Category Archives: Interviews

Student Interview Series #3: Avital Burg: An Exchange in London

This past February, I joined Avital Burg, 3rd year Certificate student, in the shoe store art studio on the ground floor of the Studio School.  She had just returned from spending a semester as an exchange student at the Slade School of Art in London.  We settled down in front of her new paintings, still life paintings featuring plasticine figures placed in domestic scenes in cardboard boxes, chandeliers, fading flowers, and an ancient artist’s sink. Below are excerpts from our conversation.  Her work will be on display during the Certificate Graduation Exhibition opening April 18th.

C: So what was your day to day experience like at the Slade?

A: It was very different from here; it was a really good experience to go to a “normal” art school. The approach was very different, as well as the structure.

C: What was the structure like?

A:  There are no classes there at all. You can set up meetings with instructors, but most of the time you’re on your own.

C: So it’s like a residency of sorts.

A: Yes, and for me it was good because I feel that it came in the right phase in my development; it was what I needed.  Still,  there were some teachers that were really good to talk to.  One teacher was Paul Richards, he’s been around for a while, and used to be friends with Uglow. 

C: So he was part of that old guard at the Slade?

A: Maybe more so than others.  I was lucky to discover him and be able to bring him into my studio almost every week to talk about painting, all of the formal elements.  Two other tutors that I was in touch with and were very helpful to me were Andrew Stahl, the head of the department, and Alistair Mackinven.  The conversation with them was helpful in terms of the subject matter development.

It’s a very romantic place to be, I was painting in one of the life rooms where Uglow used to teach.  A round room with skylights.  There’s a lot of history, and Lucian Freud’s easel was there as he donated it to the school.

C: You felt inspired there?

A: Yes, and in a similar way to here. You know, in Israel, where I grew up, there is not a very long painting tradition, so it’s very important to be in those places.

C: So what about your fellow students?  Were they working on very different things from you?

A: Definitely. One of my friends there was a performance artist, and it’s not the first time I’ve seen that type of work, but I was never so involved with it.

The dialogue there was on an extremely high level.  It was great to be there and listen to the seminars, their version of crits- basically you show your work once a year in this format where everyone is coming in and there are a few professors, and everyone discusses your work. 

C: Would some of the instructors that were working in completely different media talk with artists in other media?  Or was it painters talking with painters?

A: Maybe for them it was painters talk, but it wasn’t what we would call painters talk here.  Your personal tutor wouldn’t necessarily be a painter.

C: So you could be in a critique group with a video artist or a performance artist?

A:  The department is called the painting department, but people do all different kinds of stuff there.  Sometimes it was good to face it, but at other times it was too much.  For example I went to the 2nd year show and in the elevator there was a performance where two students basically attack everyone that got on the elevator.  They were dressed as drag queens and started to fight, to hit and shout at you.  Apparently there was a sign that warned people…

C: Don’t go in the elevator unless you want your ass kicked…?

A: “If you’re easily offended.”  This is what it said, but I missed the sign, so I guess I’m easily offended, I don’t know.  But although in some cases it was too much, generally it was really refreshing and good.

C: This reminds me also, of the sort of typical Studio School conversation of style versus personal language.  It seems that Studio School students or people that teach at the Studio School support the idea that there is a lot of work that most go into the process, a lot of hours in the studio, a lot of experimentation, a lot of soul searching and mistakes that must go into your painting, drawing, sculpture, whatever it is that you do… before you come to something that’s truthful and honest, that’s been boiled down, you know?

Did you feel that some of those students were shunning or avoiding that because they were aware of the effect of things, the shock value for instance?

A: This is possible to say… and also, there is no emphasis on drawing at all there anymore.  My own training, in Israel and here, has consisted of many, many hours of figure drawing. But people that go there, sometimes straight out of high school, don’t have any drawing training at all.  I didn’t think it was the best idea to go about it that way. Evidently they don’t think it is as essential as we think it is. 

C: Well if you’re 21 years old and you say, “I’m not interested in drawing,” then how could drawing ever come into your work later?

A: I believe that  drawing is crucial to develop the connection between your mind, eye and hand, and I think that drawing is also important for all kinds of art making.  It’s not just visual artists who need to know how to draw, it’s important for architects, filmmakers, and even musicians .  It’s training for your soul and mind.

C: It’s something very fundamental.

A: Yes.  On the other hand, although they didn’t seem to see it this way, they were really open to  what I was doing.  My previous experiences with meeting the mainstream contemporary art world have been with people being really open and pluralist to everything except traditional drawing and painting, which always really annoyed me.

But they were different, they were saying its old fashioned, but it’s cool.  No, not that; it’s cool BECAUSE it’s old fashioned.  They were really supportive and helpful, and I was very happy that I was able to be there.

C: So do you want to tell me a bit about some of these pieces?

A: Maybe I’ll try to tell you about some of these works with the whole London story.  When I first got there, I got a tiny wall in this round room, and I didn’t know quite what to do. Usually I really insist on having north light, or at least light coming from one direction.  There I had light coming overhead, and I didn’t like it all.  I eventually realized it was good, because it brought in the maximum amount of the almost non-existent London light. Also, it pushed me to find new ways to go about using light in my work. I started to work from photos for the first time seriously, and I made a painting based on a photo of the photographer Heinrich Kühn. It’s a really awkward painting from a photograph that I saw in the Neue Galerie right before I left New York.  His photographs are so painterly, he worked parallel with the Impressionists and I just felt I needed to make this into painting.  This didn’t really move beyond the summer and didn’t take me anywhere, but it was a safe place to start with, like family. When I’m in a new place it takes me time to get used to a new studio.

C: Sometimes you just have to work in any way possible to move forward.

A: Exactly, and I was working only in these browns and grays because my paints  didn’t arrive in the mail yet and this was a good restraint.

I was working on these machine paintings last year, so I thought maybe I should look for machines in London and drag them into my studio to paint them.  It didn’t work out, and everything I tried to do was horrible, so I had to find another solution.

There was this sink at the studio, and painting it was kind of mapping my surroundings, finding out about the place I was in, and I spent many hours in front of this sink.  It was another way to look for direction, and the sink itself has so much history.  It looks like a simple sink, but it has been used by many painters that I admire.

C: Would you say it’s one of your goals to imbue seemingly simple objects with something beyond that?  Some type of feeling or atmosphere?

A: Not feeling or atmosphere, I actually don’t like the word atmosphere.  More of a…

C: A symbol?

A: A symbolic thing that I’m not deciding what the symbol is.  To make it a metaphor… my way of thinking is to load it with a metaphor that is open to interpretation.  I don’t want to impose a metaphor on anyone.  It’s just that painting has always had so many symbols, and they used to mean one particular thing, like a lily means purity; I think it’s interesting to make new symbols that will be more open.

C: While still being an allusion to past painting as well?  It’s continuing a tradition yet also breaking open tradition.

A: This is how I think of it now, but on the other hand it’s just a sink.  Everyone’s painting sink.  I’ve decided I can’t invent a lily, so I’m painting what I love and what I want to look at in painting, and hoping to build my own world that will be approachable to others somehow.

C: So do you think the machines you were working on there weren’t happening because you had to find them and weren’t familiar with that space yet?

A: When I was there one of the things that excited me the most was that I was unfamiliar with the subject.  This mop bucket I painted?  I didn’t know what it was.  They look different where I’m from. Somehow continuing with the machines in London didn’t feel right, which is what was so great, because otherwise these paintings would not have happened.  It was a new place, and I didn’t have to come up with something new, but something that fit this place.

C: So you felt like since you were in a new place you should be open to new experiences?

A: I was released from burdens I had put on myself in the past.  I restrict myself all the time, for good and bad, and there I could rid myself from those restrictions.  The light, it was so bad and I was horrified, but I had to find a way to deal with it.  So I got those boxes, and I put things in them which protected them from the all over light which I didn’t like.

C: To gain more control over your environment?

A: Yes, and also I made this self-portrait from a photo, which I never would have dared before, and I think it is better than what I did from life.  Perhaps because I made so many from life before… actually probably because of that. The photograph gave me more space for improvisation. 

C: So, here’s a complicated question… if I can phrase it.  Do you see the still life work (I’m calling the Sink a still life) as being very similar to the work of living subjects, or do you see the work of yourself and other figures as more like still life?  Because they are always these quiet and still observations, and the self-portraits are always this same still pose.

A: I can’t really answer that because I don’t know the answer myself.  I’m really striving to understand… I don’t want to depart from the figure completely, but I still don’t know how to make it personal enough that it will satisfy me.  It all began with this painting of the small white figure—I wanted to paint a figure, so I made this woman out of plasticine.  Then I said, OK, I’ve always wanted to paint a figure eating a meal, so I made a table.  I thought, OK, I need a person to accompany her and I started to really enjoy it and I made a whole house.

C: Which became a whole world.

A:  And it was so much fun to make.

C: Do you see these worlds as important as the paintings?

A: Well obviously not, since I left them behind.

C: You abandoned them?

A: Yes, but this chandelier, this sculpture, it was small and was way better than the painting.

C: When I saw the initial drawing and the painting, I thought this must be a big chandelier—then I registered the box, and realized it must be very small.  You granted it fullness.

A: I’m happy you took it that way because that’s what I wanted, I wanted it to be more mysterious but still give the sense of the box.  Everyone was so excited for the small chandelier sculpture and said ‘you must exhibit this.’

C: Why did you leave it?

A: It was for the painting. I’m not a sculptor and don’t want to be.

C: Why not?

A: Because I love painting, I don’t love sculpture as much.

C: You must love something about sculpture to have made all of these things in the first place.

A: It’s just for fun.

C: Isn’t that what painting is, shouldn’t it be fun?

A:  it’s not always as fun as I thought it would be.

C: Because of the pressures and expectations for yourself?

A: If it was just fun it wouldn’t go anywhere. It would just be fun.  Flowers, whatever.  And maybe if I go really into sculpture it wouldn’t be so playful anymore, but anyway I don’t want to go there.  These are just for the sake of painting.

C: It would be really interesting if you had an exhibition of the things you’ve built alongside the paintings.

A: I like them, but I just had to leave them all behind because they were so fragile.  I’m working on some new sculptures now, we’ll see if it works and maybe I can do something with it.  One instructor at Slade said that this was silly child’s play.  Building little figures and painting them.  He was saying, ‘Those are for kids and I don’t want to look at it.’ He was only interested in this other side of my work (the sink and the self-portraits).  Everyone was always separating them, saying you have this kind of work, then this kind.  The subject they saw as “more contemporary” (the sculptures) was liked more by most of the people.  I want to find a way to combine both and show them together.

C: The dolls and dollhouses have childlike connotations, and you’re not as accomplished of a sculptor as you are a painter, so the sculptures feel cruder, more childlike in a sense.  At the same time, with your handling of the color and forms, and the tension within the piece itself, it’s not childlike.

A: The quality of the sculpture to be ‘not good sculpture,’ is important to me, and I try to depict it with my way of painting.   Also, I’m not ready to be the painter that makes machines, or boxes, whatever.  I’m not ready to go there and don’t know if I ever will be.

C: But you don’t have to.

A: It seems that the art world says we do have to.

C: The art world labels people, but many of them are still working on things on the side that the art world doesn’t recognize.  Stretch way back to Goya working on court portraits, but what people want to see now are the black paintings and the little etchings he kept completely to himself.

A: I just saw those black paintings, which I forgot to mention.  I went to the National Gallery in London so many times, which is just so good.  I went to the Louvre, and I saw the Soutine show at the Orangerie, and I went to Madrid and it was mind-blowing.  The Prado is amazing, and I was there by myself which was  great.  I didn’t have to worry about anyone getting tired.

C: What other things were you involved in while you were there?

A: I worked in an artist’s studio, this really amazing and successful Israeli artist, Zadok Ben-David. I worked there once or twice a week painting on butterflies, which was magical and fun.  That was another good experience to see a very big studio running; we were 12 assistants there.  This project was recently showing in Los Angeles (http://zadokbendavid.com/theotherside/)

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Student Interview Series #2: Kathryn Beckwith, Sculptor

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This is the beginning of a series of student interviews that will showcase the strength of the work being made in the ateliers, as well as serve as a link with our community.

Student Interview Series #2: Kathryn Beckwith, Sculptor

MFA I Sculptor Kathryn Beckwith is no stranger to the Studio School.  She studied painting here before she realized that sculpture was her calling.  An initial marathon with Bruce and contact with clay changed her entire direction.  I met with her in the Chester French, surrounded by studies of various sizes, small heads and figures and a massive full size figure on an armature.  All of the pieces share a vigorous surface, their planes gouged with thumbs and marked with torn pieces of clay.

We spoke about her newfound medium and some of her current preoccupations.

K: For me, clay is like flesh.  I was a painter, and still am, and oil paint has that same meaty quality.  But when I got my hands on clay, which I had never before, it was a getting rid of the brush.  I had been struggling, and was very frustrated.

C: With?

K: Painting.  I wanted to get away from painting, it had been frustrating coming back into the atelier as a student again, but it was more than that.  And it just turned out that I intuited that Bruce, during his lectures, was the person that I wanted to study drawing with.  He was talking spatially, and I knew he had also been a painter, and I think painting and sculpture inform each other.  So I took his Marathon and worked with him during the summer, and once I got my hands on clay and I realized what the frustration was, I needed to go into 3 dimensions.

C: So you felt inhibited by canvas, or paper?

K: By 2 dimensions.  I felt I needed to go further, I was fighting something but I didn’t know what. 

C: Do you feel that when you paint and draw now that it’s more to inform the sculpture or are they still separate?

K: They are not separate in my mind, but sculpture for me is the ultimate experience. 

C: It’s a more complete activity for you?

K: Yes it is.

C: You’re able to pinpoint more of the things that you’re interested in?

K: It has opened up all of the possibilities; I was not limited within a rectangle.  And I also come from performance, so that informs my work.  Training as an actress and working on a stage, and I realized after…

C: That you had been thinking about surroundings more?

K: Yes, I’d been working in 3 dimensions with design and acting and didn’t even realize it.  And when I finally got my hands on clay…

C: Well that’s a great realization; some people never have those types of realizations.

K: Yes, and having these two teachers… Garth is truly my mentor.  I believe in getting a solid foundation, I’ve had a sporadic but lifelong training, but I needed the potholes filled in, which is why I studied with Graham.  But then I knew enough to recognize that there was something about Bruce’s way of speaking about paintings.

C: So the painting was a way to continue growing and to expand your skillset—but personally it wasn’t happening until clay…

K: Well, it had been happening in the past-

C: But then it closed down?

K: Yes.

K: When I work on a body part, or a full figure, I work from the inside out.  I think it is part of my personal history, and part of my training, that I want to get to the gut of it.  I’m very physical, I get really close and I sometimes work with my eyes closed.  I’m not as concerned with the surface.

C: Is it about building an object, or more about capturing an emotional connection?

K: It’s emotional.  It’s capturing the humanity.

C: So would you say that the process is more important than a final product?

K: No.

C: Or is it trying to maintain an emotional drive so that it remains in the final piece?

K: Yes.  My hands intuit a lot, I don’t measure all that much, I’m not concerned with that…

C: Well that type of activity is counterintuitive to the emotional approach—I feel that we usually have two approaches, the intuitive emotional approach and the colder more processing.

K: Exactly, I love the different trajectories…

C: Like different pathways for the work to grow?

K: Exactly, I’m learning a new language, a language I yearn to know without fully knowing it.  And Garth, he sees the whole picture.

C: So tell me about the connection between something like this (small abstracted figure) and something like this (life size figure).  I don’t know if it’s more my studio school bias as I’ve seen so many of these full size figures being made here, but when I initially saw this smaller piece it felt like something uniquely personal, I felt something from that image, that object, the handling, the shapes.  Are you getting the same type of experience out of working with the full size figure or is that more about furthering skills?

K: It’s both, its skills but also connection, connection.  The smaller piece is taking what I’ve learned…

C: But this has to feel more personal than the other, right?

K: No, they are both personal, as they are so much about rhythms, and this smaller piece just happened to be left more anthropomorphic .  They push you off a cliff here, I was afraid of what I was feeling.

C: Afraid of working with your hands or…

K: Well let me show you one of the first things I made, it’s very interesting.  It was supposed to be a 36 inch figure, and it grew and became this.

C: It feels like a head.

K: Or a torso.

C: This feels like it definitely has a connection to the other small one outside.

K: Right!

C: And one of the other things I’m seeing among those 2 is that they have landmass forms.  Have you seen the old Monet paintings of the rocky coves?  These have that landscape feel; that zoomed out precipice or cliff.

K: It feels like skiing.

C: Terrain.

K: That’s what it feels like to me, and it takes great courage, because you go around and around and around, and it takes on a life of its own.

C: What about materials?  Are you still fully engaged with the clay right now?  Do you see that changing, a moment in the future where you’re reaching because clay doesn’t work…

K: Well, yeah- metal.  Welding. 

C: Do you see a crossover between welding and working so viscerally with the clay?

K: One of the things that was made apparent to me in the first crit that we had with Karen Wilkin is I will finish things and leave them on the stand.  I wasn’t recognizing all of the remaining armatures and steel.

C: So you were subconsciously interested in the armatures themselves?

K: The whole thing is sculpture, on a stand, something about the set designer in me. You know, It all has to work spatially, and now I understand.

C: Do you think there is something about your work that you like things held up distinctly as objects in space?  Does that create a different type of distance between the viewer and the object, the sculptor and the object?

K: As opposed to?

C: Well, it’s interesting you were talking about the proximity of the way you work with the large figure, but now we are talking about things remaining with the steel, the elevation, or the armature.  That’s almost like, it becomes a reliquary, an object, something we’re removed from.  There is something we’re not allowed to broach.  And you think about set design, stages, as an audience we are allowed to participate but only to a certain extent.

K: Yes, and I think that’s true. 

C: So do you think that is one of the lines you’re working with right now? How close do you get?

K: It is. 

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Student Interview Series #1: Maud Bryt, Sculptor

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MFA Students Maud Bryt and Kathryn Beckwith were kind enough to allow me to speak with them about their work and photograph some of their sculptures.  This is the beginning of a series of student interviews that will showcase the strength of the work being made in the ateliers, as well as serve as a link with our community.

Student Interview Series #1: Maud Bryt, Sculptor

The giant figure stood taller than a man, tall enough to not feel swallowed by the twenty foot high ceilings of the Chester French Studio.  Its head lay unceremoniously at its feet.  Frayed bits of burlap and rough chips of plaster contrasted with the chalky smooth planes of the form.  What looked like a tower was surely figurative in reference, as it possessed a stance that seemed familiar and historical at the same time.

I visited sculptor and MFA II student Maud Bryt in her studio below the Daniel Chester French to talk about her work and process.  She spoke with me about the creation of her large hollow plaster pieces and about her interests as a sculptor.  Down in the dusty workstations underneath the Studio School, she creates amongst piles of old flannel shirts, rags and towels, and mounds of plaster figures in states of movement and arrest.  A bolt of burlap leans against the wall, and drawings and paintings cover the walls, of figures removed in the distance, and faces pressed against the picture plane.  Her pieces, unlike blown up plaster molds from clay, are built structurally and directly by making hollowed plaster forms using the rags and t-shirts as a kind of support for the shells,  which she then melds together with burlap.  The result is a combination of roughhewn surfaces and angular joints alongside smoothed curves.  One of the most interesting pieces, a self-portrait, was turned on its side so that an arm like protuberance cast bold shadows on the white surfaces below.

What follows are excerpts from our conversation.

C: So tell me about the large pieces upstairs- they are primarily from the human body, right?

M: Yes, I started out working with clay from the figure in class, and I began feeling like the clay was soft and almost too much like flesh.  I found myself trying to copy the human body and it felt wrong.  Like I was making a big doll, or a pretend human instead of sculpture.  So I began to look for another language- and when I was casting from my clay pieces I fell in love with plaster.  I love how plaster is soft and then all of a sudden hardens up.  There is an element of ‘just decide.’

C: Make a decision and stand by it.

M: But at the same time there is a great opportunity to edit the plaster, as you saw upstairs.  I love the consistency of plaster, you can make a decision and stick with it, or change as necessary.  With plaster I’m not limited.  When you work with armatures and clay there is a top and bottom. With plaster I can turn it in space, cut off parts, and change it when I need to.

C: so you needed to distance yourself a little bit from the reality of the figure in front of you.

M: Exactly, and for me plaster could not look like flesh.  Well, for some people’s hands it can.  But for me it is automatically abstracted instead of just trying to be a copy.

C: Does that have something to do with possibly the colder nature of the material and even the color of it, as opposed to clay and how it’s warmer, earthier; more flesh like?

M: Yes, It made me have to find an equivalent with something different.  One of the things that took me away from clay, and got me thinking differently  was Garth’s Marathon.  We made figures out of wood, cardboard, all kinds of stuff.  That got me thinking more abstractly, so when I found the plaster, I knew I needed to build a language with it, and not just struggle to make it real… but actually, these feel real, too.  Just in a different way.

C: Well, I’m interested in that too.  The process of translating.  Taking something in, it goes in your brain, and then it can come out a different way through your hands.

M: In my head, it’s still very much a person.  Even those backs, I’m calling them backs, what I’m realizing is that they work better when I don’t know what I’m trying to do.  They work better when I’m not trying to make something.  Like when I made the first back, it was really 2 halves of a leg, a big leg.  I was trying to put the 2 halves together, then I laid them open and all of a sudden I realized it was a back and just ran with it.  But if I’d said, “Ok, I’m going to make a back,” it wouldn’t have come out nearly as well.   Here’s the scapula, here’s the backbone, here’s the muscles, it wouldn’t have worked.

C: So you’re kind of talking about embracing the accident in sculptural form?

M: Yeah, but it’s a controlled accident.  I know I’m making forms, but I’m making parts that are good forms in themselves.  So, in a way, no matter how I put them together they will be a head or a body form.  The human body is a container and very much full.  I put the forms together very much like collage, and I’ll be surprised what they turn into.  One of my in the round pieces at home looks like a head, and from the other side like two figures embracing.  And the reason that can work is because every part is human and it just depends on the proportions whether it’s a head, an arm, or a back.

C: So when you don’t achieve that kind of duality, do you just scrap it or do you keep working on it…?

M: Well that’s what happened upstairs.  I’ve been working on this 6 and a half, 7 foot figure since last spring.  The model hasn’t been here since spring, but I’ve been working on it consistently with other things, and it’s just been bugging me and bugging me and getting stiffer and getting less ‘real’ the more I work on it.  So, I chopped off the head and turned it upside down.  So yeah, in a way I wasn’t getting a duality.  I would come up to it and say ‘standing woman figure’ and ‘BLEH’ and it just wasn’t interesting, it wasn’t worth looking at for more than a moment because I knew what it was right away.

C: So it just became time to make a large decision?

M: I realized it needed to open up so that I could engage with it again.  When I look at art, I like to be able to do something.  I don’t want to be just told something by the artist.  For myself, I want to be invited into the excitement.

C: So here’s a question for you.  You find the piece tightening and closing in, and you know you need to make a decision to chop,  change or move.  After that recognition, does the process become about knowing when to stop? Or is it then approaching it in a different way to complete it?

M: It’s a state of mind, and I don’t know about completion. I haven’t finished any of these.

C: So they are all in flux right now?

M: These pieces, they sort of wear away and they get dirty, and I don’t know how yet to prepare to take them into the world, or how I’m going to finish them.  How they can be at a point when they can go out into the world.

C: Do you think about color?

M: I do, and that’s an interesting question.  Just yesterday I was Garth’s lecture at Yale, he uses color, and color was on my mind.  I paint also, but these are based on Greek sculpture, so they make sense in white to me.  But some of the new ones, I wonder, could they be in color and what would that do?

C: I was thinking the other day about Greek statues, and how many were so brightly colored and jeweled and now we view them as incredibly pure and white.

M: Isn’t that weird?  I just read Richard Neer, and he was sure that the ancient artists, what they wanted from sculpture was effect.   The ‘wow effect’, just ‘wonder.’  So much of our culture is based on how white they are when found, which is just as real for us, if not more real, than the way they were.

C: Which brings us back to dualities.

M: And what does it mean?  It’s so interesting, the whole white versus color, I have a feeling that it will burst in at some point.

M: The reason that the sculptures are this scale is because they are like being close to a person.  When a person is far away…

C: You become more of an observer.

M:  Yeah, but when you’re close, it is more abstract- you look down and a person’s feet are tiny and the shoulders are big.  Things shift.  That’s because I spent the last 20 years raising kids; my whole world is being at close range with people.

C: Intimacy with people?

M: Because it’s all family and friends and people I’m very close with.  I’m not in a public sphere with a job or in my life, so my whole life is very intimate, so I think that’s why they are this scale.

C: Do you see that is a really important thematic element to the work? Proximity?  Beause even when I step away from some of these they appear close and almost warm.

M: That’s how things appear when you’re really close up, even for the small pieces.  It has a perspective built in, which was part of what we were talking about; how do you look at sculpture?  It’s a scale issue.

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Jason Farson’s Chautauqua Residency

Jason Farson, a 2012 M.F.A. Painting graduate, took some time to catch up with us about his experiences at the Chautauqua Residency in New York.  Jason was the sole recipient of a full scholarship which is awarded every summer to a New York Studio School student.

What was your daily experience like at Chautauqua? 

There was one structured class on Fridays that was a critical studies course, sort of like a group critique.  There were a variety of other courses, but I chose to use the time in the studio.  It’s a shared space that is open 24/7, so everyone is in their studios all day.  Being a shared space, it led to more communication with the other artists.   The Residency is split into different camps in a way; music, theater, opera and art.  The artists all stayed together, and there were painters, sculptors and ceramicists.  I found a few people that think the way I think.  Most of my time during the day was fairly introspective in the studio, but at night we are all together continuing the dialogue about the work.

What type of things were you working on?

I continued my exploration of figural work in oil, while experimenting with scale.  Also, I painted a great deal from the landscape.  I saw them as separate bodies of work, but that’s hard to do.  They end up relating to each other. With my figurative paintings, I am trying to explore a more universal interaction between people while pushing paintings as a visual language. My landscape paintings, I wanted to find something is Chautauqua that I could be engaged with more than just the beautiful houses around me, so I choose the roads and signs.

Were there any big changes in the work?

I feel like I’m moving on- I continued to flesh out some ideas from the Studio School and wrestled some with the student vs. artist question, but I feel like a punctuation mark has been put on my time in the M.F.A. program at NYSS.  I feel that my time here in the studios has helped me move forward and gain further personal conviction.

So, what’s next?

New York will always be there for me, but now it’s time for something different.  I’m moving to Northern California in a couple of weeks where I have some family, and am going to find a studio and just get to work.

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Stefan Dunlop, Alumni 2001

Stefan Dunlop, a New Zealand native, studied at the Studio School in 2001.  His parents stopped in the offices the other day and dropped off his new catalogue for a large exhibition of paintings at the University of Texas entitled, “Stefan Dunlop: Ten Years.”  The catalogue has a great interview with Jason D. Szalla, and of course strong images of some of his new work.  See below a few excerpts from the interview, and several images of his work.  Visit Stefan’s site, http://stefandunlop.com/index.htm.

Excerpts from Interview with Jason D. Szalla- Beyond the New York School

J.D. Who are your artistic precursors?

S.D. Everybody, I think I’m very much aware of the tradition of western painting and my place in it. You are not alone with painting as it’s a game played by yourself and with others.  There is an element of competitiveness.

J.D. What other artist/ artists or art has affected you?

S.D. Well that drifts around depending on what particular series I’m involved with at a particular time.  Perhaps a constant is that I like to look at all work available across history up to and including the present giving equal weight to say Rubens as to Neo Rauch.  The point being one eye on the contemporary and one on history.  I’m not so fixated on the contemporary.

J.D. You have a degree in finance? Banking? Does this inform your painting in anyway?

S.D. Nope.

J.D. As far as your New York Studio School studies… did you enjoy your time there?

S.D. Yeah that was crazy. It was important for me as it was my first step in a conscious decision to become a full-time painter. It was funny and reminded me of the early 80s show “Fame”, everybody getting around with egos and ambitions far outweighing their realities. The teaching was good and I met my first serious art people.  The Studio School taught a fundamental, observationist based figurative style and that discipline has stuck with me.

I remember I was standing outside the school there one morning with a friend. Somebody walked by dissing us by saying “wannabe artists”. My mate turned to me and said, “yeah he’s right, we do want to be artists…”

…There are very few people who really know what good painting is and if you set out your stall as a painter you have to believe that you have a pretty good idea about it.  So you measure your work and its success against other painter’s work, not against what is said about their work or where it is hung etc. but against good work. You know what this is; you see it because with painting you use your eyes, not your mouth.  So you go into a gallery and see a de Kooning that blows you away think shit I need to lift my game, or you see a Stephen Bush and think okay, there is an entirely new level of colour there.  This is how it works. The Whole painting thing is held together by a very small number of good painters.”

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