Saturday, February 02, 2008

Art Space Talk: Gabriel J. Shuldiner

Gabriel J. Shuldiner's painting is largely about process, both intentional and intuitive. Gabriel establishes deliberate boundaries, parameters and recurring themes, which he then violates as he examines surface, depth, scale and support as numerous materials, multiple layers and diverse textures and techniques confront (and sometimes oppose) each other through subtle variations in tone, sheen, luminosity and color. Homemade tools and modified paints help to make each mark, scratch and chip as intentional and vital as the brushstroke, while light reflected off the varied black pigments yields additional shades of grays and whites.

Shadows And Tall Trees, 2006. Acrylic, gesso and alkyd resin on mounted canvas on wood. Overall dimensions variable approximately 41×32 x 11.4 cm. (16×12.5×4.5 in.) © Gabriel J. Shuldiner

Brian Sherwin: Gabriel, you were born and raised in NYC. Can you tell us about your early years and how those years shaped you into the artist you are today?

Gabriel J. Shuldiner: I remember listening to rap music when I was 11.. RUN DMC. It was incredible. The origins of a new musical genre.. Early graffiti, skateboarding. Growing up in New York City was an incredible experience. Being exposed to so many different cultures, different music, food, art.. all while just walking to the subway. The graffitied subways back then, they were beautiful moving, steel canvases. Like a sponge, l I’ve absorbed so much from my environment. And as an artist, this is invaluable.
Zagadka, 2006. Acrylic, sign-paint, gesso, alkyd resin and oil-stick on mounted wood panel on wood. Overall dimensions variable, approximately 30.5×30.5×9 cm. (12×12 x 3.5 in.) © Gabriel J. Shuldiner

BS: Would you say that the environment we are raised in dictates the direction we take with our art? If so, how does that apply to you?

GJS: I think it depends on the individual. To a large degree I grew up looking at concrete, steel, and cement instead of trees, grass and mountains. I absolutely love nature, but given my environment, I learned to see beauty in objects typically not deemed as such. Those beautiful (seemingly random) patterns that occur in nature (leaves, snowflakes, et. al.) exist in concrete and cement, too. I think in my case, there is a direct aesthetic correlation between my environment and my work.

BS: Gabriel, your work is concerned with destruction, disintegration, and decay. The words that are often used in a negative manner-- however, you find calm in them and what they represent. In a sense, you are comfortable in the chaos. Can you go into detail about this? Is there a philosophy behind the work that you create?

GJS: I’m a huge fan of the double negative.. of using the ‘negative’ to point out the positive… What is really meant by ‘negative’ anyway. From destruction, disintegration and decay comes beauty. Look at the Universe for an example of this. Philosophically, I am deeply interested and influenced by Zen, Taoism, Existentialism…and Capitalism. Quantum Mechanics, the Chaos Theory… What we know vs. what we think we know.. A sort of post-postmodern, post-punk, existential Zen meditation, at times deceptively self-effacing, cynical and nihilistic. A direct experience that remains beyond thought, speech and words. A paradox.
Like An Idiot, 2006. Acrylic, house-paint, gesso, alkyd resin and nails on gesso board. Overall dimensions variable, approximately 32×32 x 6.4 cm.(12.5×12.5×2.5 in.) © Gabriel J. Shuldiner

BS: Would you say that you are fascinated by the small details of life?

GJS: I would say that I am perhaps only interested in the small details of life.

BS: Does your eye for detail go beyond inanimate objects-- in other words, do you strive to capture the essence of personalities and other aspects of the human condition with your work?

GJS: Yes and no. I explore the surreal, disparate and timeless depths of the human psyche and human condition playful dance and violent struggle, self-destruction and growth, pain and pleasure, good versus evil, saint and sinner, love and hate, observer and observed.

BS: Would you say there is a degree of psychology about the work that you create? Or is it more of a spiritual experience for you? Is it an awakening, so to speak?

GJS: It is both. How can a spiritual experience, by definition, not imply an incredible degree of psychology? The physical act of creating is, for me, most definitely a cathartic, spiritual experience. But it is not solely that… it is just one intrinsic element in my work.

BS: Can you tell us about some of your other influences... perhaps there is a specific artist who has inspired you?

GJS: I am most influenced by the work of Robert Ryman and Pierre Soulages… Somehow (and I don’t yet know why) I was filled with ‘false’ ideas about what was/was not ‘allowed’ in art. When I saw my first Ryman (which, in fact, was not that long ago) these false ideas that had ruled me, were finally and permanently shattered. I was breathless.. Here was ultimate beauty. Here was what I had wanted art to be… It was with this newly found freedom, that I started to paint.

BS: Gabriel, when thinking about your work... do you try to place it within a historical context? Or are you more focused in the 'here and now'?

GJS: Both. There is a large part of my work that is concerned with the ‘here and now’ Specifically, the physical creation of my work; the process.. my ‘becoming one’ with the materials, and being ‘in the moment’. But I do not paint in a vacuum. Knowing where and how my work fits into the vast history of art as well as the current artistic canon, is both extremely interesting to me, as well as important.. However, (and this is a very important point) it does not dictate my work in any fashion.

A Single Mark, 2006. Acyric, house-paint, alkyd resin, gesso and charcoal on mounted canvas on wood. Overall dimensions variable, approximately 42×30 x 13 cm. (16.5×12 x 5 in.) © Gabriel J. Shuldiner

BS: You have mentioned that your work is about process. Can you tell us about your process? What steps do you take in the creation of these works? What state of mind are you in while working?

GJS: There is a lot of thought and planning involved. But once I start a piece, the materials begin to take on a life of their own, and the evolution of the composition (more often than not) takes on a life of its own. It’s about layers and layers of materials. Building an object, so to speak. It’s very physical.. A playful dance and violent struggle, if you will.

BS: Is there a 'do it yourself' approach to your work? I notice that you don't always use conventional methods with your work... you often utilize materials that are not exactly traditional in their application. Also, are you ever concerned with the stability of these work in regards to the chemicals interacting-- or is that just part of the process?

GJS: There is an extremely experimental element to my work. I like breaking the rules, which implies that one must first know the rules. Chemically, my work is sound. I am aware of how the different materials and chemicals I use work together. Within that framework, there is so much variation, it’s incredible. There is a strong alchemical aspect to my work.. it’s in the details. Some of the most fascinating elements of my work are, in fact, chemical.. something completely unseen and unknown by the viewer, buyer, collector… It’s the essence within the composition. I intuit this element of my work, by my intentionally specific material listing…

BS: When do you know that it is time to walk away from a painting?

GJS: It’s a feeling. The closest I can come to explaining this feeling, would be the realization/solving of a Zen Koan, of feeling enlightenment. The tricky part is to trust this feeling.
The Space Between (Black Rectangle), 2006. Acrylic, house-paint, alkyd resin, raw pigment, paper towel, tape and nails on mounted cardboard on canvas. Overall dimensions variable, approximately 51×33 x 4.3 cm. (20×13 x 1.7 in.) © Gabriel J. Shuldiner

BS: I read that you studied at The School of Visual Arts in New York City. Who were your mentors during that time? Also, have you studied elsewhere? Tell us about those experiences and how they motivated you to continue your artistic exploration.

GJS: I’m actually at Parsons School of Design right now, pursuing my MFA in Fine Arts. First year. Prior to Parsons, I took a few courses at The School of Visual Arts, including their Summer Residency Program. Until a few years ago, I had never taken an ‘art’ class (except for those incredible experiences during grade-school). Despite my recent academic route, I still consider myself entirely self-taught.

BS: Do you have any exhibits planned for 2008?

GJS: I just recently had a composition on display at Bergdorf Goodmans, which was quite fun. I have solo show set for later this year (I’m still working out the details), as well as the Parsons School of Design Spring 2008 Open Studios. I’m also looking forward to taking part in the 2008 Little Red School House Art Auction (my former grade-school!)...

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

GJS: No. That is all. Thank you.

You can learn more about Gabriel J. Shuldiner by visiting his You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

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