Friday, March 21, 2008

Art Space Talk: Patrick Duegaw

Patrick Duegaw is a member of the artist cooperative known as Fisch Haus. The cooperative, which was founded over fourteen years ago, is a source of creative energy for Patrick and his fellow members. He has stated that his paintings are a palimpsestic narrative that he achieves with the application of thin paint over the top of previous drawings on sheetrock, cut from the walls of his studio. This prompts an interaction between his old and new thoughts, creating a layered study of connections between the past and the present. His paintings are visual journal entries; not only recording a few of the people and spaces that exist within the Fisch Haus, but the passage of time within each scene as well.

Maha with Floatation Device: (or) She Floats in…She Floats Out, Mixed Media on Sheetrock, 35" x 35", 2006

Brian Sherwin: Patrick, can you tell us about your early years? Where did you study art? Have you remained close to the artistic path that you originally decided to travel?

Patrick Duegaw: My maternal Grandmother was a painter, and I grew up with her paintings in every room. My mother encouraged my imagination by playing drawing games with me, one of which I still use regularly as a warming up exercise. Deciding long before that I’d be a painter, I actually studied and received a degree in architecture, though I still managed to cram as many art classes as possible into the regimented program.
Much of what I learned from my professors, in both art and architecture, changed my way of thinking and helped me to see. I would say that my most important education came, however, from my experiences with being involved with Fisch Haus.
Two Rooms with Insufficient Light: (or) Portraits of Kent and Mel, Mixed Media on Sheetrock, 60" x 114", 2007

BS: Patrick, you are involved with Fisch Haus Studios... can you tell us about Fisch Haus Studios? Perhaps you could briefly tell us about the other artists there?

PD: Fisch Haus was originally an artist collective started by myself and three other artists back in 1990; Eric Schmidt, a sculptor/ painter turned inventor; Kent Williams, painter who is now doing large public projects (I studied architecture with both Schmidt and Williams) and John Ernatt, a painter who now runs The Diver Studio located in a warehouse just up the street.

Fisch Haus began with roving one-night-only exhibition events, with work hung in empty spaces in the mostly vacant downtown of Wichita in the early 90’s. The first event drew a few hundred people, and the next, double that amount. We produced 1-2 major shows a year, with our audience growing exponentially with every show.
In 1994 we bought our own building downtown; a 21,000 sq.ft. warehouse, where we built studios, a wood and metal shop, and an exhibition/event space. With the addition of artists Jamie Tabor, painter and entrepreneur, and Elizabeth Stevenson, painter, writer, inventor, and acting Director/ Curator, Fisch Haus now produces several large-scale shows annually, and hosts numerous community art events, ranging from visiting artist exhibitions and performances, to lectures, classes, benefits, readings, and music festivals.

Compulsive Fear Of Arson: Self Portrait With Bad Ear; with companion piece, AM Radio with Fire Extinguisher, Mixed Media on Sheet Rock, 53" x 39", 2004

BS: Patrick, you are interested in exploring various materials within the context of your art. For example, you often utilize recycled materials and push said materials to their limit. Where does your need to explore stem from? Are you naturally curious?

PD: The use of salvaged materials is as much inevitable, as it is a desire to experiment, because that’s usually what is most available. This approach to art, as well as to design, in my mind, is as distinctly Fisch Haus, as it is my own. Almost all of the artwork, framing, as well as the construction of the spaces and furniture within those spaces were built using what could be easily found. When I cut a hole in the floor to build stairs, for example, I used the floor boards to create the framing for some of my more significant paintings. This philosophy has bled into other areas of my life; I enjoy cooking and my best meals are generally improvised from ingredients I happen to have on hand.

Swimming Through Interiors, Mixed Media on Sheet Rock, 46" x 79", 2004

BS: I understand that you often utilize thin paint over the top of your previous drawings... can you discuss your process?

PD: My latest work is done primarily on sheetrock substrates. In the early years, I spent the cold winter months in the Fisch Haus in a smaller, warm room, that functioned as both living and work space. The walls of this space became covered in drawn or painted studies, and in some cases, these sketches began to overlap, and develop into a singular idea.
Originally these images where just part of the environment of my space, until it occurred to me that I might actually like to show some of the more interesting pieces. It was then that I started cutting the better ideas out of the walls, and invented a way to present them. Experimenting within the framework of this process of painting has pushed me to work beyond the mere novelty of the material, allowing me to test my skills as a painter, as well as to explore as an artist.

Amy with Butter Knife: (or) Dreaming of Open Washers and Empty Dryers, Mixed Media on Sheetrock, 36" x 32", 2006

BS: Patrick, your fragmentary style of composition and canvas construction has been compared to the approach of Australasian artist Rosalie Gascoigne and her use of assemblage as a critical foundation for successful meaning-making. Is Rosalie an influence? Tell us about your influences...

PD: To be honest, I had not known much about Ms. Gascoigne, or even thought that a comparison could be made with my own work until I’d read Dr. Royce Smith’s review of one of my exhibitions. I have drawn encouragement from so many artists, most notably the artists of the German expressionist period. I think the strongest influences in my life and work, however, have been my friends and colleagues at the Fisch Haus, who I have, essentially, been in school with for the last 25 years; and perhaps more specifically, Elizabeth Stevenson, who is my inspiration, most important critic, and who also happens to be my wife.

BS: In your own words, what are the social implications to be found in your art? What are the specific themes that you challenge viewers with? Do you leave the works open to interpretation... or is their a specific social message that you strive to convey overall?

PD: As is most of the human race, I am interested in storytelling; either through verbal, written, or illustrated means. I use all of the elements at my disposal to set up the opportunity for stories to be told. Through my Painted Theater installations, I am creating autobiographical scenarios which I hope will function as part documentary, where I chronicle my experiences of living in a dichotomy that is both the American Midwest and the Fisch Haus; and part allegory, as tales that the viewer may adopt as their own.

Elmo 'Buck' Davis with Hour (Wine) Glass: (or) Pretty Good So Far, Mixed Media on Sheetrock, 28" x 21", 2006

BS: Would you say that you adhere to a personal philosophy or code as far as your art is concerned?

PD: As discussed above, I think one philosophy is essentially "use what you have". Sometimes limiting or narrowing down choices, when building, cooking, painting, or really any other creative process, allows one to focus on what to do with the materials themselves, as opposed to spending time and energy choosing materials that may not even be appropriate or contextually relevant. The recycling aspect is important, but it’s more about knowing that the objects had a prior life, and for me, this makes them precious.

BS: Patrick, what are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers some insight into your current body of work and the thoughts behind them?

PD: I am very interested in the process behind making work. I prefer studies sometimes, over their finished paintings. In my latest body of work, I combine construction drawings, and other studies, with final paintings in an installation entitled "Not to Scale: The Construction of Two Rooms". This Still Play, as I have termed it, introduces The Builder, who has created a multi-faceted interior environment with a series of specific tools.
The exhibition, mounted at Fisch Haus in November 2007, focused on the metaphorical construction of a bond between two people, and the resultant filtration process that becomes inherent in their co-existence. The installation itself featured several detailed portraits, and a series of over 50 ‘prop’, tool paintings, all on sheetrock (drywall) substrates. I’m currently working on a new painted theater project.

BS: Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits? Also, where can our readers view your work in person?

PD: My next scheduled exhibition will be held at the Wichita Art Museum in March-April 2009. My work can be seen by appointment at the Fisch Haus most of the year, except from mid-June to mid-September, when Elizabeth and I are in Montreal.

Matthew's Room, Mixed Media on Sheetrock, 20 1/2" x 48", 1999

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

PD: Just this last thought, that one of my primary goals is to achieve many different types of layering, and on different levels. I have mentioned this in reference to the overlapping of drawing and paint, as well as in the narrative aspects of the work, and the tangible expression through the use of relief; by incorporating evocative shapes within the substrate. I also try to introduce a subtle layering of form and detail that grows more apparent from different perspectives; my hope is that the painting is as interesting to view from up close as from a distance. The ‘zoom’ tool on myartspace page is my favorite feature.

You can learn more about Patrick Duegaw by visiting the following, You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

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