Thursday, September 26, 2013

Six of the Best, Part 32: Rick Beerhorst

Part 32 of the interview series in which I pose the same six questions to each artist. Rick Beerhorst is an artist who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, host city of Art Prize, the world's biggest and most well-rewarded prize for art of all shapes and sizes. Rick's collaborative venture Plan B won the prize for Best Use Of Urban Space in Art Prize 2012, and this year his painting has just been selected as one of the finalists in the 2-D art category. If you want to see Rick's work in situ, and/or vote for it, click here for details.

"Hummingbird Girl", oil on panel, 32" x 32"

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

Rick Beerhorst: My primary medium is oil painting on wooden panels. For me it is a lot about building up layers. It is a slow process of building up and tearing down and building up again. After I have added a number of layers of paint and the image is beginning to have heft I go at it with sand paper and sometimes scrape with a razor blade to break down the surface layers and get back to what is underneath. In working this way I sometimes think that life is like this. The sanding and scraping is akin to when we experience hardship and disappointment and the adding of another layer of beautiful color is something like when we are feeling loved and appreciated. Life and painting seem to be a continual volley of both experiences.

Philip Hartigan: What piece are you currently working on?

Rick Beerhorst: I am currently working on a series of paintings and drawings of women holding books. The book has become an important symbol in my work over the past few years of what I am not exactly sure. I think it has something to do with reaching for meaning and an inner longing for a mystical state. Whereas visual artist are primarily working with a visual language, the author is using words. But the author's words also conjure a visual world at the same time. We look to writers and artist to not only help us into meaningful insights into our existence but they even may offer us a door way into a spiritual connection self realization.
"Licking the Envelope," oil on panel, 32" x 32"
Philip Hartigan: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

Rick Beerhorst: I began a commitment to myself to blog six days a week about 18 months ago. The daily ritual of writing the blog helped me begin to develop my ability to communicate with a written language. This slow development seems to run a parallel with this series of paintings. It's as if by painting these women holding books represented my longing to learn how to write better which took me awhile to begin to come to terms with. I think we all carry deep inner longings to grow into new areas but often these longings never come to fruition because our early attempts are so awkward and clumsy we just quite before we ever find any rewards that could build our confidence to keep trying.

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

Rick Beerhorst: Well I have been very involved in music in the past. I have had a band called the Wealthy Orphans for a couple years. We do a kind of gypsy tinged indie rock style. I have had a lot of fun with making music because it becomes a good excuse to hang out with friends and make something together. We also have a micro urban farm here in the city (in Grand Rapids MI) full of organically grown veggies, meat rabbits and laying hens which also leads into a whole lot of good cooking from scratch.


"Distracted Reader," oil on panel, 32" x 32"
Philip Hartigan: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

Rick Beerhorst: The first piece of art I remember making was a drawing of my mother. I remember it creating kind of a stir in our household because I was very young, maybe five? And apparently it was good enough to make some excitement among my family. I think I am still trying to create that stir and get a little bit of that attention I had that day when I was five.

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

Rick Beerhorst: I am an artist because I have this deep inner compulsion to make things that are beautiful and kind of enchanting. You know that feeling you have when you see a peacock open up its tail feathers as it struts along, or when a young (or older) man or woman pass by that are just really beautiful and you feel that bit of a swoon? I want to create that fleeting experience for people but I also want to surprise them and maybe even tug the viewer into a place of confusion where they will be forced to reconsider what they have known before and have new thoughts and new ideas.

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.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Expo Chicago 2013

I just filed my report about this year's Chicago art fair for Hyperallergic.com, and have a few photos left over from the ones that I submitted for the article. My overall impression in a nutshell: Expo Chicago looks like a streamlined version of one of the big art fairs in New York, Miami, or Basel, which means that it's not particularly a place to go and take the pulse of contemporary art, but rather a place to see what the contemporary gallery world think will sell to contemporary collectors. To my eye, that means lots of painting (mostly in very recognizable styles or by very recognizable artists, living and dead), some sculpture, and a very little video. That is not at all necessarily a bad thing. On the other hand, I didn't come away filled with huge inspiration or with my mind blown.

Here are some of the works that I liked (click on an image to embiggen):

Judy Pfaff

Paul Nutt

Tameka Norris

Phillip Taaffe

Byron Kim

Wangechi Mutu

Wesley Kimler

Thomas Schutte/Ai Wei Wei

Shinique Smith

Amy Feldman

Monday, September 16, 2013

Six of the Best, Part 31

Continuing the series in which I pose the same six questions to artists of different hue and strip. Today's interviewee is Lynn Tsan. a Chicago artist who has a distinctive way with grids, shapes, and colours. You can see more of her work here.

"Alphabet 5"

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

Lynn Tsan: For the past several years I have been creating digital drawings – hand drawn with a mouse using Adobe Illustrator. I create a graphical square then put another next to it and so on and so forth until the piece is finished. I call them “graphical collages.” I began creating these drawings because I was flat broke and had a computer but not enough money for art supplies. In fact, the first drawing was an attempt to create a black and white business card (color was too expensive to print) that was compelling and beautiful. Forty-five quarter-inch pictures later I had my business card. Sometime later, on a night I couldn’t sleep, I colored the piece and separated it into two. I added those two 25 square, 20” pieces to a series of pastel drawings and sold them both the day before my first gallery show. They are fun to make, exacting, problematic and puzzle-like. So began a of a very long running series of work.

Philip Hartigan: What piece are you currently working on?

Lynn Tsan: I’ve just finished a fifth alphabet. I’m going for six because although I like the alphabet series as 2D prints, I like them as alphabet blocks as well. Six alphabets mean I can create cool combinations of six letter words and switch the letters at will. Also, a new large black and white techno piece – acrylic and light?

Untitled
Philip Hartigan: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

Lynn Tsan: There’s a next generation in the works. The drawings are taking new form - laser-cut acrylic, steel and light; maybe some other media. Also...Furniture! The first art cabinet was a success. Wallpaper and ceiling art are in the works. Lots of experimentation right now.

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


Lynn Tsan: I’m also a writer who should be writing more. Sometimes I think the art is giving me too good of a reason to not be writing. Dancing and singing at the top of my lungs always loosens me up when my body starts to resemble the shape of a hunchbacked 100-year-old, nearsighted computer hacker.

"Circle Cabinet"

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

Lynn Tsan: Not sure. I do remember soaking a piece of paper, smushing around watercolors and watching them bleed, then taking a black pen to the picture when it dried and drawing all the trees I saw in the colors. I was about seven.

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

Lynn Tsan: I’m an artist because I don’t know how to be anything else. I don’t play well with others. I think out loud and regale people with stories that I think explain a concept beautifully when the poor souls are just trying their damnedest to partake in polite conversation. I care more about the intricate act of solving a aesthetic or conceptual problem than I do about learning how do to something that someone else tells me to do the way they tell me to do it. I’m not very good at following a routine, or directions, for that matter. Creating anything is the act of communicating an idea, fashioning a thing of beauty, solving a problem, explaining a concept. It’s what I do to make sense of the world.

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.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

My Print on View in Global Print 2013


So this is worth doing a blog post for: one of my prints is currently on view at the museum in Douro, Portugal, as part of the Global Print exhibition. I was one of the 390 artists from all over the world who were invited to take part. It's invitation-only, meaning you don't apply to be part of it--you get asked, which is very flattering. I've just received a PDF of the catalogue, and there are many fantastic prints on show.

Even though I am British, I've been living in the USA for over ten years, and the print I submitted was made here, so I am one of the artists representing the USA this year. Here is the catalogue page with my print:

The photo is a detail of a very tall print on Japanese paper, that hangs down the wall like a scroll. I am also pleased to have been invited to take part in the Print Biennial in Douro in 2014, an even bigger and more prestigious affair, which I hope to attend.

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