Friday, September 28, 2007

Art Space Talk: Eric Blum

Eric Blum has been mastering the difficult medium of encaustic since its re-emergence in the 1980s. Currently living and working in New York City, Blum has exhibited widely nationally and was featured in the seminal publication on encaustic painting, "The Art of Encaustic Painting" (Joanne Mattera, 2001). He was educated at UCLA and St. Martin’s in London.

Encaustic is a difficult medium to work with. However, Eric reveals a strong sense of control with his abstractions. By repeatedly alternating many layers of pigmented wax and watercolor, Eric creates a sense of luminosity and infinity in his work. The surfaces of the paintings are smooth and the edges are deeply rounded enhancing the implied third dimension of the painting/wax sculpture.

No. 519, watercolor and resin on wood panel, 20 x 20 in., 2006

Brian Sherwin: Eric, your work was represented by Julie Baker Fine Art ( at Art Chicago this year. Many critics stated that the validity of Chicago as an 'art world power', so to speak, would be decided by the success of Art Chicago. In your opinion, has Chicago shown that it is still a force in the world of art? Would you say that it should have never been questioned?

Eric Blum: I've never attended Art Chicago while my work was exhibited, but from what I've heard, it has lost some luster. When it was on top, there were fewer domestic art fairs... there wasn't much of one in NY and not yet a Miami/Basil.

BS: What about the art market as a whole- are you wary of the current boom in the market?

EB: It hasn't personally affected me one way or the other. My guess is that it has peaked and will sober up, but regardless of the climate, and these are catastrophic times, there will still be someone willing to pay for the extra zeros at the end.

No. 472, watercolor and beeswax on wood panel, 27 x 19 in., 2006

BS: At LittleJohn Contemporary ( you have two series of work on display, the abstract paintings and the portraits. Can you tell us about these two bodies of work. How do you switch from one mode of creation to the next without loosing direction in between. Do you every have problems staying equally focused on your work when you are creating in two different modes, so to speak?

EB: These two bodies of work may be perceived as quite different from each other, but from my point of view, they both have something to do with the same urges. With the semi-abstractions, I am confronted with multiple choices at every turn, whereas the portraits are a more direct route from A to B. I'm a multi-tasker, so I do both. Actually, I only make the portraits once every year or two, but shifting one's focal plane occasionally is good for the vision.

BS: Eric, you have been the recipient of Pollack-Krasner Foundation ( grants. Can you recall how you felt when you were chosen?

EB: It put me in a really good mood.
No. 484, watercolor and beeswax on panel, 13 x 16 inches, 2004

BS: Eric, your work often deals with themes that focus on the desire to possess that which cannot be possessed- and the conflict that stems from it. Why did you decide to convey this with your art? Can you go into further detail about your artistic philosophy?

EB: My early first impressions from infancy have played an important part in my approach and I have spent my adult life interpreting the images stamped from this period ...not the literal images, but their blurred and implosive nature. I'm interested to portray forms as they appear before closer inspection. The irretrievable glimpse as seen from the corner of the eye can lead to some odd and poetic interpretations. It stimulates my desire. One way for me to deal with this desire is to make something that may resemble it.
No. 456, watercolor- oil/alkyd & beeswax on wood panel, 23 x 23 in., 2003

BS: Eric, can you tell us more about your artistic process. How do you begin a piece? When do you know that a piece is done?

EB: I begin a painting with a specific direction but I don't over-think or sketch. I jump right in a little recklessly with the first semi-transparent layer, splash around, seal it up, then do another the following day. I work in a way that doesn't allow me to see the results of my actions until the end of a session, so there's a bit of suspense. The layers are loosely linked to each other but typically wander far from the original intent. I will always start new paintings before the previous ones are complete. If I am able to live with it for a period of time, view it through a variety of moods and times of day, without the compulsion to add or subtract ... I can let it go. There are times when I think I've completed it, only to unravel it later. Fortunately, I have the luxury to be able to strip back layers to return it to a more innocent state.
No. 535, watercolor and resin on wood panel, 9 x 9 in., 2007

BS: Eric, tell us about your studio practice. What is your studio like? What are the conditions you need in order to create? For example, do you work in silence... or do you prefer music playing in the background?

EB: My studio in Manhattan is rather small. I look out the window a lot. Solitude would certainly be one of the essential working conditions. I rarely use an assistant. Music always, usually in the form of a shuffling iTunes playlist. Sometimes I work to my own recorded compositions, or I'll play the drums. Working to a self-made soundtrack crystallizes the inclinations.
No. 527, watercolor and beeswax on wood panel, 27 x 19 in., 2006

BS: Eric, do you ever collaborate with other artists? If not, can you see yourself doing that in the future?

EB: I haven't collaborated before. Making this kind of work is a private pursuit.

BS: What are you working on at this time? Care to give our readers insight into your current work?

EB: It's pretty much a seamless continuation... one painting follows the other. I don't mean to sound like I live in the clouds, but much like the blindness that prevails while making the daily layers, the same holds true for the body of work as a whole. I would not be able to really see it clearly until there is some distance. Even then, descriptions may elude me.

BS: Eric, do you have any upcoming exhibitions? Where can our readers observe your art in person?

EB: Nov. 29, 2007 to Feb. 14, 2008 at Lemmons Contemporary ( in NYC.
No. 511, watercolor and beeswax on panel, 50 x 50 in., 2005

BS: Eric, do you have any advice for artists who are just starting out? What should they look out for when seeking gallery representation? Are their any pitfalls you would like to warn about?

EB: I'm not very good at offering general advice. Everyone's situation is unique.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the artworld?

EB: The "artword," if it exists, is more than an industry... to call it that would be frowned upon and spoil the effect. It's a kind of seductively-presented alternate society with rules and codes of behavior, where everyone seems to know each other...its perhaps a first cousin to the fashion world. When its engine roars, rich people spend. Regarding my own work within this context; I make a painting and toss it out there. Who knows how it will land.
You can view more of Eric's art by visiting his website- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page-
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

No comments: