God Envy – Deconstructing A Painting

The most interesting part of writing an artist statement is taking the time to deconstruct your and explain to yourself what it is you’re doing as an artist. If you don’t do this I can’t imagine how you can write a coherent artist statement that anyone else besides the person in your head will ever understand. Going through my paintings it’s clear I’m interested in exploring the concept of God, mortals, and how they relate to one another. A lot of this comes from watching movies like Troy, 300, Clash of the Titans, Fight Club, and reading books like Jitterbug Perfume (Pan Aroma) by Tim Robbins. I especially like philosophizing on this line from Troy,

“The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.” (Troy: Achilles)

Often in my paintings I take this idea of gods envying mortals and mortals loving gods and combine it with the figurative representation of self-identity. It is the self-portrait, the question in the mind of a person in life, wondering what will happen when they die and if the gods will care when they are prayed to. This painting here I call God Envy. Above the head I’ve also written Mortal Lust. Of course, I wasn’t consciously thinking any of this, I just wanted to create something before heading to 1 Day of Art Copenhagen, and this is what I put together. Today, May 21st 2011 has been billed as the day of Rapture by a number of people around the world. It’s the day that the true believers (true believers of May 21st) will be raptured and the rest of humanity will be destroyed in the Armageddon, or at least it should start around that time.

Gonzo Art Presentation

Today is the day I give a presentation on my art at the Rote Fabrik. It’s all part of the professional artist class from the F&F school in Zurich. We’ve focused on writing the artist statement, and today I give a 45 minute presentation of Gonzo Art. There are a number of seemingly unplanned for events which have lead up to the point of me trying to tell the story of my paintings, but for sure I wouldn’t be at this point if I hadn’t won the 1 Day of Art Copenhagen creative invite on Talenthouse. Copenhagen was a stronger marker in my life, and the kind folks from (t)here magazine gave me a creative spring-board to propel myself somewhere I wouldn’t gone otherwise. I like to think I do various forms of art, but this presentation is totally focused on the Gonzo Art concept. It borrows from the Gonzo journalism themes set down by Hunter S. Thompson, I interpret it in art as meaning that the idea goes from the sub-conscious mind of the artist to the world as quickly as possible. No digital, no editing, pure inspiration thrown down on the canvas. Below is my presentation on SlideShare, I’ll add a version with audio but these are the bare-bones of the beast. The final version will include videos showing how my paint lands on the canvas and how the final form of the works evolve (basically like the videos I created for my Lazy Art period). So, I’ve done Lazy Art, this has morphed into Gonzo Art, and for sure it’ll evolve into something else – but here’s the story so far.

Writing the Artist Statement

It’s about 5:30pm on Wed. so it mush be time for the pre-art class beer by the Rote Fabrik in Zurich. Chilling in the shade, a cool lake breeze on my face – paradise. Time to lighten the head you see, make it all non-linear and stuff, ready to soak up the art direction. Engineering detox, twist the neural pathways into different directions and stretch out the frontal lobe. Time for the professional artist seminar, time to think about an artist statement and professional purpose for the work. I’ve been working on my statement but so far have stalled at, Statement is a purpose and art has none. But that’s why I’m here. If I had it all straight in my head there wouldn’t be a reason for being here drinking a beer, waiting for class to start. Instead I would be sick with confidence and taking the gallery world by storm. Carpe diem and fuck the emotional insecurities, I have something tho say and it just needs to packaged into a conversation that the art can have with anyone.

Ah, yes, the backstory, since I’m depressed enough to be an artist I decided to take a professional artist class at the F&F Schule in Zurich. Olga Stefan is running the course, and each week we hear a mentor from the Swiss art community speak and mentor us on our way to poverty or art stardom. Each week one or two students gives a presentation of their work, and mine is do next week. We’re learning how the art gallery game is played in Zurich and how to go pro. A key element of being a pro is the artist statement. A short but potent set of words that defines and explains your work to the masses. It’s an excellent self-realization adventure to define your work, but naturally the first thing in my head was, statement is a purpose, and art has none. The artist statement is your brand of sorts and should allow any one to get it. However, since the mobile internet thing has re-shaped all manner of print and video media and consumption habits, I’m highly interested in what it’s doing to the gallery scene and art buying in general.

To write a statement I’ve been deconstructing my paintings and their meanings, and the undertone of the meanings behind the meanings to understand my sense of self in order to make a presentation for the class, and eventually, to write my artist statement. I love to write, but it just seems so 1990’s to write up an artist statement instead of creating a video which can be consumed on a mobile device. Maybe I need to unplug? A video sort of thing is in the works, and that’s why I registered the other week. Like with anything, I’ll start with what I know, figure out what I don’t know, and then go from there.

Tweeting the Gonzo Art Creation

On Monday evening I had lighting strike of inspiration hit my head. First, I turned off 300 on my computer, then I finished reviewing changes to a research paper, and then I decided to Tweet the creation process of a painting. The idea was, I’d take pictures at different intervals and then post them to my social networks including Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. Since they’re all tied together, I just send it all to Tumblr and the updates were forwarded to the other accounts. I don’t know if this was a good idea, or if it just seemed like it should have been a good idea at the time, but it seemed like an idea, and so I followed through with the plan. I like Facebook for networking and Twitter is cool to get an overview on trends, but I’d never attempted to harness these things to broadcast a message of creation. However, after downing a red bull, everything seemed possible, so I pulled out a canvas and manga markers and started writing some things and sketching out a large head.

Mortal Lust

I can’t say for sure what was going through my head, but I wanted to start small, and wrote, “all the things you long to forget” on one side of the canvas. After some fun with the manga markers and using a stencil to write out MORTAL LUST – or was it before? Well, at some point early in the process I added the line, “It’s distasteful to think that every day should be special and beautiful. That you must enjoy life just because the sun warms your face with love before giving you skin cancer.” I don’t know where this line came from, possibly from a journal entry or maybe it was the red bull twisting my mind. In any event, I decided that the large head needed some fire coming out of the mouth and that it would also need to be green at some point.

I like using manga markers on canvas. It’s something about the way that the fabric soaks up the ink. With these markers you can go back and blend two colors together, so I’ll start with a base color for the edge of the flame, and then fill and blend it with a lighter color on the interior. It’s like taking all the fun of Photoshop and transplanting the experience to 3D reality. This also gives off a lot of vapor, and possibly this inspired me to write, “Shaman set me free” in the corner of the canvas. This all formed the basis for the painting, and I decided that it was now time to retire to the paint-throwing wing of my apartment, and get to work blending colors together. So I tapped up the plastic that had fallen down in my painting room and setup the canvas on the floor. I was barefoot of course, because that’s the best way to paint.

I made it point, when I moved into my place, to not buy any furniture. People move into places and buy stuff and then the whole space is filled up with useless places to sit and relax. Fuck that I thought, I want a laboratory to create in. So I left a room connecting to the photo studio mainly empty, and eventually covered the floor and walls with plastic to throw paint around in. Now that I’ve ben in to painting for a year or so I’m getting a collection of works. I’ll either need to hang them all up, or sell them, or just destroy the basterds with a chainsaw at some point. But, until that time I’ll stick with creating paintings. I’ll call this piece Gonzo Art II, or maybe Mortal Art, or whatever. Names can be so meaningless without a proper context. As I said, I had the bright idea to tweet the creation process and uploaded the images to my Tumblr account, which then filtered to Facebook and Twitter. I don’t know if this had a positive impact on the world, but it was a fun experiment, and all the images can be enjoyed here below.

Lazy Art IV

Lazy Art IV (my last painting) is a combination abstract splatter and writing I did one fine Sunday this summer instead of heading to Art Basel. I like the chaos of colors mixed with the consusion of words, so I tapped off a few areas and added text I had worked up while brainstorming about the ArtMord concept. KusntDeath is sort of a mix of themes from Fight Club and Jean-Michel Basquiat with a little Hunter S. Thompson and Beethoven thrown into the mix. It’s a 1x1m canvas and done on the cheap with latex paints and sponge brushes and a roller. Don’t ask me technical questions like what texture I used or the philosophy behind my brush strokes, because I’m the last person to anything about such topics. I paint because something is unhinged inside my head and some comfort comes from mixing random colors together. I would like to be one of those methodic painters who looks for the perfect color, mixes their own paints and has a vision in mind before putting brush to canvas, but that’s not what I’m into at the moment. My painting style is born of sketching in math class and manipulating colors and tones in Photoshop to mimic the feeling of graffiti I see on the streets of Berlin, Zurich, and Detroit.

The Process

At one time when I started experimenting with painting I had the idea to sketch out and color the painting concepts with manga markers. This failed horribly because without the large canvas in front of me I just don’t have the drive to create that sort of color and structure combinations that sort of explode from my brain when actually painting. Still, it’s nice to experiment, so this time I had a large sketch/art book with me and I used it to try out the roller and paint splatters alongside painting the actual canvas. This worked out extremely well, because I had the freedom to quickly try some color combinations and then jump back to the canvas and go crazy. Like always, I was painting in the “winter garden” room of my apartment. Plastic lined the floor and walls and I had near-total freedom to throw paint around without the worry of needing to repaint my white walls later on. I guess I could also easily dispose of a body with a turkey cutter a-la that scene in Snatch like a London gangster. But I’m a calm and non-violent person, so I’ll stick to throwing paint. Blood splatters don’t interest me.

The Fear

I’d like to be clear on this point, I love painting large canvases with random colors for the experience. I liken it to multi-pitch sport climbing routes, writing, or to mountaineering. I like starting with a blank page, and being scared that it will look worse when I’m finished. It’s like looking up a long rock ridge and your mind telling you to turn back. It urges you to return to the false safety of organized society and sends fear waves up your spine as you jump over crevasse openings. Ignore the fear, that premonition of failure and demise. It’s just your natural response to doing something dangerous, either in the world or in your mind. I don’t think of conquering fear, I like to walk along side it like old friends. We trade words back and forth before I jump off the platform of a rope park or let my feet dance over the edge of rock ridges.

I like to stand above a blank canvas and ponder the next step. The mind tells me to not even start, exit the room and go back to my computer and watch something on MTV. I say, “fuck you, I’ll take my chances.” Fear is a suggestion, something built into the DNA to protect foolish people from hurting themselves physically or emotionally. Don’t take it too seriously. The fear crops up in many places and sometimes unannounced. It might be there when you ask a girl out, do a presentation, climb a new route, jump out of a plane, apply for a new job or walk into a room full of people you’ve never met before. I paint because of the desire for a little adrenaline rush on a rainy Sunday afternoon, or just to see what come from it. Why did you take the picture? Becasue I wanted to see what it would look like.

The Gods Envy Us

lazy art number 3Editor’s note:

Please excuse the logic from the following piece. The tortured author was locked in his apartment for a rainy Sunday afternoon and took to watching the great classics, Troy, Clash of the Titans, Basquiat, and began pondering a simple philosophy of art as ancient religion, and if artists are Gods giving birth to their creations, will it kill the creator when it grows up?

“The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.” (Troy: Achilles)

I just want everything to be clear, uncluttered and obvious without reproach when I get it all wrong. The fear is to get it all wrong in the end – to drop the bomb to stop the war and end up in a toxic arms race for the next 30 years. You don’t know in the conception stage if the creation will turn out evil and rebel against you like a the son of a Greek king. Will it kill you in your sleep and renounce the love you thought existed. We are masters of ourselves, and the watchful beings above are there to make sure we don’t get out of hand.

What do mortals do when the creativity Gods continually fuck with our minds? Do you turn to drink and drugs like a cliche creative sob-story ready for a TV docudrama regurgitation of a plotline? Is it acceptable to sit back and let it all play out as they like? Let the images from our paintings and photographs bully us into self-loathing and despair. The abstract painting demands red instead of blue so I sit there in front of the canvas and do as it commands. Then when I try to sleep the demon beast invades my thoughts and dreams, taunting me with shapes and colors I can’t translate into reality.

“We can do it,” says reason, we can renounce the Gods and bring them to their knees. We can destroy the Mona Lisa and set fire to every painting we did, crush the statues and delete all the images. I close my eyes and almost feel the Nirvana of an Art free, madness-not world. Then faith opens a doorway to fear and we kneel before the darkness, praying for protection and salvation. Save every picture and each stupid sketch. Nothing can be lost – for it means that nothing ever mattered.

The Gods need us, they need us because we enable their existence. Because without us to imagine their lips and lungs, they would have no breath to take. A symbiosis is always existing, one feeding the other and taking life somewhere else. Hope, fear, and faith. Love, philosophy and hate. I’m going g places in my heads. The painting doesn’t exist without the painter, the picture needs the person to exist.

Images suggest stories and colors with shapes, and they demand a symphony of understanding – creating a clear flow between each other and giving the viewer a sense of intuitive understanding. No thinking is required for faith in art. No emphathy is need to kill the creation.

Even the creator doesn’t understand it
No need to look for a deeper meaning, for none exists
I was just fucking around, there is no genius here
The creation and the conception are not the same

The Gods envy us. They envy us because they can not create, but only observe the creator of their beings. The painting hangs on the wall and wonders what it would be like to build a human from DNA fragments and bits of bio-paint.

lazy art number one

ArtCast Painting – Lazy Art III

lazy_art_iiiMy experiments in Lazy Art paintings and ArtCasting are continuing (the first being Lazy Art II), we’ll call this one Lazy Art III. for the ArtCast I used more music from Kevin Mcleod, an original lazy artist would have picked something besides the Danse Macabre, but to be honest it’s the type of music with those specific rythems which play in my head, and moves in perfect time with my emotions, perfectly describing the mood in my head when I start mixing paint and get ready for an episode of splattering a nice boring white canvas with color. So, from a documentary perspectives, it seeme like I should maintain that authenticity for the audience. This piece of Lazy Art has influences from Zurich Graffiti, specifically the combination of abstract flow set against bits of rectangular geometry. The geometric patterns were planned to a certain extent, I put down some tape and then removed it before the final splatter fest. Amazingly, the ceiling of my apartment is not covered with small dots of green, red, and matte gold.

As a Photoshop-trained painter, I’m still slightly annoyed at the idea that I can’t add a levels and curves adjustment layer set to my Lazy Art while painting. My eyes naturally want to start adding a bit of smart sharpening, push the overall exposure, and increase the dark tone levels to get the colors my mind wants to see. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. I do these manipulations on the final image take with my Minolta 7D and Sony macro lens. I do some adjustments in Photoshop, then tweak the final exposure in Adobe Lightroom before exporting to Flickr. Is the painting the final product, or simply a template? The next step is to rent a Sony A900 and photograph my Lazy Art experiments with my 50mm tack-sharp macro lens. Then I’ll have a nice 24 megapixel image with fantastic sharpness and dynamic range to work with. From there I’ll have total control over color, saturation, and sharpness, but with the basic chaos of abstract painting. Printing would naturally be done on canvas or Hahnemühle German Etching Paper. Does this kill the idea of a real painting? The type where everything is done on the canvas, you know, like in real photography where everything is done in-camera without post-processing manipulation? Fortunately, I could care less what it means. I hunt colors and abstract images in my head and on the streets I walk in the world. The process of getting the perfect abstract shape-color combination is irrelevant.

Artcast Experiment – Lazy Art II

Lazy_Art_III love photography, I love Photoshop, I love the freedom to create and define a vision from my head. But there’s always that separation, that feeling of disconnection between the tool (cameras, lenses, lights, computers) and the vision (the one from my head). So it was logical step to say, screw it one day. At a shop in Zurich I found 1 x 1 meter square canvases and at the home improvement store I found latex paint for less than 7 CHF per 500 ml. I few more franks went to brushes and plastic to cover a room of my Winterthur apartment and protect my security deposit. I traded my Wacom tablet and Photoshop for the ability to splatter paint as I pleased without the “undo” button.

Music stopped in the background and I realized why artists go mad…because, what’s more frustrating than painting a black stroke when in your head you know it should’ve been green? NOTHING! Nothing compares to the idea that you start with a pure white nothingness and from nothing, without barely a forethought or premonition comes, something. That something is undefined and unknowable and abstract and everything that a fool can hope for when the mind is empty.

I documented the evolution of my Lazy Art with my Minolta 7D and a Sony 50mm macro lens. Lighting provided via a Sunpak 383 in a small Alzo softbox. The result is an Artcast, an experiment in communicating and showing the evolution of the vision from the first to last color addition. Music brings the madness, and this addition seemed appropriate.