Thursday, August 29, 2013

Six of the Best, Part 30: Donna Hapac

Continuing the interview series in which I pose the same six questions to each artist. Today's interviewee is Donna Hapac, an artist from Chicago who makes intricate sculptures from natural materials, twine, and pigment, that extend up from the floor or out from the wall in a process of improvised growth. You can see more of her work here.

"Figure 8 Infinity," 201121" x 16" x 43", reed, wood, waxed linen, wood stain

PH: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why? 

DH: I primarily use natural materials, such as reed, cane, and waxed linen. I like their flexibility and resilience. I initially was drawn to painting and drawing, which I pursued for many years. Then I discovered fiber art about 25 years ago and was very much taken with the idea of building forms out of these materials. They are drawings in space and containers of meaning. The forms, structures, and patterns that I find in nature inspire me. My process is very meditative and intuitive.


PH: What piece are you currently working on?

DH: I have three works in progress. One sculpture I just finished evokes herons without being a realistic portrayal. One piece I am still completing is more abstract, a swooping twisting form. The third piece is a new move for me. I am designing a wall installation that I will have fabricated out of aluminum.
"Three Waders," 2013, 34" x 26" x 17," reed, wood, waxed linen, wood stain

PH: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

DH: I am always surprised when I am creating a new piece because the work always changes somewhat during the making. I generally start with a rough idea of what the piece will be like. As I work with the materials, sometimes they don't want to do what I originally was expecting. That is often because the materials are flexible and not totally rigid and have a "mind of their own." When I am building a form, it might start leaning to one side and I decide to capitalize on that tendency--maybe exaggerate it or compensate for it. It usually makes it more interesting that the image I had in my mind. The work then seems more alive to me. For example, when I started on "Figure 8/Infinity," I only knew that I was going to create a cantilevered form off of the wooden base. As I worked, I realized that I needed to turn it back on itself for structural reinforcement

PH: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

DH: I have started drawing more when developing my ideas. I have noticed that the drawing I am doing is influencing the sculptures. Other activities that feed my creative process are gardening, bird watching, and hiking.


"Double Loop," 2012, 18" x 28" x 14," reed, wood, waxed linen, wood stain

PH: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

DH: As a child – maybe 5 or 6 years old – I decided I wanted to make a series of related pictures of a swimmer, like in a storyboard or film strip. I took a length of toilet paper which was already divided into squares that suited my idea and I drew it with crayons.


PH: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

DH: I need to make stuff. It is an important way for me to respond to my experiences.


If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Studio Visit with Dimitri Pavlotsky

A few months ago, I visited the studio of artist Dimitri Pavlotsky at his home in Chicago's Logan Square neighbourhood. I met Dimitri online when we both took part in Paul Klein's Klein Artist Works program last fall, and we then got to know each other IRL (in real life, as they say nowadays to contrast with the spectral 'meetings' that occur via the internet).



After I arrived at his house, we sat in his kitchen for a while, drinking tea, and talking about Dimitri's journey in life from an upbringing in Russia to his present life in the United States. The walls are covered with his work--paintings from different times of the last ten years or so, but all having in common a thick impasto style and an image that at least begins in something representational, usually the human figure. The impasto is so thick that Dimitri says it can take months before a painting is finished, as each layer of oil paint, juicy and oozing like cake icing, or a slithering mass of maggots, perhaps, gradually forms the first layer of dried skin and permits a further assault on the canvas. His studio space, in a hot attic room drenched with light from a skylight, shows the evidence of this process, the floor smeared with paint droppings, pools of linseed and white spirits still fresh here and there.


We discussed painting from memory, and painting from life; finding out when to stop a painting, and when you've gone too far; whether a picture should have more elements in it or fewer; how far to push the image towards abstraction; how to settle on one style, or one theme for a group of pictures; the strange demands that are made on your art when you come into contact with the commercial art world.


In contrast to most artists and teachers of art, I don't see it as my job to go into an artist's studio and tell them what I like or don't like about their work, or an individual piece. Even when asked to resopnd in this way, I try first to get at what someone was trying to achieve, and ask them what they think is working or not. It's impossible to keep one's value judgements out of it entirely, but in general I prefer to be a wall for someone to bounce a ball off, so to speak, rather than an imperialist invading the country of someone else's mind with my completely partial beliefs and responses. (It's a different case when I'm reviewing work in a show, though even then my preferred method is: if I don't like it, I don't review it.)

But I can say that I was impressed by the energy of Dimitri's paintings, the sensitivity to the paint that shines through the violent slashing gestures of the surface. Like any artist, he is engaged in his own personal struggle between what he wants to achieve when he starts a painting, and what the result sometimes ends up as. But he clearly has the skills and the tools to solve that puzzle.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Six of the Best, Part 29: Stella Untalan

Continuing the interview series in which I pose the same six questions to artists, writers, and other creative people. Today's interview is with Stella Untalan, whose stunning works on paper caught my eye one time on Google Plus. You can see more of her work here.
soundings #2, matte vinyl paint, graphite, and white drafting ink on 22 x 30 Rives BFK White, drawing 6.5" x 13", 2012

PH: What medium do you chiefly use, and why? 


SG: I’ve recently returned to drawing with inks. For the past several years my drawings were made with pastels and graphite. Almost all of my work is on paper, museum quality board or synthetic papers like Yupo. My paper of choice is Rives BFK. I use traditional drawing tools but am very interested in using tools co-opted from untraditional sources. These are essential to discovering different ways to create new mark vocabularies.

PH: What piece are you currently working on?

SG: Right now I have 5 or 6 projects underway--I can’t work on one at a time, it’s not in my nature. I am working on two series of large drawings ( 22 x 30 inches ). Each series consists of nine drawings. I work on an entire series at once. For both of these I’m making tonal rhythms using intaglio inks, creating rhythmic marks with brayers. The results have surprised me. I’m not sure where they are going from here. Then I have a series of collages based the forms and tonal aspects of typography. So far the project name is alphabet collage; there will be at least twenty-six of them. I'm also working on an altered book project, three single sheet books for an exhibition called Ritual, and a plein air drawing under the influence of the river project.
waiting for a wave
ink and pencil on rag vellum : 12" x 6", 2010

PH: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

SG: I never know what will happen with the drawings. Every mark I make is a surprise. Recently, I've increased the size of my drawings, increasing the space in which I draw. For the past several years many of my drawings haven’t exceeded 14 x 17 so making the leap drawings that take up a 22 x 30 sheet is monumental. Paradoxically, this was spurred by my 2012 drawing-a-day project where small iPhone drawings somehow had a feeling of substantial scale. Moving my current vocabulary to a larger space has been challenging. Now new tools and new marks have found their way into my work. I find myself really drawing without any concern for results, totally caught up in process. I find myself being even more experimental.

PH: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

SG: I’m not a full-time artist. My professional work is information architecture. This feeds my investigations of vocabularies and the referential nature of repetitive marks. I love to read poetry. I find poetry to have a direct relationship with my drawing. I love its rhythm and abstractness.


new unfinished work
intaglio ink and casein paint on 22 x 30 Rives BFK White, 2013

PH: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

SG: I’m not sure which was the first but I can remember being reprimanded in grade school, I think I was seven or eight, for drawing when I should have been paying attention to my academic subjects. I would make still life drawings all day long. I also made lots of comic books. I love graphic narrative.

PH: Finally, and you can answer this in any way you want: why are you an artist?

SG: I’m compelled to make art. I don’t necessarily want to make it. I just have to.

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Six of the Best, Part 28: Willi Bambach

The 28th in an interview series in which I pose the same six questions to artists of all hues. Willi Bambach is an artist living in Berlin, Germany. He works in a mixture of media, always finding surprising combinations of textures and images in his juxtaposition of different materials. If you live in the New York area, you can currently see his work in Long Island City at this venue.


"Untitled (Crash 201)", 2011, silicon, paper, acrylic color and varnish-color, plastic sheets on Canvas, 98" x 61"
PH: What medium do you chiefly use, and why?

WB: My creativity circles around paintings, sculptures, and installations. The main substance I work with most is probably silicon. Why? Maybe because I feel that it's a perfect mirror of our zeitgeist.
 
PH: What piece are you currently working on?

WB: Usually I work on several pieces simultaneously. One that I'm working on now is a large painting in my plast-art style, like the one you might already know: "Untitled (Crash 201)." The title will be "Untitled (Decoration 202)". Two more in this style are in the making: "Hulks Orgasm" and "Big fish bloody red blue". Additionally I just finished a sandwork-painting called "Verdauungs (digestive...)", a 6 piece-sculpture set "Prophezeiung (The Prophecy)," and a 21 piece painting-set which discusses colors as such, titled "Colors must burn."


"Schwangere (The Pregnant)", 2013, foamglas-kernel wrapped/covered with
fiber-glass and 2 component-resin, colors, 
28" x 25" x 16"

PH: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

WB: I love the concept of the unexpected surprise, and so in "Untitled (Decoration 202)" you will see a motive behind a curtain which consists of . . . actually the work is a discussion about the connection between violence and sex. In "The Prophecy" you might realize that the wood-pieces are made out of books and the inserted and melted pieces are electronic-boards from computers - only the letters will survive. It's a discussion about the idea that everything man creates isn't made for eternity.

PH: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

WB: It's as simple as this: my creativity fires best when I work on my art.


"Elefant", 2013, Rhubarb leaves, Metal Sponges, Leg of Display Mannequin, 2-Component-Resin, Varnish, Acrylic Colors on Wooden Board (Trunk/Leg is removable), 38" x 50.5" x 28"
PH: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

WB: When I was about 10 I did drawings of fashion, but stopped doing this after some time when I realised "this isn't for me. Its too easy to do this." At the age of 16 I did a small abstract god-sculpture, which is still with me as the "good spirit" of my household.

PH: Finally, and you can answer this in any way you want: why are you an artist?

WB: You might remember my tagline from G+: "Art to me is like salty sea-water for the thirsty . . . and I have drunken."

Vielen dank, Willi. And if you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

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