has it changed for the better?

Timothy Hawkesworth: Oh yes well first I would like to put this in context. The artworld is a very small thing when you think about painting and the consciousness that painting addresses. To paraphrase Emily Dickenson, a painting is a rectangle of burning consciousness – nothing else! So as we explore consciousness, filling out what it means to be human, following the paint – that journey – that great ride – has a strange and awkward relationship with the artworld. It is like the relationship between spirit and religion. My God it is almost hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic! So I think as artists we need to understand the misfit at the heart of this relationship between our work and the artworld.

I remember the story of Jackson Pollock and Williem De Kooning running into each other on 57th Street after they had got some fame and just falling over laughing at the thought of it. Don’t get me wrong I like the fact there are places that show paintings and people who buy them and people to write about them – I even like all the trendy coffee shops that spring up around the galleries. I like showing my work. I just don’t want to let my relationship with it get out of hand or to be too worried about it all.

Yes the artworld changes, it has to, that is marketing. It will keep going round and round being surprised and excited by the view of its own tail. It forgets where it has been so that it can be refreshed by what it comes upon. Painting is slower. Brancusi talked about the patience of the peasant waiting for the harvest. Medieval time. Painting and consciousness unfold more slowly. They need more quiet, more time, more sensitivity than the artworld tends to give. James Joyce said "Silence, exile and cunning!"
Going Out #2, Oil on Canvas, 36" x 36", 2004

BS: Considering the current art market-- do you have any advice for artists who are just starting out?

TH: Oh dear I don’t think young artists if they were anything like I was, would listen to the likes of me. Still here goes. Don’t "consider the current art market" whatever you do! You have to be crazy to paint. Crazy enough to believe that in the end they will come. I am crazy enough and I do believe that if you do the work and take the time to come up with strong personal painting, they will come. People hunger for this.

So figure out why you are painting. What is the job? Really what is it and why does it matter? You will need a broader context than the one usually offered by art schools, art magazines, great blogging, curators and critics. Then just do it. Stand in your vision and experience – paint from there. Figure out ways to let yourself do it. You need time. Get part-time work – whatever you can pull together. Know that the longer you do it the better you will get. When you have work to show, really work at getting it out. It is your job to get the actual pieces in front of people with the resources to show it. After that it is up to them to decide if they want your work. This is not easy. I found that being aware and considerate of the predicament of the curator or gallery owner was the most effective path.

Really though I have no idea.

When the Heart Opens, Oil on Canvas, 60" x 72", 2003

BS: Tell us about your early years... when did you decide to pick up the brush-- and why?

TH: I painted as a kid. I grew up in Ireland in the mountains of Wicklow. I did landscapes and sold them to tourists out of one of the farm buildings. I wanted to paint like John Constable (I think I still do). Anyway I always painted. Back then you could get grants to go to university. So I got paid to study history while I painted away. It was a strange time. Ireland was on the brink of civil war. There were two histories and always two different responses to events as they unfolded. It was hard to know what to believe and how to get past all the lies. Painting seemed like a place where I could do that – where I could build a way of working that I could trust.

Painting for me has always been an extremely physical body centered language. The paint goes onto our nervous system. We follow Rembrandt’s finger through the paint. It is communication by touch. It is always a physical presence and that is its gift. To look at painting and to paint we need to stand in our bodies responses. Painting insists that we stand there. It is how it works.

The poets talk about making a temple of the inner ear for sound to echo down into the psyche, painters have to make a temple of the belly and stand with how marks, paint and imagery go onto our bodies. This is a radical stance in a culture that keeps trying to separate us from our body’s experience. The social and political dialogue is designed to separate us from the experience of living in our bodies. It creates a gap in which people get lost. Painting is one way to close that gap. So when I first came to painting it seemed like a way to get straight – get to some bedrock.
Heart #1, Oil on canvas, 60" x 72", 2003
BS: Timothy, your art has been reviewed in The New York Times, ARTnews, Art New England and several other publications. How do you feel when you are asked to be featured? Do you get nervous?

TH: No, I am pleased. I believe strongly in the value of painting and its relevance. I am driven to talk about how it works and why it matters. I don’t feel that artists and critics are doing a very good job at explaining this. There are exceptions like Philip Guston, who was a great talker, and the great critic John Berger. On the whole, however, poets do a much better job. I read what they write about the relevance of poetry and this helps me find the words to talk about painting.

BS: Timothy, has your art been influenced by any major world events? Also, where do you draw inspiration from? Can you discuss your influences?

TH: Yes I think whatever effects me effects my painting. I have done series of works that came out of my response to events. During the first gulf war I did a series called "Para La Quinta Del Sordo" which means "From the House of the Deaf Man" this is a reference to Goya’s house. This was because I got so angry. It seemed everyone was lying to me and yet they were going to war on my behalf. I hated the military news briefings – the jokes and high aerial photographs of targets being bombed that showed no understanding or compassion for what was going on on the ground. They were very angry drawings and I was grateful for Goya’s great angry response to his own time.

Now I think my work is impacted by the planetary crisis that is unfolding. I don’t know fully how it will show itself but I am aware of my growing unease and my grief at the awful and profound violations of nature that are continuing to threaten our existence. I believe our survival now depends upon our return to a humbler and attentive relationship with nature. Now I work to do just that – to be a better watcher of the incredible complexity and power of nature and to paint from those experiences.

As to where I draw inspiration, it always seems to go back to the landscape in Ireland where I grew up. I have wanted to paint, not so much the landscape itself, but the experience of being in it. How it opens me, dissolves me. It has always been the question how do you get to that? At first I would paint my body into the painting – paint myself in there. Then it was a matter of getting past my body’s presence into the energy that is the experience. It’s into the body then through the body then out of the body. It’s about pure energy. The motifs that have shown up over the years were stepping-stones to this dissolution. Basically the ambition to paint experience as a subject has been with me a long time and it is the Irish landscape of my childhood, and its weather, that opens me up.

Out #4, oil on canvas, 36"x36", 2006
BS: Timothy, can you tell our readers about your 'Going Out' and 'Out' series. What are the differences between these two bodies of work? How are they connected?

TH: These two series happened when I stepped up to the challenge of my long search to paint the way landscape opened me up. For years I had worked at it, pushed at it. I would take as long as two or three years to complete a painting. I was working on 15 foot triptychs trying to get at the impact of landscape. I was banging my head against it. Then I decided to just paint it directly – to go straight for it.
I chose a smaller canvas size, 36" X 36", and I did a painting a day for two weeks without a break. I just put them out. Just to see. I found that I got further and I got more coherent the freer I was. This amazed and delighted me. I discovered that when a painting goes well, it is easy; it has a life of its own. Its quality and its conviction come from its naturalness. It appears effortless because it is. The work, the struggle, is getting to that place of effortlessness with enough knowledge and experience so that it will cohere into the language of painting.
The other challenge is not messing with that effortlessness: letting it be; not letting the conscious mind mess with the wonderful lightness of those moments. These paintings were the "Going Out "Series. The paintings that followed were the "Out" Series. These came as I stood more confidently in the painting of the experience of nature.

Going Down in Time III, mixed media on paper, 32"x 22", 2000

BS: Timothy, I really enjoy your Horse Drawings series... these images are loose, yet they have a sense of static about them-- as if the horse figures are encumbered or stuck. Can you tell us about this series of images? What is the story behind this body of work?

TH: I was very surprised when I started doing these drawings. They came from my memory of a horse I had when I was a kid. She was part thoroughbred. She was perfect except for the back legs which scraped the ground going down hill. It was a kind of loss of faith. She feared that her legs would give out. She refused to trust the rhythmic movements passed down in her genes. Fear and stubbornness ruled. It was a fear fed by a rampant imagination. A swooping bird, a rustle of leaves, a passing shadow, everything reduced her to a trembling nervous excitement. "Shy" was the word we used: she would "shy" from anything that moved.
I grew up with her and I grew up like her. After she died I started to imagine her journey through horse history. She told me stories – how she crossed the Alps with Hannibal: how she was part of the battle of Wounded Knee. This was the starting point. She provoked the memories and the connections to make these drawings. However, once started her presence was submerged in the process: a backdrop to the making and unmaking of the images. Her sensitivity was a conduit with nature.
I had the physical memory of the movement of her body – of her attunement – of the speed of her mind as it manifested itself in the twitches of her body. She taught me to see. I think when you don’t have religion you need an imagery horse or a boat. You need transportation to the other side. Maybe that is only true for the Irish!

Feel Good Saddle Sores, mixed media on paper, 40" x 30", 1998

BS: Timothy, you have stated the followings: "At the heart of painting there is a kind of affirmation; it returns us to hope. When form appears in the paint, when the color starts to sing, it’s already on the side of hope.". I assume that you see artistic expression as a form of hope, both for the creator and the viewer, correct? Can you discuss this further?

TH: Yes I’m really talking about all creativity when I say that. We live in a creative ecology. We are by nature creative – all of us. James Joyce has his alter ego Stephen Dedalus say "the only limit to creativity is [self] consciousness." We have no idea how far we can go. When I work and when I teach I see how creativity is encouraged. What helps it. It comes from feeling good, from openness and fluidity. It comes from an ‘up’ energy. To be creative we have to stand in possibility. Creativity by definition means going out beyond what we know and already realize. For this to happen we must believe that there is more to us than we realize: that there is more out there to be experienced and that there is more inside us. Hope is different from optimism. Optimism suggests things will work out. Hope implies that there is more to it – more over the horizon. In this way the creative act is always an act of hope and possibility.
Leah’s Lift, oil on canvas, 70" X 62", 2007

BS: Timothy, can you go into further detail about your artistic process and philosophy? How would you explain your art to someone who is not aware of what you do?

TH: I believe the job of the artist is to fill out what it means to be human – not to illustrate or just conceptually explore what we don’t know about ourselves – but to actually create the possibility of expansive experience. This is what we experience in nature – in our experience of nature’s creativity and rejuvenation. The roots of aesthetics are in our response to nature, which is why artists have always studied the natural world. Painting along with the other arts offer the opportunity of this expansive experience.
For me to stand in front of a painting that expands me, that refreshes me, that feeds me as nature does, is really a return to sanity and possibility. It is a place where our learning and our nature co-exist. When they are separated we are dysfunctional. If we are to survive as a species we need to return to a humbler more holistic, perhaps reverential relationship with nature. Painting, poetry, drama, dance and the other arts are built on the holistic nature of experience – the very way they work is dependent on this fluidity between body and mind, nature and thought. They also stand us in our creative possibilities. We need them now more than ever.

So for me the process is one of surrender and immersion. I have to work my way into the painting, past the voices and the cleverness, to the place of silence where the imagination can find room to travel and where the paint moves ahead of thought. All my intelligence has to turn physical, to gesture and pass through my hand into the flow of the paint. Everything has to be re-found in the process. All the issues of painting – coherency, composition, balance, pressure, color etc have to be solved, but the solutions have to be found in the process. This is why it takes years to get fully free in painting – fully versed.
The freedom of the late Titian's and Rembrandt's were because they had learned to close the gap between their painting and their experience of living. To communicate experientially you have to get down into the tissue of experience. Experience is impulse saturated. We have to get down to the speed of impulse. For me that is where I make the good aesthetic decisions – faster than the conscious mind. It is what Robert Frost meant when he talked about "impulse and right action and some lucky events" as being the path to finding a poem.
Imagination too is characterized by movement. Painting is well suited as a recorder of movement. It is an incredibly subtle recorder. To have something to record, however, we have to let ourselves have experiences in the process of painting. To do this we have to get present and get past the chatter of our own minds. This is the great gift of painting. It shuts us up. It calls us present. It makes us stand in our own experience and our personal truth.

Out #10, Oil on Canvas, 30" x 30 ", 2007
BS: Timothy, what projects are you working on at this time? Care to give us some insight into your current work?

TH: I never know what is coming. Recently the paintings got darker and the pictorial space more expansive. I get opened up by new (usually wilder) ways to apply the paint. I call these cheap tricks but if they open me up and bring me along, then they are pure gold. I am always looking at the history of image making and I have a great library now which keeps feeding me. Recently I have been looking more at Chinese and Japanese painters like Hon’Ami Keotsu. Amazing work!
BS: Do you have any upcoming exhibitions? Where can our readers view your art in person?

TH: Yes my next show is at the Taylor Galleries in Dublin in April. Littlejohn Contemporary in New York also has work on hand and so does Peyton Wright in Santa Fe...
Out #18, oil on canvas, 36"x36", 2007

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

TH: Well I suppose it is true to say what I do is out of step with much of what has recently been going on in painting, or at least what has been focused on by the artworld. Magritte’s painting "C’est ne pas une pipe" is analogous to walking onto a stage during a performance of Macbeth and saying okay it’s not a murder, it’s just a play! This mischief has become institutionalized. Contemporary painting is often reduced to the philosophy of the visual. This bores me. It’s like studying nutrition when you are hungry.

At the heart of painting is reverie, you sit in front of one and it quiets you. For me this is the opportunity in painting, this is the experiential base. Enough painting about painting - let’s deal with something bigger. The scientists are speculating that there must be at least ten dimensions in order for relativity and quantum physics to work together. The scientists are sitting out there with the mystics! Where are the painters?

This opportunity at the heart of painting to create expansive experience, to center us in our experience of living, is a radical stance in the commercial culture in which we live. Painting insists that we stand in our body’s response, in the holistic nature of experience. Our cultural discourse, whether political or commercial, is designed to separate us from the validity of our experience. It creates a gap between how it feels to be alive in our bodies and the discourse used to bind our community. This gap is then used to manipulate us and to sell us things or ideas.
We are told our bodies are not beautiful we need products and even surgery to be beautiful. We have romantic names for war that seek to separate us from the awful experience of warfare. It is all about manipulation. So when we stand up and speak from the truth of our personal experience – when we honor "the integrity of the senses and the truth of the imagination" (as Keats advocated), we reclaim the possibility of real dialogue. In this we reclaim all the great tools of humanism that have been usurped by the practitioners of manipulation. We put them back to work in the service of creativity and possibility.

For this to happen artists have to return to the risky business of going out beyond what is already known. They have to get used to exploration - to raid the inarticulate. They have to go below the floor of consciousness to expand our understandings and experience of life. This is what painters have always done since the Shamans of our ancestors reported back from their dream travel with cave paintings. However to do this artists have to relearn how to stand in their body’s truth, to honor its responses and to paint from that holistic place where the mind turns fluid and the imagination is given room to travel.
You can learn more about Timothy Hawkesworth and his art by visiting his website: You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page:
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin