Sunday, August 17, 2014

Elena Lavorato Gets to Know Garrett Perry

 Can you tell me a little about your process? How much change does the painting undergo from what you originally set out to create?
My work is very process driven and the paintings change quite a bit during the process. Usually I'll have an idea of what I want to paint. I work in my sketchbook to determine compositions and concepts. I initially paint fast and with vigor. After a ground of bold and bright colors is laid down I tend to slow down. I then intuitively respond to the shapes and alter and add layers. I typically will set paintings aside and come back to them weeks later. I like responding to them with a fresh set of instincts.

 The placement and size of some of your figures are reminiscent of traditional portraiture, in particular Romantic Imagination; however the subject is disfigured or partially concealed in a way. Are you in fact mimicking traditional portrait style and in what manner?

Yes. I use traditional portraiture as a departure point. The intent is not to disfigure the subject but for the physicality of the paint to create a barrier between the subject and viewer.

The majority of your paintings appear as close ups, a snap shot of a much larger scene, can you tell me anything about this?

They are. They are segments of a larger scene, memories of a story that has been mostly forgotten. They are meant to be elusive.

Your color pallet reminds me of an ice cream rainbow, what attracts you to pastel colors?

I like mixing a lot of white with my paint to make the painting appear flat. I don't think of them as pastels but as colors being within a similar value range. If the paintings were grey scale they'd all be a similar grey.

You say on your website that you watched a lot of television in your younger years, why was that the case?
I am a child of the late 80's/ early 90's. It was available.

How do television and visual culture inspire your paintings?

It's not so much TV as it is visual culture in general. I take images from the internet, magazines and art history books and use them as visual sources. From the visual sources I work in my sketch book to create compositions and ideas.
Do you surround yourself by anything inspiring while you paint? Photographs? Music?

Music is extremely important to my process. I need to be wearing headphones to keep myself distracted from the real world. I also surround myself with images. My studio is filled with open books, magazines, photographs, and computer print outs.

Who are your favorite artists?

In no particular order. Max Beckmann, George Condo, Picasso, Matisse, Rembrandt, Tal R, Eric Yahnker, Chantal Joffe, Allison Schulnik, Dana Schutz, Jeff Koons, Gerhard Richter, Brad Phillips, and Cindy Sherman. They have all been very influential over the last ten years, at one point or another.

Check out Garrett Perry's work, along with Sophia Heymans, in Lovesickness With Trees at SooVAC. For more information click here!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Elena Lavorato Gets to Know Exhibiting Artist Benjamin Rogers

the past has its place

1.  Can you tell me a little about your work in general?

            My work doesn’t really have a central theme really, but I do try to construct a visual frame that links all the paintings and all the drawings.  Each painting is an opportunity to explore different subject matter, often times I make paintings that are about the creative process and how that intersects with my personal and professional life.  Generally my paintings take on a multitude of meanings and I don’t feel comfortable pontificating to the viewer what each piece should mean.  I like people to interact with my paintings, investigate them, and whatever interpretation they create is okay by me.  It isn’t really up to me how it will or won’t affect people.  I also take special care to assign titles to the work that will engage a viewer’s imagination instead of spell out the meaning for them.  A pet peeve of mine is when artists explain away all of the aura and magic of there work of art.  As a viewer I like having a little bit of mystery.
2. Your paintings are so complicated and realistic, how do you plan out all of these components before paint actually meets canvas?

the morning never knows what the afternoon holds dear
         The truth is that I don’t plan out all of the components of the painting before I begin.  I do begin with a fairly exact drawing, and a good understanding of what the end product will be, however that almost always changes as I get into the painting.  I am constantly adding and subtracting things as I go along, trying to find the right combination of substance and style.  I work from photographs, but try to reference them as little as possible, so that I don’t feel like I am trying to recreate a photo on a canvas.  I want to create an entirely unique image that takes advantage of the physical properties of paint.  
      I am interested in creating contrasting dimensionality, by making large flat color fields next to highly formed objects or figures.  So I treat the picture plane like an abstract surface and pay special attention to foundational formal principles, such as color relationships, value distribution, balance, composition etc.  In the course of creating a painting I may have a plan for how it will look, but once I start adding paint to the surface the reality strays from my intentions, which is good, and I react by inserting whatever feels right for the concept of the painting and what fits in a formal framework.

3. Do you set up a scene and then photograph it or do you work from photographs you find?
one among the many
         I create a scene and then photograph it, (with one exception, my drawing One Among the Many was a photograph of one of my former students that I found).  I will begin a work one of several ways, sometimes I start with a title and build the rest from there, sometimes I want to try something challenging like make a Pink painting, or sometimes I have an idea of a subject or object that I want to use.  Sometimes I know exactly the image I want when I go to photograph, and sometimes I have a general idea and just keep trying new things until I find it.  I use the different components in the scene to inform the narrative of the painting, so I do put a lot of    thought into what goes into each image.

4. Why do many of your subjects look directly out from the painting at the viewer?

            I really like experimenting with the gaze of my subjects and how they interact with the viewer.  In film when a character looks into the camera or addresses the audience it’s called breaking the fourth wall, in painting you see this happen all the time through art history, famously in Olympia by Manet.  I think that I use it as a way of talking about the artifice of the surface, that I’m making something that is naturalistic but doesn’t pretend to be something other than a painting.  When the figure breaks the fourth wall in a film they are telling the audience that they understand that the film happening around them is not reality but they have a special insight into the land of make believe that the audience is peering into.  I think I’m trying to get the same affect with my figures.  I also think that it is easier for people to connect with a figure if they are making eye contact, so it’s way of getting the viewer’s attention.

 5. Why do you place yourself in your artwork?

           I am not in my artwork as often as people seem to think, I have a few paintings of my two best friends who look just like me and I will do a self portrait from time to time.  But I do admit, I paint myself enough that it’s noticeable.  And the only reason for that I suppose is that all of my work is largely about me and my understanding of the world.  A lot of my work is about the creative process which I can really only understand through the lens of my experience, so why not just go ahead and use my visage as the protagonist of the painting.

the hunger artist

6. Does the paint color deviate much from the true color of a scene? If so, how do you choose your color alterations?

Yes, quite a bit.  Since I don’t really look at the photograph very often the colors get changed and exaggerated.  I have made paintings that are more in the photorealistic genre, but I didn’t feel as free as I do when I simply use my intuition and understanding of painting to create entirely unique paintings.

7. I heard you taught at Normandale this past year, what classes did you teach? 

how far then, shall we say, that the east is from the west?
 I taught Painting 1, Painting 2, Drawing 1 and Watercolor Painting.  I loved teaching at Normandale, it was a great experience.  I had some really wonderful students and got to see some of them mature artistically.  I was a sabbatical replacement and wish I could have stayed on longer.

 8. Has teaching influenced your own artistic practice?
Yes, since teaching is an exercise in deconstruction of one’s practice, you really begin to understand your weaknesses.  This has encouraged me to really develop my weaknesses instead of avoiding them   as my natural tendency would dictate.

9. I saw that you received degrees in Arizona, Louisiana, and Kentucky; is the art scene different in Minneapolis?
that which we've built together throughout these many years
        I think that every large city has a different art culture, certain things are valued more, and certain types of work are more successful etc.  For instance, Phoenix, Long Beach and San Diego each have a certain style, or a prominent theme for the work that thrives in those areas.  There are some successful figurative artists in Phoenix, but the work that is the most successful deals with national identity/border issues or water issues. I think that the Minneapolis Art scene is similar in a lot of ways to that of Cincinnati (where I grew up) in that there isn’t really a predominant media, style or subject matter.   There also isn’t a lot of For-Profit galleries or “Blue Chip” galleries  but there is a great appreciation for creativity through things like the Art-A-Whirl.  However I get the sense that the country’s biggest Artwalk is more about having something interesting to do than having an opportunity to look at great art.  And for that matter it shouldn’t be, that’s a sort of terrible context to see art, I know because I went through a similar art walk 4-6 times a year at my studio in Cincinnati.  I do think that it’s amazing the way that Minnesota supports the arts,  there are a lot of funding opportunities for artists and a few really nice Non-Profit Galleries like Soo VAC.  I also see little hints of the New Orleans Art Scene in this city, because of peoples interest in beauty and oddity and their appreciation for diverse cultural expression. 

For more information on Critique of Pure Reason, Benjamin Roger's show opening August 2nd, CLICK HERE