Saturday, September 08, 2007

Art Space Talk: Ray Cabarga

Ray Cabarga has been surrounded by visual art and music for most of his life. Ray's delight in experimentation is what attracted me to his work, specifically a series of paintings that he calls 'oozings'. This body of work reveals total disregard for traditional methods of painting application. However, they also convey a strong bond with the art theories of Wassily Kandinsky-- which I find appealing. Ray's work reveals the fruit that can be produced from planting unknown seeds-- a field of mystery.

Brian Sherwin: Ray, you were born into a family of visual artist, but chose music. You performed jazz and salsa throughout the bay area for fifteen years before placing total focus on your visual art. That focus has been solid for over ten years now. How has your experience as a musician influenced your visual art?

Ray Cabarga: Greatly, actually. I see music as being directly analogous to visual art and of course all art is a metaphor for life. All the same principles in music apply to visual art, just the specifics are different. The tones are color values, the familiar phrases are figurative representations, the tension created by obscure variations or from the structure of the musical form are the abstractions or impressionistic forms in the painting. They say that playing music develops your brain in a unique way that opens and expands creative thinking and I think writing, arranging, performing and improvising music has all given me a leg up on visual art almost as if I had been practicing it all along. However, the technique is completely unrelated so that was a transition, but technique has always followed concept for me: If I see it clearly in my head, I can paint it.

BS: Ray, how exactly did your family influence you as far as visual art is concerned?

RC: Well, my dad is an accomplished painter and was a commercial artist for 45 years, art directing in New York, then owning an ad agency in San Francisco. My eldest brother is a commercial artist and has had over 25 books published. My youngest brother is a painter and a commercial artist. My sister is a clothing designer and is in some very high end boutiques. And the brother just below me in age plays clarinet with the National Symphony Orchestra in D.C. so its all around me and we have all had a lot of encouragement from both parents to pursue art careers. Oh, I forgot to mention my mother who is a martial arts master, mostly healing arts, and a teacher, though both parents are retired they continue to pursue their art forms.

BS: Where else do you draw inspiration from? Can you discuss your influences outside of music?

RC: The masters of course. Dali, Escher, Kandinsky, Gorky are some of my favorites. all the impressionists and surrealists and many of my contemporaries as well. I spend a lot of time looking at art on websites such as this one and regularly peruse galleries and other art venues. Early childhood memories of visits to the Guggenheim and the Smithsonian-- even the paintings my dad had done and hung in our house back east, to this day, strongly influence me. It's like I can still see those images with a child's mind and feel the awe and wonder that I felt at three.

BS: Ray, you have a unique way of painting... you call these painting 'oozings'. I've read that specific conditions must be met in order for these paintings to be created. It is my understanding that these paintings do not involve any brushwork. Would you say that you control the outcome or do you let nature take it's course, so to speak?

RC: With this particular painting technique, which by the way is only one type of painting I do, I throw away or recycle about 9 out of every ten canvases I attempt so 1 out of ten turn out well. So you might say I let nature take its course but certain very specific conditions affect that and it's become almost a form of alchemy or magic to achieve those perfect conditions. The really good ones are never planned-- planning seems to preclude success and I have to almost step away and detach myself from the work in order for it to do it's thing. It's a discipline in letting go of control of my art which is a very big life lesson for me. To trust the art to paint itself without my constant cajoling and persuading, without my preconceptions of how it should proceed and where it should start and end. It's largely about timing and quantities and being able to put the elements in the environment and then leave it alone for the exact duration and no longer.

BS: Ray, can you go into further detail about the process of creating your 'Oozings'?

RC: Sure I start by mixing ordinary acrylic paints with flow mediums and glazing mediums, acrylic enamels work the best and then I mix colors with glass and porcelain glazes and start applying them to either canvas or gessoed Masonite board. The larger the board the harder it is to make it work. The glazes are basically poured onto the surface and allowed to partially dry for anywhere from 3 minutes to fifteen minutes but this duration is critical. Then I run hot or cold water over it and rinse a lot of it off. Now I start applying the acrylic mixtures and alternate running water over it or drying it with a hairdryer all the while changing the angle so that more or less paint, water and glaze run off. At this point I may add more elements of color but basically after a certain cut-off point I can't add anything else and I leave it to ooze at a certain angle and temperature-- either room temperature or under a heat lamp to slow the oozing and freeze it which is almost impossible to do. After my work is done is when the truly amazing art is created ironically. Kind of like children. You create them and then you just sit back and watch them blow your mind. They show you what you wish you could do. Don't try to control what they do because you'll fail at that endeavor and more importantly you'll deprive yourself of seeing the result of your own evolution. Oozings are exactly like children Brian, all you can do is give them the best you've got and then trust them to do the right thing. And then you accept whatever they turns out to be, because you can't change it. That's what Oozings, and progeny are all about.

BS: So... you are an artist who likes to take chances. Do you think that is something that is missing in a lot of the art that is created today?

RC: Oh yes. Art that doesn't take chances is hardly art at all now is it? What's the point of that. If you want a realistic representation of something, a camera would be my first choice. It is more than taking chances though... it is like creating chances. For everything I can perceive, there's a million things I can imagine. So I would never waste my time on something that's been done, even if it was done by the greatest artist in the universe... the universe... I have my own little universe going here and the only limit I have is how much I can perceive and then from those perceptions, how much I can imagine in my lifetime.

BS: Do you plan to discover other unique ways to build the surface of your work? As an artist, are you concerned with finding new methods and techniques of artistic creation?

RC: Not concerned but definitely open to the possibility. I forgot to mention I discovered Oozings completely by accident. I was trying to do a portrait and it didn't turn out so I tried to wash the board off before it dried. The phone rang and I left the room then forgot about it. When I came back three hours later My first oozing was sitting there and it was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. I tried to recreate the process but I never have exactly done that the best. I know what your next question is going to be, "Can I see the original painting?" and the answer is no-- no one ever can I had to destroy it because it was too amazing for anyone to gaze upon. I'm Kidding!

BS: Ray, what is your studio space like? What are the conditions you need in order to create? Do you follow a steady routine of studio practice?

RC: Nope! No pre-requisite conditions. Usually the art is all created in my head before I start working and I just need enough room to move my elbow and someplace to put it to dry when it is done-- seriously. I'm sure there are ideal conditions for the piece of art I'm working on but I never know what those are so I just do it anywhere.

BS: Ray, do you have any upcoming exhibitions? Also, are you represented by a gallery? If not, are you seeking representation?

RC: Funny you should ask that. Have you ever heard of an artist that spends all his time creating art and doesn't give nearly enough attention to self-promotion? And does a large carnivorous quadruped relieve himself among the natural arboreal growth? I'm currently seeking representation, yes.

BS: What projects are you working on at this time?

RC: A piece commissioned by a client who loves physical representations of old sayings. Its a four foot diameter globe of the earth constructed out of oyster shells. Can you figure out what old adage this represents?

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

RC: I love art and artists and the artworld. Art is my life so people should buy my art before my death because the price goes up after that!
You can view my other interviews with emerging and established artists by visiting the following link:
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin


Anonymous said...

Ray Cabarga is one of the most creative individuals i've ever worked with. While it is true that our collective efforts were in the realm of sound, both of us were always into visual art as well. I celebrate his new work!
Arnold Young drummer, composer & painter/collage artist.

Anonymous said...

Good morning, your work is beautiful , I really like it...."kalamag"