“I am interested in architecture. And building. I like all the very interesting detailing and the styles and all that. It all works together. This all happens at once. When I first started in art school, they were trying to teach you that these things are broken up. I tried to break down the painting and I realized that everything is together, nothing is really separate and shapes, colors—they are all integral. You can’t really separate them.”
What is it about that lack of separation that’s so interesting? Is that a guiding force, that you’re blurring lines?
Actually, now I’m making sharper lines. Any form of art is more of an instinctive emotional thing than analytical. If you try to break things down that way you’ll lose contact with it. By painting on paper and cutting it up and moving it around I could constantly change the image I’m working on until I’m absolutely fine with it—instead of painting over the image to try to get what I want.
Were there ever periods when you didn’t love it? Would you ever stop because you’re either frustrated or lost?
Well, every other day you either love it or you think you suck but once you get used to that, it’s like breathing. But you’re never completely happy. I think there’s always a piece being made. You go through doubts and some days you feel ecstatic but that’s what’s nice about it, that fluctuation.
What’s this yellow?
I don’t know, I haven’t done anything where I was working off of something I was actually looking at in like 30 years. This is all coming out of the subconscious. Everything that comes out of a person has a reference to something in nature or the human body. It’s engrained in you so it just comes out. I was reading writer/musician John Cage and the abstract painters where there are ways of bringing things out of the subconscious—techniques and all. Actually what I’ve come to now with the thumbtack painting almost can be subconscious too because you can just put pieces on and there’s nothing permanent about it. It allows more things to flow without being too self-conscious about it.
Tell me more about the colors.
Some are straight out of the tube, I use acrylic paints. But the painting on paper makes the colors change so that’s what’s nice—you can get all kinds of effects. You can get an opaque gray like that or the same gray is a little different when it’s soaked into the paper.
What I’m wondering most when I am looking around is: would you qualify this as additive, or is it more subtractive because as you put something on, that color gets blocked and therefore removed from the plane or is it both?
It’s both because toward the end of the painting I end up taking half of the paper off, so it goes back and forth.
Would you say the work is just for you?
Yeah, pretty much. But also, when you’re done, you like to have your artist friends and the world see the pieces.
When the studio is empty I stretch up all these canvases. I usually work on a lot of paintings at once. I had most of these blank canvases ready to go, now I have these stacks of paper and I just mixed up paints. I just made different colors and different textures, stuff to work on without really any thoughts in mind. Then I’ll just start cutting them up. Sometimes I’ll just turn a piece of paper over and scribble on it with my eyes closed and that can suggest shapes that I can cut out just to get things started.
Cage was very influenced with zen and the idea that anything can be used in the creative process. He was a composer and his idea was that any sounds of life can be used as music or listened to like music. It’s the same thing in visual art, anything is possible.
I know there are a lot of rules out there—there’s all kinds of rules. They try to explain things or break things down. I guess the way painting or writing is taught, they try to break it down, I guess to make it more explainable. But I think it’s just doing it and following your own instinct without any thoughts restraining you. I don’t really see that as rebellion I see it as a good way to live.
There’s a million ways to feel encumbering, but I am trying to stay free of that. The focus is more of what’s going on through your hand.
Do you ever want to tear them so they are not perfect edges?
Sometimes, but right now I like the crispness.
The thing that Cage talked about was a thing called simultaneity where you take things that you think will never fit together and try to make it work. And that’s what creates the excitation in a work—contrary things or different things, trying to make them where they come together creates the electricity. All the Modernist poets were far ahead of the painters on that, putting strange images together and making them work.
Your layering, it’s obviously dimensional. Even if we’re talking about millimeters, it’s dimensional, it’s layers. But the final versions are very flat.
With every painting that’s been made it’s been dimensional. The minute you make a stroke on a canvas you create an illusion, but every painting is flat.