Thursday, March 31, 2016

Finding and Following an Independent Path

“The beach has the power to shape everything it touches into its own image.”
Terry Setch

The British artist Terry Setch has been using the Welsh coast as the primary inspiration for his encaustic paintings for the majority of his career.

As he told fellow artist MichaelSandle in a 2010 conversation “the south Wales coastline became the source of my imagery and since 1971 all my work has been about what I could extract from the Seven Estuary; it’s only a few minutes’ walk away from my home in Penarth and after forty or so years I’m still here.”  

Growing up in London during the Second World War his artistic ability was recognized in his early teens and he was encouraged to attend Saturday art classes at the Sutton School of art. Two years later he enrolled full time in the school where he was allowed to follow an independent path.

The beach became a second studio for Setch and the interaction between land, sea and humanity providing him with metaphors for contemporary political and social concerns, especially that of pollution.

As he explained “The issues about recycling and pollution surfaced when I started going to the beach. Cardiff was one of the most important ports in Britain so everything was industrially charged. I also started to feel in contact with the movement of the tides and the human activity going on; the discarded waste, some people’s inability to be in harmony with nature or to enjoy nature and not ruin it for other people. Rather than a piece of beautiful landscape it was more like a legacy of my London childhood: homelessness and bomb-sites, bits of people’s lives being lifted and spread across that landscape. The tides on that estuary are enormous and they gather in what’s left on the beach and plant it somewhere else. The moment I saw that happening I realized I could play a part. I could pick things up and I could place them somewhere else, which I did, and the tides would come in and knock them down and then I’d have to rediscover them. That was the start of it. My work has gone through many Changes since then but on the beach I found a system that I could build upon.”   

And as Martin Holman quoted Setch as saying in an essay for Setch’s 2001 retrospective exhibition “I have always been trying to get things right from a personal angle. I have got to follow my own path: I am not a ‘joiner’ or part of an ‘ism’. I have tried to create an identity that is my own.”

Setch’s current exhibition Reduced to Rubble is on show at London’s Flowers’ Cork St Gallery until the 16th of April.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Disposable World

“breakable printed matter”
Kimiyo Mishima

In her late thirties the Japanese artist Kimiyo Mishima changed from being primarily a painter to sculpture using silkscreened ceramics as her medium. It was a move that saw her become one of Japan’s prominent contemporary artists.

Born in Osaka in 1932, Mishima started painting in her teens and in her mid-twenties she abandoned the figurative style in favor of an expressionist one. The freedom of this approach saw her, within three years, incorporate collage into her work using diverse materials like mosquito nets, blankets, newspapers and magazines. 

Mishima’s growing interest in the variety of messages available from the printed materials saw her, in less than a decade of her stylistic change, add silkscreen printing to repertoire. From there it was a short step to the three dimensional.

The Tokyo Inn Hotel’s commissioned Work 2012 (see below) is an atypical example of the concerns that have driven Mishima’s work in both her painting and sculpture. As tall as the shuttle busses that pass on their way to disgorge the hotels arriving guests and with its supermarket of colors, most of the replicated contents could easily have come from one of the hotels mini-bars.

For it is this discussion and depiction of the discarded ephemera of a disposable world that concerns Mishima, from the concrete to the flickering screen.

As she has said it’s “The fear and anxiety of being drowning in information.”

An exhibition of Mishima’s paintings from the 1960’s is currently on show at Taka Ishii Gallery in New York until the 9th of April.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Thoughts About the Urban Experience

“I’m interested in the idea of coexistence.”
Shirley Jaffe

The American born geometric abstract painter Shirley Jaffe interprets the urban cacophony with images and colors that evoke memories of the familiar within her incongruous renderings.

Jaffe grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey and Brooklyn, New York before moving to Washington, DC after her marriage and then on to Paris, France where she has remained for best part of the last six decades.

As she told Bomb Magazine’s Shirley Kaneda “I went at the end of 1949. We were living in Washington, D.C., and my husband was on the G.I. Bill, so he could go to any school he wanted. He wanted to go to the Sorbonne, so we ended up in Paris.”

It was a city that resonated with Jaffe and whilst having attended Parsons School of Design, Brooklyn College, and The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, it was in Paris that she completed her art education.

As she has said “[It was] Exciting, wonderful. I took the opportunity to absorb as much art as I could, something I don’t think I had adequately done in New York. I went to every contemporary gallery and looked at everybody’s work and gave myself a visual education.

It was in the 1960’s when Jaffe moved away from the gestural expressionist style to the geometric.

As she has explained “When I went to Berlin, in the late ‘60s. I felt that my paintings were being read as landscapes. And that wasn’t my intention. I don’t think I was terribly clear about what my intention was, but I knew it wasn’t landscape. At any rate, I was reworking gestural painting and it seemed wrong.”

A point Jaffe underscored with The Brooklyn Rail stating “I wanted to bring out what I thought was a particular interest of mine, and which I don’t think was visible then. Now, it might be.

And if the New York Time’s art critic, Roberta Smith, is to be believed Jaffe is correct.

As Smith wrote in 2010 “Pure abstraction, bright as it is, is rejected in favor of urban inspiration. Ms. Jaffe’s best paintings are, like these, at once slyly humorous, deeply principled and robustly contaminated. Beauty is never simple or empty. It is won. It takes thought. Perhaps most beautiful of all, it is thought.

Jaffe current exhibition of Works on Paper is on show at New York’s Tibor de Nagy Gallery until the 30th of April.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Love of Painting

“For me, success is simply getting into the flow in the studio
and making work that blows my own mind.

Alyssa Monk

The realist figurative painter Alyssa Monk credits her mother as being a, if not the, major motivation in her pursuit of an artistic career through her support of her daughter’s aspirations, her approach to life and even her death.

As Monk told Artophilia’s Paulina Kaminska “My mother, her life and passing, have been a great source of influence on my work. She lived in a very creative way, and everything she did, she brought her own creative attitude and experimental technique to. Being so close to her was a constant lesson on how to live creatively, be willing to try new things, be willing for them to not always work out and enjoy it anyway. She knew how to enjoy life and love whatever she was doing.”

Monk was the youngest of eight children and her mother primed the pump for her daughters painting aspirations by ferrying her to innumerable art classes.

As Monk recalled “I started painting in oils at about 8 years old, maybe younger, I don’t remember. I have a memory of taking an oil painting class while I was in kindergarten, too. But by the time I was about 14 I was pretty sure this was my path. I can’t say I had it all thought out, and most adults were trying to steer me into a more practical, life sustaining career. But I was already forming much of my identity and devoting my time and focus on painting. By 17 I was totally committed and fighting for it. When it came to figuring out money, I thought I’d be an assistant or waitress for my income, so long as I could paint. That was the plan.”

The death of her mother in 2012 saw Monk not only gravitate from her semi-abstract shower/water subjects to figures as landscape elements but also that her mother’s ethos towards life invaded the studio where Monk had sought solace.

As she explained to Vamp Magazine’s Miguel Figueroa “What I learned in trying to paint in the new landscape I was living in was that painting was an act of Love. It was no longer about finishing paintings, it was about getting lost and finding the resolution through experimentation that doesn’t always succeed, but does often surprise.”

A concept Monk reiterated in her 2015 TEDx talk at Indiana University saying “Let’s take the opportunity to find something beautiful in the unknown, in the unpredictable and even in the awful.”

Monks current exhibition of paintings Resolution is on show at New York’s Forum Gallery until the 7th of May.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Branding Street Art for the Gallery

“I want my works to be viewed like TV.”
Johnny Romeo

As a teenager, the self-described Neo-Expressionist Pop artist, Johnny Romeo, along with his friends, tagged the inner city streets of Australia’s largest capital city, Sydney.

As he explained to the British magazine Sublime Zine “We were simply reckless, energetic, crazy kids on skateboards tagging, drawing and painting our youth away. We were trying to find ourselves and in doing that, trying also to identify ourselves in the world in which we lived… We were like suburban dogs trying simply to mark our territory.”

Growing up Romeo was drawing constantly inspired by television, magazines, books and journals. “Drawing was something I did every day for fun,” he says.

In particular drawing in front of the TV saw the young Romeo reproduce the stream of images that confronted him, be they program or commercial.

“I grew up watching TV. I was fascinated by the lives and the stories I saw on TV. I was fixated by the catchy persuasive commercials that got inside my head… I was unaware I was living in a constructed television world. I thought it was normal to feel like part of the Brady Bunch family. TV gives us so much fulfillment and we can’t help but relate to the stars and the stories. As a child I did and as an adult I still do… Although today I watch cable and DVDs rather than free to air,” he explained.

After a stint at the University of New South Wales’ Collage of Fine Art, where he was introduced to the work of the American Pop artists of the 1960’s and 70’s, Romeo has stamped his personality onto the genre. Which apart from his use of candy colors Romeo’s use of ironic, parodistic or repetitive text is an integral part of the work.

About which he told the Artist’s Profile magazine “The use of language in my paintings is important. I often like to think of the text in my paintings as television ‘ad-breaks’ on canvas, filtered through the syncopated cadence of Beat poetry and rap music.”

Over the last decade, as Romeo has been building his brand, his work has transitioned from the street to the gallery becoming more planned and structured along the way.

As he says “I don’t consider my work as being street art per se. While I adopt the ethos and techniques of street art in my works, my aim now is to bridge the divide between graffiti and fine art. My paintings are a melting pot of all my influences: Expressionism, Neo-Expressionism, Cubism, Fauvism and Street Art.”

Romeo’s current exhibition When We Ruled the World is on show at Linton & Kay’s Perth gallery until the 4th of April.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Of Dogs and Postcards

As an artist I have a lot of freedom.
I can do whatever I want.
No one can tell me what to do.
It's all up to me.

William Wegman

Although best known for his photographs and videos of his beloved Weimaraner hounds, the artist William Wegman started his career as a painter gaining both his Bachelor and Masters of Fine Art in that discipline.

But, as he says in text for his current New York exhibition “I studied painting in art school but by the time I graduated in the 1960’s, painting was dead.”

As a result, Wegman gravitated towards photography and video via installation and performance art. It was whilst teaching at the California State University in Long Beach, that he got his first dog and collaborative partner, Man Ray.

As he explained to the National Endowment for the Arts’ Jo Reed “He was six weeks old when I got him in 1970 from Long Beach. I was living in San Pedro, but teaching in Long Beach for one year. He persuaded me to do it. He was around me constantly. I couldn't really keep him out. I'd go to my studio and I'd tie him up at the corner so he wouldn't start chewing things that I was lining up on the floor. And he would whine. So it was much easier to let him chew the things and then photograph him doing it or videotaping him.”

With his deadpan presence, Man Ray, became the central figure in Wegman’s photographs and videos. To such an extent that New York’s Village Voice newspaper named Man Ray their "Man of the Year" in 1982, the year of his death.

Four years later Wegman obtained another Weimaraner, Fan Ray, and along with her off-spring and their off-spring, Wegman has continued the collaborations.

Which has caused the former editor in chief of the American Photo Magazine, David Schonauer to write “His pictures puncture the regal bearing of the beautiful dogs by surrounding the animals with the absurd artifacts of everyday human life… Wegman is having some fun, but it’s really at our expense, not the dog’s. The dog is just there to help us enjoy being shown for what we are.”

In the 1980’s Wegman realized that his pronouncement of paintings demise was a little hasty.

As he said “When I started to have dreams that I was painting-- I think it was in my mid-40s; or even late 40s-- I felt like I really had to do it.”

About which he said in a November 2015 Blog entry “When I returned to painting I thought it would be smart strategy to skip everything I learned in art school which lead me out of painting and go back to my childhood sources for inspiration… I began to use the history of painting on itself. A work of mine that stands out for me in this regard is a painting of tents. Tents are made of canvas...paintings are made on canvas...  All I ever needed was an excuse to paint. And now I had one… In a few years I began to use postcards in this way more and more, first on paper, and later on wooden panels where they can be glued to the surface. Today they dominate my work and I have too many cards to stop.” 

Wegman’s current exhibition Postcard Paintings is on show at New York’s Sperone Westwater Gallery until the 23rd of April.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

She Tells His Story

“I'm just trying to be truthful to my life.
Safwan Dahoul

The Syrian artist Safwan Dahoul first painted his enigmatic monochromatic woman with Pharaonic eyes in his mid-twenties. Since then, she, along with her sisters, has become the narrator of Dahoul’s life story.

As he told Anna Seaman at Abu Dhabi’s English-language publication, The National “The first time I painted her I called it Dream because I didn’t want to have to explain it. I didn’t know then that it was going to be part of a series or that she would stay with me for the rest of my life.”

Based on a real person from Dahoul’s youth, with whom he had “an impossible love story,” she has grown with the artist over the years expressing his thoughts and ruminations.

As he explained “The face you see in my work is the narrator. She is the person who writes my daily journal and when I come to paint her I don’t know what she is going to say, we just sit there and have a debate.”

The Pharaonic eyes came about Dahoul’s interest in the ancient Egyptian art style that decorated the Pharaoh's tombs.

About which he explained to Forward Magazine’s Kareem Shukr “Generally speaking, I love Pharaonic art. The issue of Pharaonic eyes was also a coincidence. I work on empty space around shapes, and had started to draw a human being’s face in the form of a mask. And in masks, as you know, there is always room for the eyes. I realized that if I work around the eyes a little bit, they will resemble Pharaonic eyes. Since I already like Pharaonic art, I borrowed from it in my paintings.”

Whilst Dahoul’s restricted palette adheres to his belief of less being more.

As he told The Canvas Supplement “Less color means clearer ideas, less color asks for a more sensitive perception from the viewer… There is an old proverb in Arabic that says, the fewer the words, the better. For me it is the same with color. You can say a lot more with nuance.

Dahoul’s current exhibition Still Dreaming is on show at Dubai’s Ayyam Gallery until the 30th of May.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Figures in a Landscape

“From nature I discover color and lighting that I could never dream up myself.”
Steve Lopes

For the figurative painter Steve Lopes, the environment he places his figures is of paramount importance and for the majority of his works it is the Australian landscape.

As he told the Artist Profile’s Owen Craven “It’s very important as it sets the tone and atmosphere of a work. It can make or break a painting and depending on what you’re trying to achieve it can set up the psychological setting for an image. Sometimes what you respond to will create a work you didn’t expect and one has to respond to the location in an ‘improvisatory’ way which allows for interesting and surprising results. I have no preconceived notions – often I will place a figure in afterwards or as I’m working in reaction to the landscape or what is developing.”

With a city based studio, where he creates his major works, Lopes makes frequent trips into the country.

“I make a real effort to go on a number of camping trips throughout the year in different locations around the country. I like to come away with a swag of studies that feed back into my studio work,” he explains.

A point he elaborated with the writer Paul Flynn, saying “When you place yourself in a location and commit to capturing something, then it becomes about reacting to the lighting, form and colors in a natural or instinctive way. In the landscape you’re able to remove yourself from the equation, and let go… Part of the joy of painting plein air is the uncertainty, the lack of control, and I try to maintain that in the final works.”

Back in his studio Lopes is able to take the time he needs to place his figures within the landscape.

As he told ABC Rural Radio’s Cherie Mc Donald “As a figurative artist there’s a sense of narrative which you have to place. Once you put a figure in an environment a sense of story comes out of it. So you have to think very carefully where you place the figure and why are you putting it in there.”

Which goes to the heart of Lopes’ artistic endeavor. The son of Italian parents, Lopes grew up in Australia and he is exploring what it is to be a second generation Australian.

As he told Imprint Magazine’s Lesley Conran in 2014 “I really want tinterpret the Australian landscape with my own idea of being Australian. My paintings and etchings are about people coming to Australia and assimilating with the land, gaining their bearings and coping.”

Lopes’ current exhibition Open Cut is on show at Perth’s Linton & Kay Gallery until the 28th of March.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Trash as Treasure

"Our culture decides, quite arbitrarily, what is waste and rubbish."
Sir Eduardo Paolozzi

The British Artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi who is best known as a sculptor but whose collages and silkscreen prints document his artistic journey more accurately was a hoarder.  

As the Telegraph Newspaper’s obituary reported him as saying “I have an African or Indian approach to what I find. I like to make use of everything. I can't bear to throw things away - a nice wine bottle, a nice box. Sometimes I feel like a wizard in Toy town, transforming a bunch of carrots into pomegranates."

Found objects from junk yards and the streets often found their way into his sculptures that have been described as half human and half mechanical constructions; a totem for the 20th Century’s technological age. Whilst Paolozzi’s graphic works with their juxtaposition of American pin-ups and comic strip images are regarded as the foundation of British he British Pop Art movement.

Paolozzi didn’t see himself as a pop artist, but rather as a surrealist, an influence he acquired during his two years in Paris at the end of the 1940’s.

About which the Independent’s Adrian Hamilton claims Paolozzi has said of himself, “a Surrealist, playing games, mixing images and delving into the subconscious in an effort to create an art of the time for the time.

The son of Italian immigrant ice-cream vendors, Paolozzi, at the age of 15, was interned as an enemy alien during the Second World War. An experience that saw him elevate his ambition within the arts from commercial to fine.

After being demobilized from the Pioneer Corps by feigning insanity Paolozzi attended the Edinburgh College of Art followed by Saint Martin's School of Art and then the Slade School of Fine Art during the middle years of the forties.

Over the years, up until his death in 2005, Paolozzi embraced a variety of mediums and forms in his work keeping it fresh and exciting with the inspiration found in the repurposing others cast offs.

About which he has said “I still find that French approach; the need, the passion, to consider and handle things at the same time quite endearing – and very necessary for me. And it also justifies the reason to I had to leave London in the 1940s and go to France – just to show that I was not such an oddball. And I have lived by that ever since, the concern with different materials, disparate ideas – and to me that is the excitement; it becomes almost a description of the creative act – to juggle with these things.”  

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park has an exhibition of Paolozzi’s graphic works on show until the 12th of June.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Experimenting with the Personal

“The studio is a laboratory, not a factory.
Erika Keck

For the American painter Erika Keck her studio is the where place she can fully let go and embrace the making of objects rather than documents.

As she told Atwood MagazineI enjoy the process of experimenting and letting the painting take me to places I didn’t expect. I think it’s important to have a sense of play when it comes to making a painting.”

It’s a journey that has encompassed a sculptural aspect with in her work.

As she explained to Whitehot Magazine’s Joe Heaps Nelson “It is and it isn’t about the three-dimensional thing. I do see the painting as an object, but it’s still about this thing that hangs on the wall, and it starts with the form of a painting… It really kind of grew into this because I wanted a painting that initially was just on the wall, and it looked almost like the paint escaped off the canvas.

Which in turn underpins the abstract quality of the work that Keck builds.

“I don’t necessarily want to make something that’s going to create a very specific experience because otherwise I’d be making propaganda. I like jumping into the mystery, something that maybe puzzles me or confuses me, and that’s what’s usually going to inspire me to make something. I hope the viewer can have that same sense of wonder when they look at an image or object that I’ve made,” she says.

A point Keck elaborates upon stating “I think that’s part of the game of what painting has always been. It’s about using fiction to get to a truth, or using truth to make a new fiction. There are veiled personal references in there. I’m not looking to deliberately make someone feel good from one of my pieces… I’m after a deeper sense of pleasure. Not a sense of “I feel comfortable here” or “I feel familiar here”, but an emotional response to something that makes you feel uncomfortable because you’re stepping into new territory. You’re feeling something new and different for the first time.

It is her New York studio that the New Mexico born Keck embraces all aspects of her chosen medium.

As she says “I’m a studio painter. I like coming out of the tradition of oil on canvas. I like to keep it focused, and simple, and right there, and then see how much I can complicate it… There’s still nothing like the smell of turpentine in the morning. I might have to open the can, even if I’m using acrylic.

Keck, current exhibition How To Catch Monkeys is on show at New York’s Envoy Enterprises gallery until the 10th of April.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Painting the Seen and the Unseen

“I tend to conjure up an idea for a painting when I am doing something mundane
- riding a train, riding in a car, cleaning my house, trying to fall asleep.”
Anna Conway

For the American narrative painter Anna Conway her imagined reportage is concerned with depicting the world and our place in it at a particular point in time.

As she said in a statement to the 2014 New America Paintings exhibition “My paintings depict fragments of unfolding narratives in which ordinary people are suddenly confronted by forces greater than themselves. The viewer is privy only to the instant of disruption, not to its cause or effect.”

The invented figures we see in her paintings are derived from those she has met over the course of her life which evolve in her mind as real people with a past, present and future.

A process she explained to The Morning News’ Rosecrans Baldwin “I remember someone once referring to a woman, and when they said her name, they just referred to her as her husband’s name with a Mrs. in front. I recall thinking that the entire individual name her parents had given her was gone, and that seemed sad, like the girl she had once been had disappeared. I named a painting Mrs. Lance Cpl. Shane O’Toole and Mrs. Staff Sgt. Brandon Stevens (see below) after hearing that. When it came to titling that painting, I felt this empathy for the characters I had painted. I imagined them to be women who felt insignificant and weak, and identified themselves as someone attached to someone else, that someone else being more important and powerful.”

Conway is not a prolific artist having only made twenty-six paintings in last fifteen years, a tardiness that suggests invented epiphanies are not as easy as they seem.

For as she has said “My protagonists are placed in settings that are familiar but just slightly outside the everyday. Ambiguity is derived from our inability to know subjects’ internal epiphanies. Often, these are the quiet moments that change lives, the ones we try to express before coming to the embarrassed conclusion that they are indescribable in their simple profundity: “How was work?” “Well, I . . . it was . . . um, you know.”

Conway’s current exhibition Purpose is on show at Italy’s Collezione Maramotti until the 31st of July.

Monday, March 07, 2016

From Face to Face

“I keep finding what feels like new life in repetition,
falling deeper down the rabbit hole.”
Brian Calvin

The Los Angeles based figurative painter Brian Calvin earliest involvement with the arts was through music. But, while he was studying for his BA at the University of California at Berkley Calvin took some art classes.

As he told Frog’s Eric Troncy “Once I finished there I knew I wanted to continue doing this, it seemed logical to go to graduate school just to get on some level, have a studio and avoid having a job for a while. So I moved to Chicago because I wanted to have new experiences and ended up doing my MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago.”

And as he explained to Hero Magazine’s Thomas Davis “I started painting right around 1990. I enjoy playing music just as much, if not more so, but I think my temperament is better suited for painting.
Calvin’s early works were based on Pop characters like Popeye, Charlie Brown and Olive Oil.
About which he has said “They are very brown, beat up paintings. I was trying to take away the graphic quality of them and make them seem more kind of lived-in people.”

Over the intervening years, Calvin has lightened his palette, tightly cropped the figures in his works and abandoned the cartoon characters for his own imagined cast of characters.

As he has said “The portraits are all invented and I was focused on how much information I could strip away and still have a visual and an emotional potency…  Although the figures I paint are entirely invented, I pay close attention to how people construct their own identity and that certainly comes to bear on the paintings as they progress.”

As Calvin journeys down this path he continues to crop his works as he moves from what the Wall Street International magazine described as “pausing-as-an-activity” to an exploration of facial features.

As he says “I started isolating or focusing on the lips as a way of altering the context of the faces. When the viewer is confronted with Lisp or Eternal Lips, it changes the reception of the faces.”

Calvin’s current exhibition Hours is on show at the Almine Rech Paris gallery until the 12th of April.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

The Confidence to Let Go

“Painting is a kind of surrender;
a constant balancing act between decision making and letting go.

Cathy Layzell

For the South African painter Cathy Layzell, her journey from book designer to fine artist has been one of gaining the courage and confidence to trust in herself.

As she explained to Between 10and5’s Jessica Hunkin “I wanted to work in the arts for as long as I can remember, but it took some time before I was brave enough to leave gainful employment. I grew up thinking that if one wanted a career in the arts one ought to get training in something useful like graphic design or textile design… I spent half my life learning to draw and paint figuratively and it has been rather a joy and relief to finally throw off those shackles and embrace pure abstraction. These days I really feel like the paintings paint themselves; I start somewhere and end up somewhere else entirely…  For all the lists and plans and grand schemes that I have in my head, when the paint is ‘flying’ something else just takes over. I’ve had to learn to trust that something else.”

Layzell grew up on the outskirts of Durban in the leafy upper-class suburb of Kloof. “My mum had green fingers and our garden was a tropical paradise,” she recalled.

In her early twenties, after gaining a BA in Fine Art from Rhodes University, Layzell moved to London to work in publishing and interior design for the best part of a decade. The death of her father when she was 29 saw her take up painting again which she has pursued up till the present day.

The theme of nature recurs throughout her work with three of her exhibitions in the last four years being based upon the concept. From the culture of the garden to the wilderness via a tropical paradise.

About her 2015 exhibition Polynesia, she wrote “With Matisse’s pictorial fantasies and the tropics as my muse, I have used images and memories of tropical coral reefs, the weightlessness and freedom of swimming and diving underwater, and the magic of refracted light to distil my own Paradise.

As Layzell’s life has evolved so too has her painting, for as she has said “I started out as a still life painter and I suppose that the age-old idea of ‘memento-mori’ re-occurs; the cycles of life and death in nature.

Layzell’s current exhibition Wilderness is on show at Cape Town’s Salon Ninety One until the 26th of March.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Play it Again Peri

“The one thing I don’t want a painting to look like when it’s finished is finished.
Peri Schwartz

For the American artist Peri Schwartz whose oeuvre encompasses painting, drawing and printmaking her studio is her sanctuary.  

As she told the New York TimesOne of the things that has always been important to me is that I’m really alone when I’m painting. They make jokes in my family that “nobody’s allowed to call Peri in her studio.” When I was looking for space, I did look at some of the community spaces that have been provided for artists.  I realized I wouldn’t be happy in that situation. I just didn’t want someone coming by asking to borrow linseed oil or asking what I thought of their paintings. I didn’t want to think about anyone’s work but my own.

Such is Schwartz’s involvement with her studio that the paraphernalia of her working life features as the subject of her paintings, drawings and prints. Her semi-abstract renderings of the still lifes she creates from the tools and supplies of her trade have been described by the Huffington Post’s John Seed to “have the expressive vitality of perfectly executed chamber music.

And about which Schwartz told The Painting Perceptions Blog’s Cody Upton “I want to make these exquisite, organized things that sit on the edge of abstraction. My paintings are realistic—you do get a sense of space—but they are also abstract… I want it to be an open question. Things shouldn’t look like they’re exactly where they’re supposed to be. The composition shouldn’t feel stagnant.”

Schwartz archives this through the inclusion of an often visible grid within her works.

As she has explained “In art school, the practice of looking at a painting and dividing it into a grid was introduced as a compositional device. Later, when I was doing self-portraits, I had to get my body in the same position every day. I was working from life, in front of a mirror, and I started to mark lines on the wall behind me so that I would know where to position my head and arm. Soon I included the lines in the painting. They became part of the composition.

A dedicated fan of small ensemble classical music, Schwartz translates the experience of the musician’s interaction into her own work.

As she says “I go to concerts frequently and aside from getting emotionally involved in the music, I like to watch how the musicians communicate with each other. When I am back at the studio, the relationships between my still life objects remind me of the communication I observed between the musicians.

Schwartz’s current exhibition Constructing From Life is on show at the Richmond, Virginia’s Page Bond Gallery until the 26th of March.