“Hopefully I can paint/draw pretty good”
Increasingly recognized as one of America’s leading figurative painters the New York artist Steven Assael paints narrative works imbued with a theatrical impulse. He paints and draws from live models, the camera has no place in his production.
As he told Fine Art Connoisseur’s Peter Trippi “The great advantage that painting from life has is the embodiment of what is expected and unexpected. Chance cannot enter the process this way with photography. Photos can be helpful for general references, but I’m really all about how ideas are generated by the memory and the synthesis of experienced perceptions.”
“I usually start,” he continues, “with a visual, thematic idea – brides, for example – but the narrative evolves, its subtleties articulated as the painting develops. I select what is observed to support any change in feeling, or draw on memory, or respond to the unexpected. Over time, my sitter’s reveal themselves and their individuality becomes part of the narrative.”
It is a process he likes to film direction.
“I allow for the sitters’ performance to interfere with my concept. I think of sitters as actors, revealing an outward formality and an inner history. As a director, a strong actor can change everything, can steer the narrative in one direction over another. The moments in sequence embody the fullness of movement and an experience.”
Growing up as an only child Assael developed a love of drawing and encouraged by his mother he would often visit and sketch in the museums of his home town, New York.
In a promotional video for an exhibition at the Forum Gallery Assael said “The nights in armor at The Met were incredibly powerful and very theatrical as well. In a way I could say that still stayed with me because I’m very interested in theatre and the idea of art having a theatrical impulse.”
Today, apart from making his own paintings, Assael teaches at the New York Academy Graduate School and Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute as well as conducting master classes at his Manhattan studio.
Driven by his continued interest in deciphering and depicting life’s strange and often bizarre occurrences, American Artist reports that Assael impresses upon his student’s “If you have no understanding of what excites you, you will cease to paint, because you will have no sincere and no individuated motivation to do so.”
His ccurrent exhibition Steven Assael: New Paintings and Drawings is on show at New Yorks Forum Gallery until the 31st of December.