Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Art Space Talk: Kathie Olivas

Kathie Olivas is a multi-media artist who resides in Tampa, FL. Her work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions across the nation. Inspired by early American portraiture that often depicted children as small adults in an idealized new land, the characters parallel this vision within their own sense of post-apocalyptic conformity, uniquely documenting their own stories in a mysterious brave new world.

The Candyman - Oil on canvas - 16 x 20"

Brian Sherwin: Kathie, your series, 'Misery Children' has raised more than a few brows. These images focus on the constant social desire to assign "cuteness". However, your cute 'children' are also dangerous. Thus, these images are a psychological play on what we, as a society, expect- with a twist. Why did you decide to challenge social stereotypes in this manner?

Kathie Olivas: All of the characters are dichotomies of both good and evil. Your perceptions that they could be dangerous are your personal projections. Cuteness as an ideal is based on projected innocence, not an actual definition. I try to use symbology in the storytelling as well, often incorporating specific animals or animal forms and costumes. Each of the animal suits represent some form of defense mechanism so they are often misleading or contradictory in terms of the actual persona of each character-- I like to leave that interpretation up to the viewer.

BS: Would you say that your work serves as a warning? A social message that begs the viewer to step back and to observe the world from a different perspective?

KO: The storyline is rooted in a post-apocalyptic environment; so that would be "yes".
Blue Bear Boy - Oil on canvas - 18 x 24"

BS: Kathie, why did you decide to enter the low-brow/pop-surrealism scene... or did it enter you, so to speak?

KO: I started exhibiting over a dozen years ago and wasn't really familiar with the term "lowbrow." I was just showing in contemporary galleries. I met my husband in 2000 and he introduced me to Juxtapoz Magazine and started encouraging me to start showing on the West Coast. My work just sort of fit, but I've always thought of Lowbrow as being a very West Coast movement so I guess I still feel a bit like an outsider.

BS: Can you discuss your influences? Have certain events or individuals influenced your art?

KO: I'm influenced more by a strange mix of mostly politics, world events, the environment and early American Portraiture then things from my childhood like anything Disney, vintage illustration, antique dolls, etc. My husband is a big influence on my work, we go back and forth for hours talking about ideas. Also our good friends, Sas and Colin Christian have been really pushing me. You just look at their work and it makes you want to be a better artist.
The Narcissist - Oil on canvs - 30 x 40"

BS: Kathie, describe your average studio session. What helps you to get 'in the mood'... do you have a certain routine? What kind of music do you listen to while you work? Our readers want to know- what is it like to be in the studio with Kathie Olivas?

KO: There is no session, so to speak-- I'm always working. Occasionally I leave the house-- but if I'm home; I've usually got a paintbrush or pencil in hand. I usually have a tv on-- any sort of background noise; I tend to like the History channel.

BS: Where did you study art? Who were your mentors?

KO: I went to the University of South Florida where I took every possible class in art studio, art history, traditional history, psychology, sociology, criminology, philosophy, etc, etc. My printmaking professor Brad Shanks and my painting professor Mernet Larson played pretty significant roles in the direction I would take with my work.
The Inheritance - Oil on wood - 12 x 24"

BS: You are known for collaborating with Brandt Peters. Have you collaborated with other artists as well? Also, how do you find balance when collaborating in this manner? Do you ever have creative differences... if so, how do you handle it? I'll assume that collaborating is not for everyone.

KO: I have collaborated with a few other artists, but I'll decline to comment on those. I only collaborate with my husband at this point. There are a few other artists that I think would be good to work with, then common sense kicks in and I remind myself how much of a control freak I am.

BS: Kathie, you have current solo exhibition at the Copro Nason Gallery. The show is titled, "Ghosts & Martyrs", can you give our readers some insight into this exhibit? Are you revealing new work?

KO: All new work; I rarely show the same work more than once. It is a continuation of Misery Children series that I have been working on for several years. I've been introducing more "artificial/ mechanical" elements and older children as well. This is my first show with primarily large paintings.
Veruca Salt - Oil on Canvas - 18 x 24"

BS: Kathie, do you have any suggestions or advice for artists just starting out?

KO: Spend less time talking about what you want to do and just do it. You'll go through hundreds of bad paintings/drawings before you make something worth keeping which you'll eventually look back on and wish you had thrown away. Also try to find your voice and be sure you have something to say otherwise you are just making pretty pictures.

You can learn more about Kathie Olivas and her art by visiting her website: www.kathieolivas.com. You can read more interviews by visiting- www.myartspace.com/interviews
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Monday, August 27, 2007

Art Space Talk: Karin Olah

Karin Olah creates textural abstract paintings that elaborate on the heritage of American quilt making. Her work incorporates materials, aesthetics and symbols borrowed from several regions of the United States. Karin uses fabric, often antique textiles, in a way that mimics the flow of paint from a brush. Translucent layers of cottons, silks, and linens blend with opaque calligraphic brushstokes as graphite lines intersect the surface or fade into the suggestion of a grid. Geometric patterns balance organic forms; rich reds, yellows, and greens complement neutral earth tones.

('Second Little Confabulation'- Fabric, Gouache, Acrylic, Graphite on Linen- 12.0 x 12.0"- 2007)

Brian Sherwin: Karin, you majored in Fiber Art at Maryland Institute, College of Art while focusing on printmaking and color theory. Originally from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, your interest in Amish quilts led you to a broader study of American textile traditions. How have your academic studies and life experience united in order for you to progress as an artist?

Karin Olah: When I enrolled at MICA, I didn't initially set out to major in Fibers. I was nervous about spending my future as a starving artist and figured that I should take a lot of courses and graduate with a Masters of Art in Teaching. Luckily, during a freshman "Intro to Fibers" class, my future came into focus. Fiber Art isn't weaving, dying, and sewing fabrics while studying feminism. It's a sculptural degree that can shape-change between 2-D and 3-D, small scale or large scale, performance art or installation art, etc, etc. In other words, it was a very open field of study. My first project, Jell-O Dress, a wearable patchwork of Ziploc bags filled with Jell-O Jiggler hearts, was my initial kiss in a burgeoning relationship with Fiber Art. Although Jell-O Dress didn't survive the test of time (or the dorm fridge), the idea lived on—being featured in the 1996 MICA undergraduate prospectus. The Jell-O Museum of Leroy, NY found out about it, and word passed to Carolyn Wyman, a pop culture author, who featured the project in her coffee table book, Jell-O: A Biography, Harcourt Books, 2001. It's amusing to open the book and see myself, then 18 years old, modeling the very first piece I made in art school.

From that point, my artwork went in a decidedly pop-art direction. I used yards and yards of vinyl to build 3-D installations of cartoon computers and televisions. I spent semesters screen-printing color-field paintings on vinyl. And sewing, always sewing. My obsession with the quilt making squares fueled those compositions. Amish quilts are known for their simplistic geometric patterns and bold blocks of color. Following college, I learned about more region specific quilt making, such as the differences between African-American and European-American patterns and their influence on each other, Hawaiian-Appliqué Quilting, Underground Railroad Quilt Code, and southern textile traditions. I'm not a quilt historian, but the images and stories do shape my creativity. Now, when I go to my studio, all that history finds its way to my canvas.
('First Little Confabulation'- Fabric, Gouache, Acrylic, Graphite on Linen- 12.0 x12.0"- 2007)

BS: After art school you launched your art career in a New York City textile design studio, creating colors and patterns for couture fashion designers. How did your employment at the textile studio- the skills that you learned- influence the art that you create today?

KO: I moved to Brooklyn the day after graduation, having lined up a job in a field that (gasp!) had to do with what I studied in art school. I worked for an independent textile studio in SoHo, developing colors and patterns for many well-known designers. Clients (Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, and many others) would send a feather or lock of hair along with a bolt of cashmere or irreplaceable silk. It was my job to dye the fabric to match exactly the nuances of their selected swatch and to get it done by yesterday. I also painted costumes for TV and theater productions and screen-printed yardage for fashion and interior designers. Everything revolved around color and fabric. I really learned about the properties and possibilities of fabric at that studio. It was very intimate in the shop. I would gently bathe a small square of silk in the dye and watch it transform from white to celadon to jade and every shade of light green in-between. The job was a mix of fun, hard work, frustration, and reward (when I saw the finished product on the runway).

BS: Karin, you work has become more abstract in recent years, with less emphasis on familiar forms and more on the unusual light patterns and colors that you have found in Charleston. Why did you make this shift away from representational imagery?

KO: Abstraction is my first love and the driving force behind my work. I do like to mix in a little representational imagery. Charleston is a very idyllic setting, very picturesque; an artist can't help but be inspired by the marshes, the unique pastel colored mansions, historic churches, and an enormous "sky blue" sky. It's the kind of stuff that influences my work—albeit from a new viewpoint. I'll spend an afternoon sketching a wrought-iron church gate, then return to my studio to make it my own—by collaging fabric on top. Those shapes that I focus on in the realistic gate series will later emerge in the larger abstract collages on canvas. The region is called the Lowcountry and it's about a hundred miles from the nearest mountain. When I drive over the bridges, I can see a bird's-eye-view; where local islands, rivers, and marshes spread out in the distance. I see a very flat composition of blue, silvery aqua, green, creamy whites, khaki, and straw. That palette and perspective inspires me right now.
('Little Red Confabulation'- Fabric, Gouache, Graphite on Paper- 13.0 x 10.0"- 2007)

BS: Karin, I've read that inspiration for your paintings stem from long walks and bike rides in your home city. Can you explain this process? How do you draw inspiration from these travels?

KO: Well, cobblestones, centuries-old bricks, and crooked flagstones comprise much of Charleston's downtown streets, and as a short girl who always wears high heels, I have to pay special attention to every step. I don't mind keeping my nose to the ground because I find the arbitrary geometric pattern of stones so fascinating. On the long walks, I find metaphorical comparisons between the patchwork of a quilt and the blueprint of the town.

Consider the cracks in the brick sidewalks, the round cobblestones in the street, the grid of city blocks, and the blocks of neighborhoods all built around a square—a double entendre square. I didn't learn my way around the city by map but rather by meandering through neighborhoods on foot or by bike. Discovering delightfully unkempt brick paths inspired the Confabulation Series , where red circles (basically worn down bricks) fought for attention amidst a growth of green and blue vertical strips of fabric (blades of grass pushing through/nature regaining control). Of course, I don't always look down for inspiration. My Gate Series focuses on the wrought iron architectural details that I see in Charleston . I stand and stare at a gate, drink up its persona, snap a picture, and then create something new in the studio while working from sketches, photos, and memory. I maintain a collaborative space with the gate's designer—that's where the abstraction comes in.
('Little Blue Confabulation'- Fabric, Gouache, Graphite on Paper- 13.0 x 10.0"- 2007)

BS: Karin, it has been said that fabric flows through your hands as fluidly as paint from a brush. Do you agree with this statement? Also, what other materials have you used in your work? Do you plan to utilize any materials that you have yet to work with?

KO: I love that line. Molly Hulett at Charleston magazine wrote that. I think it describes my artwork perfectly. The way that I under-paint, layer, add texture, and work from lean to fat is like that of an oil painter. The way that I finish a collage painting with thread feels like drawing. I have a fabulous assortment of fabrics, collected over the last 15 years. Some high-end interior decorator samples, some antique table linen and clothing, some new yardage, and much of it, retrieved from a cherished Mennonite Dry Goods store in Lititz, PA. I never lack for a specific color or texture. However, I do miss dying my own fabrics and hope to get back into that soon.

I really like the way gouache works with fabric, it tints it without changing the texture or sheen. Someday, I'd like to experiment with encaustic painting. I wonder....

BS: Your form of expression is not very common. I will assume that using fabrics within the context of your work is a little bit different than simply learning how to paint. Do you view your work as a 'hierarchy of knowledge', so to speak. Meaning... do you build from one piece to the next- learning more about the materials as you go. Do you ever encounter failures combining materials in the way that you do?

KO: A decade's worth of creative disasters gradually steered me towards my current fabric collaging direction. I tried painting on fabric and stretching it like canvas. I tried painting on a couch. I tried screen-printing and flocking on fabric, vinyl, paper—you-name-it, I tried it. Stuffing canvases like pillows ended in disappointment when they resembled a soggy painting rather than a soft sculpture. Most of these attempts proved productively fruitless but creatively essential.

I started sewing again, quilting actually. I made a series of large geometric quilts—lovely time-consuming projects. It was the "piecing" that I enjoyed, simply cutting the squares and arranging the composition. I had a eureka! moment when, on a whim and with a last minute show approaching, I quickly glued a miniature quilt to paper. No sewing! I could hear bells going off. The first few "quilt studies" incorporated acrylic paint, pastels, and unusual handmade paper from India. Eventually I traded acrylic for gouache, threw the messy pastels away, and became a fan of Arches 300 lb hot press watercolor paper. Now, I'm experimenting with stretched canvas, linen, and wood panel. The changes happen gradually, but purposefully, as one finished painting dictates the direction of the next. To answer your question: yes and yes.
('Fourth Incantation'- Fabric, Gouache, Graphite on Canvas- 16.0 x 12.0"- 2007)

BS: Karin, you are represented by Corrigan Gallery. Do you have a solo exhibit planned in the near future?

KO: My next solo show will be at Corrigan Gallery, 62 Queen St, Charleston, SC, www.corrigangallery.com. Incantations in Thread opens Nov 2nd and runs through the 30th, 2007. I'm really excited about the direction I'm taking in this new series, but I don't want to ruin the surprise. You can preview the show on my website, www.karinolah.com, in November. Also this fall, I'll have a few paintings at Eva Carter Gallery in a group exhibition that I am curating: Sunset at Wadmalaw: An Invitational Show, Sept 28 – Nov 10, 2007. www.evacartergallery.com. I'm always searching for opportunities to share my art. So if you hear of anything, Call me!

BS: Can you name any artists from the past who have influenced you?

KO: I can name a few artists from the past: Robert Motherwell, Ad Reinhardt, Hans Hoffman, William M. Halsey, Michael Tyzack, Ellsworth Kelly, Alexander Calder, Mark Rothko, and Antoni Gaudi. Very influential has been the Art Nouveau Movement, early Dada collages, Amish quilts, and the quilts of Gee's Bend, Alabama.

I can name more artists from the present: Robert Rauschenberg, Marcus Kenney, Ross Bleckner, Inka Essenhigh, Gary Hume, Jason Peters, Chris Ofili, Mary Edna Fraser, Fred Tomaselli, Jasper Johns, John Waters, John Liipfert, Kathleen Earthrowl, Eva Carter, Emilio Lobato, Toby Penney, Arturo Herrera, Sergej Jensen, Takashi Murakami, Matthew Ritchie, Matt Johnson, Jeff Koons, Piper Shepard, Annet Couwenberg, and Brian Rutenberg.

Can I mention my mom and dad? Two very artistic people - one is an art teacher, one is a landscape designer.
('Third Incantation'- Fabric, Gouache, Graphite on Canvas- 16.0 x 12.0"- 2007)

BS: Do you have any advice for artists who are interested in using fabric in their work? Any tips that may save them some time in learning what will work and what will not?

KO: I found a great adhesive; it's an archival rice starch (typically used in bookbinding). It's dries clear and matte with some flexibility, and it doesn't change the texture of fabric. My advice is to spend plenty of time experimenting with materials and adhesives. That way you'll find the methods that work for you. Just try it all. Art is not precious. Make a hundred pieces, then throw away 90 of them. Edit and simplify. When sewing, quilting, and weaving, one has a tendency to work very closely and not see the big picture. Half of the creative process is standing back, just looking at your art, determining its future, and deleting the wrong turns. Do not save time. Savor it.

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

KO: I love making art. It's so enjoyable to meet a collector and listen to his or her reaction to my piece. The gratification of sharing that visual connection with another individual is why I do what I do. I am very lucky to be an artist.

I have a great circle of artist friends. We share exhibition and grant opportunities, critique each other, arrange group shows together, and lend support (whether mental, moral, or by adjusting lights and tending bar) at openings. Charleston is a social town—especially for artists. It's so important for an artist to get out of the studio—to see and listen to more of the world happening around him or her, to visit galleries, museums, and unlikely art venues, to look, linger, and share ideas, and to make many, many friends. I love that MyArtSpace.com is a way to do all these things.
You can learn more about Karin Olah and her art by visiting her website: www.karinolah.com. Remember, you can read other interviews by visiting the myartspace.com interviews page: www.myartspace.com/interviews
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Art Space Talk: Hugo Tillman

Hugo Tillman's two-year 'Film Stills of the Mind' project has won him much acclaim in the world of art. The New York-based artist interviewed approximately 80 contemporary Chinese artists and made films based on the interviews. The project recalls Cindy Sherman's 'Untitled Film Stills'. But rather than appear in his own work, Tillman directs the artists themselves to act out scenarios and fantasies that he created after the interview process. Dark, quirky, personal and entertaining, "Film Stills of the Mind" maps the psyche of the Chinese contemporary art world. Hugo's 'Film Stills of the Mind' reflects the rise in status for Chinese artists throughout the world.

Brian Sherwin: Hugo, can you tell our readers about your youth? Were there any early events in your life that directed you toward photography?

Hugo Tillman: Well, I was born in London, England. My father dies when I was 4, and my mother decided to move to New York in order to take a job at the Christie's Auction House. I came dressed like a little English school boy, with an English accent and a love for things like Marmite. Things changed pretty quickly as I submitted to the ridicule of my American contemporaries.

As an adolescent, I was very interested in theater. I acted in and directed school plays as well as attending the Lee Strasberg Institute on a special scholarship given to me by my school.
I got into photography by chance. I had studied film at college in Los Angeles and was working as a PA in New York after graduation. The hours were crazy and the pay was low.

My roommate was dating an editor at W Magazine. She suggested that I work as a photography assistant to a fashion photographer as there were good looking girls, good food and shorter hours. She gave me a list of photographers, all that I had never heard of. It was the age of the fax machine, so I found out their agents' fax numbers and asked to meet them. Only one got back to me, Mario Testino. I interviewed with him, and then sent him a thank you note after the meeting. He called me back. He said that he was not very impressed by me but loved my blue Smythson stationary, something my mother had bought for me as a boy. (I still have the same stationary.) That is how I got into photography, by chance.

BS: Hugo, you studied at the Pratt Institute in New York City. Can you tell us about the department you worked in? Who were your mentors? Also, did you collaborate with any of your peers at that time?

HT: I did do an MFA at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. It changed my life and gave me the confidence to be an artist. It was challenging, inspiring and challenging. I do have a mentor from that time whom is still a great influence and friend. His name is Allen Frame. Allen teaches at ICP, Pratt and SVA. He is a bit like a godfather of the photography students in New York. He is incredibly supportive, caring and has the ability to help one dig deep, very deep.

I did not collaborate on anything specific at Pratt, but I did find a community of artists and friends that I still have now. They act as a sort of support network that provides a healthy competitive situation and a network for intellectual dialogue which helps inform all work. After school, I did begin collaborating with my classmate and great friend Allyson Lubow. She prints for me. Allyson knows my eye and often helps me make decisions that I cannot get past. We studied printing together under the great Master Julie Pochron. Allyson was way better and way faster than me. I find it important to recognize when people are better than one at things and then to collaborate with them in those areas.

BS: Hugo, you have won numerous honors and awards- you have also exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London. How do you feel when you are informed that you have won a major award or when your invited to exhibit at a major venue? Thinking back... did you expect your work to be as praised as it has been?

HT: I have been in that exhibition twice which was a great honor for me. Being shown in the National Portrait Gallery in London was significant for me, as my English family could come and see the show. Somehow, it was my way of saying that my life was not a complete disaster, because I have chosen to be an artist instead of a professional.

BS: Your work often appears very psychological... it would seem that you have a certain love for the study of psychology. Have you studied psychology?

HT: I do have an interest in psychology and often see myself as my own Guinea Pig. I never studied it, but have been in and out of Psychotherapy for years. I am bi-polar, and I think I work with psychological subject matter in truth to continue an exploration into myself.

BS: Hugo, you have stated that the inspiration for your work is reinforced by your love for the German photographers of the Becher School: Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff, and Andreas Gursky. Can you go into further detail about their influence on you? Also, what other influences do you embrace with your work?

HT: Yes, in the 90's I was very interested in those photographers whom studied at the Dusseldorf Academy. I was also very interested in Nan Goldin after her Whitney exhibition in the mid-nineties. Now, I have so many influences including painters, writers, new forms artists, musicians, etc. I would not know where to start. I can barely keep up with myself. I go through intense love affairs with different material, digest it and move on often coming back to what resonates later. I can say that after spending most of my time in China over the last 2.5 years, I do find myself heavily influenced by my understanding of the Chinese Contemporary dialogue and aesthetics. I have learned that taste is relative and can be applied to any aesthetic. Everything has qualities that are valuable. It is about training oneself to see them, being open minded and not being a snob!

BS: Hugo, in your series, Upper Class, you captured portraits of American high society in Palm Beach and elsewhere. You have stated that your studies for this series are direct "descendants of the WASP society originated from the Metropolitan Four Hundred in New York City in 1888". Can you go into detail about your motive behind this series?

HT: Well, my mother married a man from this group in 1997. The project was born out of a desire to understand this new world that she was now a member of herself. As the concept for the work developed more and more, it became about the question of how we can have an aristocracy in a democracy. I learned a great deal from those women and have a deep respect.

BS: Why did you decide to focus on women with 'Upper Class'?

HT: I simply love women. I am so intrigued by them. For me, they are much more complex, beautiful and fascinating than men. I also realize that they are often more powerful than men as they have influence. They are also more open.

BS: Hugo, in 2006 you introduced a series of color photographs at the Nohra Haime Gallery. This series was introduced during your first solo exhibition at the gallery. In the series you examined fourteen of the leading Chinese artists of today. The art scene in China has had a huge impact on the artworld in recent year... I must ask, why did you decide to focus on these artists?

HT: I went to mainland China for the first time in 2005 in order to investigate the Chinese Contemporary Art world. I was amazed and fascinated by what I found. I fell in love with China and its art scene at first site. I had a process in mind and wanted to apply it to a particular group of significance. The Chinese Artists were the perfect fit.

BS: You have stated that Film Stills of the Mind was not originally intended for public viewing. Why did you decide to go public with this series?

HT: I am not sure where you read this. I don't think I ever said that. That said, I certainly was not concerned with showing the work when I started doing the project. That project is all about process. Now that it is over, the commercial applications of the work are being focused on by the market. I wish the market was more concerned by the theoretical questions and dialogue that the work is about than just selling prints. Selling prints is not what I am concerned about at this stage of my career. I am happy to stay a bit hungry in exchange for the opportunity to participate in a dialogue with my contemporaries and continue to produce work without market pressure.

BS: How did you choose the artists that you captured and why did you focus on their past, their memories, their dreams and their fear? Also, did the artists help you physically design the sets?

HT: I chose the most significant artists in the Chinese scene in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hangzhou

BS: Hugo, some of the cinematic overtones of this series are reminiscent of American artist Cindy Sherman’s 1978 series Untitled Film Stills, a display of female images shot on film sets. However, you have insisted that the two series are completely distinct- having said, "I know Cindy Sherman in person, but the resemblance is actually a coincidence.". For the record, can you state the differences in your own words?

HT: I must say that I am not sure where you read that I was a friend of Cindy Sherman's. It is entirely not true. I know of her work, think she is goddess and would worship the ground she walked on if I ever met her though. I think she is amazing. That said she was a pioneer in another era really with her "Film Stills" work. I recently saw a retrospective of her's in Berlin and was drawn to all that has inspired me in my own work. She is a photographer who looks inside. I like that. The difference in our work is primarily in the subject matter etc. I am working with specific individuals in a specific scene in a very defined culture that is timely and relevant.

BS: Hugo, do you plan to continue this series? Or perhaps do a series of artists from other countries?

HT: I think I may add a couple of pictures to the Chinese series. I still have plans to collaborate with Yang Fudong. i am not sure about other countries and artists though. I will continue working partially in China though. As for now, I am interested in beginning a dialogue with the middle east. I do plan on setting up a platform for dialogue between Berlin and Tel Aviv as well.

BS: What projects are you working on at this time? Do you have any upcoming exhibitions?

HT: I have an opening at DF2 in Los Angeles that opens September 8th.

BS: Hugo, do you have any suggestions or advice for emerging photographers or video artists?

HT: Absolutely. Dig deep inside, be honest and do not do what you think others want. Work from the inside out. Also, work is all about the process. The final product has very little meaning for the artist.

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

HT: I am not sure what to say about the art world at large. Although we need the market, it has far too much influence at present. That said, the community of artists and thinkers that it encompasses is absolutely amazing. For me, it is all about the conversations. I am so grateful for those.
You can learn more about Hugo Tillman and his art by visiting his website: www.hugotillman.com
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Art Space Talk: Matthew Dennison

Matthew Dennison states that he joins ideas and information in order to explore meanings and associations. His Paintings map these ideas together in order to create another way of seeing the moment. Combining images makes new information…as if his images were words. Matthew's goal is to bring remote elements to the surface of each painting; highlighting sections in a larger text. He combines current histories and personal events together in order to create a new type of dialogue. You can view some of Matthew's art at the Melanee Cooper Gallery in Chicago.

Brian Sherwin: Matthew, you are known for the painterly elegance of your vibrant figurative paintings. In you work you explore the interplay between animals, people, and their environment. This cast of imaginary characters live in a surreal world where they are thrown into ordinary surroundings that are not always what they seem... yet there is a connection to our reality. Can you go into further detail about your work... what you are attempting to do... and where you feel your work is taking you?

Matthew Dennison: We are a product of our times. I am interested in translating what I see into a visual narrative. I am exploring and connecting what is happening in our world and filtering it through my personal experience I think we are interpreting what we see. I'm interested in creating another place where information gathers by attaching myself to world events. I am documenting the impact we have on the Earth, through War, Machine and Environment. I believe that painting is a form of writing and a way for me to navigate what I see and deal with issues around us...

BS: Matthew, can you recall any early memories in regards to wanting to become a painter? When did you decide that painting was going to be an important part of your life?

MD: As a Child I was drawn to my Mothers art books. I remember looking at John Singleton Copley's painting called "Watson and the Shark." It drew me in. I was about 4 or 5 years old . I was always drawing. I started painting in oil's when I was 12 years old. That is when I knew that painting was my mission.

BS: Matthew, you have stated the following about your work, "I tie current histories and personal events together and create a new type of dialogue.". Do you care to share any personal events that have had an impact on your painting? Or would you say that national events have more of an impact on your work? What are the social implications of your art?

MD: I believe we gather are perception of social issues in childhood. Those connections help shape who we are. I have always been impacted by what we do as a society. I never had someone to share thoughts with. As a way to share my ideas I would write, draw and paint. I think the last five years have changed my approach. Before my work was very secular. It had a covert and ambiguous quality about it. I am now responding more directly to the events of the world. The paintings are more literal. I have always felt this urgency to record what I see and feel.

BS: What about artistic influences... I'm assuming that you are influenced by several German painters. Have certain artists or art movements of the past influenced you?

MD: I can't say I'm influenced by any one artist. I am always looking. I have been interested in many types of art. 15th Century, Rothko, Twombly, I am interested in what people are saying. I have been guided by my past work. I use my past work to navigate forward.

BS: Many contemporary painters create flat painting... as in, no texture. Surfaces are often smooth and void of true expressive work. I must ask, why do you enjoy the physicality of paint? Why do you embrace texture and bold strokes of the brush?

MD: Surface and Texture are important to me. Texture and strokes breath life into painting, like wind and rain. I use industrial colored washed on my paintings and I choose where light and shape remain.

BS: Matthew, how do you plan your paintings... or do you just paint as you go, so to speak? Do you make sketches or do you work entirely from your mind?

MD: I plan my paintings by collecting information. I draw every day and write poems. Poems are word paintings. I am constantly taking in newspapers and information. I'm interested in what people see verses what they hear. Hearing is also a way of seeing. Our society is assaulted by information. It is my job to filter out this information and compose it visually. All these process's go onto creating my paintings.

BS: Matthew, you were recently featured in Southwest Art Magazine as an 'Artist to Watch'. You were listed as one of ten painters on the rise. Can you recall how you felt upon learning that you had been included in this list? Also, what other publications have you been in?

MD: I was honored to be included on that list. We are all measures on the barometer. We are all part of the puzzle. I have been reviewed in the Oregonian in December 2006. Also Art Access in Seattle in September 2005. I try to do the best I can and hope for the best.

BS: Matthew, you have been involved with several benefit exhibitions- specifically the Cascade AIDS project. Why have been so involved with benefit exhibitions? Do you feel that is vital for visual artists to use their talent in order to help others? Or do you see it more as a personal choice?

MD: Number one, it is a good cause. It can also be a way to reach people who would not otherwise go to a gallery. It is important as a artist that your work be seen. I believe it is a personal choice.

BS: Younger artists are always concerned with expanding their resume. Would you suggest that they submit art to benefit exhibitions in order to 'flesh out' their resume? Is that a good starting point for an artist with a 'boney' resume, so to speak?

MD: Benefit shows might be one way to create interest in your work. One must be careful. Determine also what your expect from your involvement? Gallery shows help create a dialog and can inform people. Ask your self, "what am I trying to do or what do I want to accomplish?"

BS: Do you have other advice or suggestions for artists who are just starting out?

MD: Keep creating and finding methods to reach the public. Be persistent. It is important to contribute and shape ideas. All who think a like don't think at all.

BS: Matthew, you are represented by Melanee Cooper Gallery in Chicago. Are you represented by other galleries at this time? Also, where else can our readers observe you art?

MD: I am also represented by Froelick Gallery in Portland, Oregon...and Friesen Gallery in Seattle...and Hiddle Brooks in Charlotte North Carolina. Also... www.matthewdennison.com

BS: Matthew, what projects are you working on at this time?

MD: I show in Seattle this December 2007...and I will be included in a show at Hiddle Brooks in June of 2008. I will have some film work on youtube soon, about my painting.

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

MD: Attach your self to the world and respond to that. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence and determination. Talent alone will not: Nothing is more common then unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not: Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not: The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are supreme.
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Matthew Dennison. You can learn more about Matthew and his art by visiting his website: www.matthewdennison.com
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Art Space Talk: Sas Christian

Sas Christian’s paintings are intense. Inspired by anime and manga, Sas's 'big-eyed' super realistic style has won her great success in the pop-surrealism scene. Her oil paintings, which are often confused as digital art, have been highly sought after by art collectors and are admired by fans worldwide. Sas took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few of my questions. Enjoy.

Brian Sherwin: Sas, can you tell our readers how your youth played a part in your choice to embrace art as a career? Can you recall any early memories that helped to guide you on the path that you have been following with your work? When did you know that you wanted to pursue art for life?

Sas Christian: I guess I was about 10 when whilst I was at a friends house I was shown a book on the animations of Walt Disney, notably Mickey Mouse. It was an incredible book documenting all the incarnations up until that point and my friend and I would spend hours copying all the different styles of Mickey. I found it incredibly exciting and really enjoyed the process of drawing, coloring in, etc. I continued trying to mimic the images that I saw in that book, and moved onto drawing the human face, and composing pictures of many differing elements/images that would tell a story. Being an introverted kind of person, solitude really worked for me and I spent hours and hours creating color pencil art work. I didn't really experiment with paint - it wasn't as convenient as pencils and I couldn't get to grips with the whole paintbrush thing.

I was about 15 when I realized that I wanted to pursue art as a career, but I came up against tremendous opposition from my parents who didn't think it was a viable option for me. My mother would tell me that I just didn't have the talent, so not to bother. I believed her, and for the following 2 years I tried to find something I could do, but art kept calling me on. It was quite a struggle to persuade my parents to let me go to art college - and I settled on a graphic design degree as it seemed the most accessible and "bankable." In the end it didn't come in that useful - but it made me realize that my real ambition was to paint. But it would another 11 years before I would do so - I had very low self confidence, what can I tell you!

BS: Sas, you studied graphic design at Bournemouth & Poole College of Art & Design-UK. I understand that your studies were a liberating experience for you. However, just after you graduated you were robbed- your entire portfolio of work was stolen and you had to start from scratch. What exactly happened? Did have doubt about your future at that time? Also, was the stolen art ever recovered?

SC: After graduating I had just been to London, on a job interview at a major graphic design company - they were very nice, but it was obvious that I hadn't enough experience for the position they were offering. I had left my portfolio in the back of my car, parked in a covered car park, whilst I was visiting a friend. When I came back my car window was smashed and it was gone. I was devastated. I had no copies of my work and I remember going to the police station to report the robbery and when the officer asked me what the value of the portfolio was I didn't know what to answer. I mean, how could I put a value on that? Never did recover it, or any of the work inside it.

BS: While in college you met your future husband, Colin. Colin is also an artists... have you two collaborated on projects together? Would you say that you have both improved as artists due to your relationship?

SC: We haven't collaborated on projects together lately, but years ago when we had a couture latex clothing company we would work together designing and creating different costumes, and then after that we would work together on commercial statues and murals for businesses. These days we're a huge influence on each other and we constantly bounce ideas back and forth. We're each others biggest fans and harshest critics. I consider Colin vital in my creative process. I most definitely think we've improved as artists because we get to use each other as sounding boards.

BS: Sas, you are known for creating paintings that have intense detail ... to the point that some viewers have confused your work for digital images. The vibrance of your paintings stems from a concoction of pigments, oils, and varnishes... how did you develop such a strong command of colors? Can you go into detail about how you have progressed in this manner?

SC: Um, I don't know. I know I have a strong sense of what I want to portray/say. I actually had to learn about the mechanics of oil painting from books I bought from Amazon - I then experimented on my own and still feel like I'm learning. It's an ongoing process. I use a variety of techniques depending on the effect I want to get. Glazing, scrumbling, wet on wet. I use it all.

BS: One of your main influences has been anime. Why are you so captivated by that style? Are you influenced by Takashi Murakami and the Superflat movement? Also, unlike most anime influenced art... your images are very lifelike- ones feels as if he could pinch the cheeks of one of your paintings. It is as if your work is inspired by both anime and old master techniques... is this so? Have you studied the old masters?

SC: When I was about 8 a Japanese friend of mine at school had shown me some dolls she had - they were hand-painted and had these vibrant large "manga" eyes. I was fascinated with them and it stuck. I have always been moved by the works of the old masters - although I can't say that I use one particular artists techniques.

BS: What else influences your art? Are their any social implications in your paintings? Do you have a message that you are attempting to convey with your work?

SC: Well, it's pro female of course. As for messages - yes, but it's up the individual to decipher it.

BS: Sas, are you working on any projects at this time? Also, do you have any upcoming exhibits?

SC: I'm busy working on many pieces for a large solo show for Opera Gallery NY in the spring of 2008. Also I'm going to be showing in Rome, London and China next year - it's going to be crazy.

BS: What is it like to be the studio of Sas Christian? Can you describe your studio to our readers? What are the conditions you need to work? Do you listen to music... or do you need complete silence? Give us the details.

SC: Small, busy and with the sound of barking dogs (mine)! Somewhat untidy I'm afraid, but with a good supply of candy on hand. I need good light. At the moment the front of my studio has floor to ceiling windows which not only has a fabulous view of Colin's workshop but provides me with excellent light..but very little privacy - I'm thinking about installing mirrored window film so that passers by stop ogling me! If I spoke to every one who just wanted to pop in for a chat, I'd never get anything done. I like to listen to a variety of music when I'm coming up with ideas for paintings. I find it very important. Colin will create play-lists for me and it really helps me think. But once they are drawn out I prefer to listen to audio books - the sound of a speaking voice is very soothing to me, and I like the fact that my mind can go elsewhere because each piece can take considerable time to create.

BS: Sas, you have been involved with Juxtapoz group shows and you have been featured in their magazine. How did you get involved with Juxtapoz?

SC: By buying ads, hehe. We began advertising Colin's sculptures in 1997, and developed a relationship with them from then on, particularly William. A good guy.

BS: Do you have any suggestions or advice for artists who are just starting out?

SC: Be prepared to be broke for a while and work your ass off. Never think your as good as your going to get - you can always be better. Be true to your vision and be prepared for rejection. It's happens to us all at one point or another - only the most dedicated will survive. Talent is only part of the equation - perseverance and a reliable work ethic is essential. Oh yeah...and don't shit where you eat.

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

SC: It's all good....
I hope that you have enjoyed learning about Sas Christian and her art. You can learn more by visiting her website: www.hotboxdesigns.com . Also, remember to check out my other interviews by visiting the myartspace.com interviews page: www.myartspace.com/interviews
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Friday, August 17, 2007

Art Space Talk: Heather Wilcoxon

Heather Wilcoxon has been practicing the art of painting for over 20 years. Her paintings, drawings, monotypes and works on paper are commentaries about our current global situation. Her work has been featured in solo exhibitions in New York, Houston, Denver and San Francisco. She has taught Painting and Monoprinting at the San Francisco Art Institute, College of Marin, California College of the Arts, Graduate Mentor Program, San Francisco Center for the Book, and is currently teaching at UC Berkeley Extension in San Francisco. Heather has also won several awards and grants- including two grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation.

Brian Sherwin: Heather, at what point did you know that you wanted to be a painter? Can you recall any childhood memories or influences that set you on the path toward embracing art as a major part of your life?

Heather Wilcoxon: All my life I have been an artist. But it wasn't until I was 36 that I got serious. After receiving my MFA, I never looked back. When I was a child my mother took me to see Willem De Kooning and I know that made a profound impact on me at that time. I will never forget that that experience.

BS: Heather, you studied Painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. From the school you obtained a BFA and MFA. Who were your mentors at that time?

HW: Sam Tchakalian, who taught me never to be afraid of your images and to to think and not to think. To let go. To be passionate and honest in your work. He was the biggest influence on me. He was hard and nasty and raw. No Bull shit. ! He challenged me. Over and over again. And I did terrible paintings. Fred Martin, saw something there in my work and was very supportive. Pagan Brooke taught me about edges. Angela Davis taught me integrity. But Sam pushed me into being a painter.

BS: Heather, you have been practicing the art of painting for over 20 years. Your work often serves as a form of commentary about our global situation. Have you always focused on this theme? Also, can you recall any global events that have had a major impact on your work?

HW: After Graduate school, my work took awhile to find itself. It went from figurative to abstract and back again. My content was very personal for a long time. But It has always had some kind of underlining social message. As my work matured ( along with me) It became less about "ME" and more about how I viewed the outside world. And then 911 happened. The world changed and so did my work.

BS: Heather, you taught Painting and Monoprinting at the San Francisco Art Institute, College of Marin, California College of the Arts, Graduate Mentor Program, San Francisco Center for the Book, and are currently teaching at UC Berkeley Extension in San Francisco. Can you tell our readers about your teaching philosophy? What is the best way for a student to learn? Also, how do you balance the role of being an instructor while also being a devoted painter? Do you ever find it difficult... or feel as if one is suffering due to the other?

HW: Teaching is just passing on knowledge. I give students tools and then let them find themselves. I want to encourage younger artists to see in their own way , through their own feelings, their own vision. I try to inspire risk and and letting go of fear. And in turn, they teach me patience and give me knew ideas. Its a give and take situation. Painting take years to learn. It never stops actually. The best way for a student to learn is by doing, and doing, and doing. Painting is a practice like Yoga. Because I have never taught-full time, I have spent much more time in the studio than teaching. It becomes very introspective working alone all the time. So teaching is a way for me to give back. To be with other artists. To engage. Which I need. But my painting comes first and always will. The only problem that can be difficult is financial. I don't have a regular income. And selling the work is extremely unreliable!!! But my attitude is either the tide is in or out. ( Thank god for grants!)

BS: Heather, I've read that you spent several years of painting and searching for your own visual voice. As you know, many grad students are entering the core of the artworld straight out of college- earning high profits for their work. Do you think this art-star mentality is dangerous for both the recent grads and the artworld as a whole? Would you suggest that recent grads spend a few years finding themselves instead of thinking about material success?

HW: My answer is YES and YES!!!

BS: You have earned a Pollock/Krasner Grant (1999). Two Marin Arts Council Grants (1991-1998)- As well as a Djerassi Artist in Residence Fellowship in Woodside California. Do you have any suggestions for artists who hope to have this same form of success?

HW: Keep applying!!! I just received my second Pollock/Krasner Award. And my 3rd Marin Arts Council Grant. But its really about the work and your commitment and writing a good proposal.

BS: Heather, you have had a long-time preoccupation with the balance between abstraction and the narrative. Can you go into further detail about what you have discovered during your studies? Perhaps you could reveal brief insight into your artistic process?

HW: I draw a lot. Everyday in my little black books. Several years ago I learned how to transfer these drawings onto my paintings. So I was able to combine both the abstract with my little narrative characters. I also love to build a rich and a thick juicy surface underneath the paint. To me its always what is covered up that makes it interesting. I never know what I am painting. I might strike out several images before I make a home run, so to speak. Each painting is like traveling to another country. Each painting is its own experience. My process is different each time.

BS: You have stated that you, "see the world as a dangerous place", but at the same time you are "seasoned enough to see the absurdity of it all"... can you go into more detail about this view. Would you say that you are a bit of a cynic with what you convey? Or is it more about revealing a message... or visual language... that people often hold back for the sake of social grace... so to speak?

HW: We have to laugh at ourselves and how ridiculous we humans can be. So I wouldn't say that I was a cynic in my work. It 's more about visual eye candy for me. But I also think that most people don't want to deal with their emotional feelings. It scares them. Especially in our society. We live in a very clean and organized world. I like to mess things up a bit. Wake you up. Get your attention. Take you out of your grey space. And make you react in some way.

BS: In a sense, some of your work lures the viewer in with 'happy' colors and 'pretty' surfaces. Upon further observation they discover the grit behind the gold. Have you ever offended viewers with your playful deception? If so, do you think that says something about people and how they view our world... as in... most of us do not want to see the 'ugly'?

HW: Humm, Yes... I once had my painting slashed. But that was a long time ago. Most people are in a hurry and don't spend the time to look beyond the cuteness. So I would agree with you in that they don't want to see the "UGLY".

BS: Heather, Kenneth Baker of the San Francisco Chronicle compared your work to that of painter Squeak Carnwath... is that a fair observation of your work?

HW: He is just one art critic. They always have to compare your work with another artist. I am much nastier then Squeak. But I will say that both of us spend time with our surfaces. And we both use Yellow.

BS: Now... on to more influences... who has influenced you through the years? Can you name some artists who have had an impact on your art?

HW: Phillip Guston, Jean- Michel Basquait and De Kooning and Inez Storer.

BS: What is your studio like? Do you have any unique conditions that must be met in order to start working? Studio habits... total silence.... blaring music... what is it like to be in the studio of Heather Wilcoxon?

HW: My studio is very messy. I don't have a maid. Things pile up. I love listening to folk music or silence. I collect, toys and junk. My work space is small about 450 square ft. But it has a nice skylight. Its just a room were I paint.

BS: Heather, do you have any advice or suggestions for painters who are just starting out? Any tips on how to approach galleries or what to look out for...

HW: The most important thing is the work!!! Look for galleries that are honest and pay their artists. As well as how they treat you. It's like any relationship. Some are good relationships and some are bad. As far as getting into galleries. That is tough. Most of the time they never look at slides or CV's . Its really by word of mouth through other artists in the gallery.

BS: Are you represented by a gallery at this time? Where can our readers observe your work? Also, do you have any upcoming exhibits?

HW: Brenda Taylor Gallery- New York, Thomas Paul Fine Art- Los Angeles, Toomey-Tourell Gallery- San Francisco. Or they can go to my site www.heatherwilcoxon.com/ and go to flickr.com from my site for more recent work. I just had three shows this summer. A solo at Brenda Taylor Gallery in New York, Donna Seager Gallery in San Rafael and the Bank of America Building in San Francisco.

BS: What are you working on at this time? Care to reveal anything about your current body of work?

HW: I am just gathering my wits from all these shows ( no sales) But my work will be in several art fairs in Miami this December as well as London this fall.

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

HW: It is all about who you know, luck and timing. The art world can eat you a live if your not careful!!
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Heather Wilcoxon. You can learn more about Heather and her art by visiting her website: www.heatherwilcoxon.com/. You will find a list of interviews with both emerging and established artists by clicking on the following link: www.myartspace.com/interviews/
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Art Space Talk: Michael Craig-Martin

Born in Dublin in 1941, Michael Craig-Martin studied at Yale University School of Art and Architecture in the early 1960s, but has spent most of his working life in Great Britain. Since that time he has shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions both in Britain and internationally, including the definitive exhibition of British conceptual art, The New Art, at the Hayward Gallery (1972).

The impact Michael has had on the world of art is obvious. From 1974 to 1988, Michael instructed art at Goldsmiths College, London. During that time Michael instructed- Sarah Lucas, Gary Hume, Damien Hirst, Mat Collishaw, Fiona Rae, Liam Gillick, Simon Patterson, Richard Patterson, Michael Landy, Abigail Lane, Angus Fairhurst, Angela Bullock, and Ian Davenport. Michael returned to Goldsmiths College in 1993 as Millard Professor of Fine Art.

Michael has a long and impressive list of accomplishments in the world of art: He has served as a Trustee at the Tate Gallery, has done installations for the Projects exhibition series at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1991) and the Centre Pompidou in Paris (1994), and has created major wallpainting installations at the Kunstverein Hannover (1998) and at the Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart (1999). Michael represented Great Britain at the XXIV Bienal de São Paulo (Brazil) in 1998 due to his dedication and contributions to the artworld.

Brian Sherwin: Michael, when did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist? Can you recall any memories or events from your youth that set you on that path?

Michael Craig-Martin: I decided I wanted to be an artist very young - I was about 12 when I first saw reproductions of 'modern' art. For some reason I realized that art would always be elusive and ungraspable and I knew that that was for me. I met a 'real' artist, the Spanish artist Antonio Roda, when I was 14 and started drawing classes with him. I was very determined but full of self-doubt.

BS: Michael, you studied art at Yale University School of Art and Architecture.Who were your mentors at that time? Also, can you recall any of your early influences?

MCM: My most helpful teachers were Al Held, Alex Katz, Jack Tworkov, and Neil Welliver. Amongst my fellow students were Brice Marden, Chuck Close, Richard Serra, Jon Borofsky, Jennifer Bartlett, Victor Burgin. I think one's fellow students are at least, if not more important than one's teachers.

BS: You have spent most of your working life in Great Britain. Why did you decide to move from the States to Great Britain? Were you bored of the US scene? Or did you just need a change?

MCM: A mix of reasons. My parents lived in London until I was 3 and I was always fascinated by that other life I almost had. It was the swinging 60's, and I was the same age as the Beatles. I didn't realize it was perhaps the greatest period of American art. The disastrous Vietnam war was revealing the worst aspects of America, just as the even more disastrous Iraq war is now. I was offered a teaching job in England, we had a baby, and I needed the money. I meant to stay a year or two. That was 41 years ago.

BS: Michael, you exhibited art at the definitive exhibition of British conceptual art, The New Art, at the Hayward Gallery in 1972. Can you recall that period of time? Were you concerned that people would not 'get it', so to speak?

MCM: It was a period of real austerity in Britain - I was poorer than anyone I'd ever met. But it was a great time to be a young artist - I remember it as a period of exceptional creative freedom and adventure, when one was regularly presented with works of art unlike anything one had ever seen before. What tiny audience there was was highly committed and informed.
Most people were convinced that the art we made was either a con or an intellectual game from which they were excluded. We could never have imagined there would ever be the large popular audience for art there is today.

BS: In the early 1970s you exhibited the seminal piece An Oak Tree (Image Above-now in the Tate collection). The work consists of a glass of water standing on a shelf attached to the gallery wall next to which is a text using a semiotic argument to explain why it is in fact an oak tree. I've read that you had an odd experience with this piece in that it was once barred by US Customs officials from entering the country as 'vegetation'. You were forced to explain it was really a glass of water. Can you recall how you felt about that situation? Were you upset or did you find the it amusing? Also, have you had other mishaps with your work?

MCM: Actually the work shown in the Tate is my artist's copy, as the original work was purchased by the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra in 1977. And the customs incident did happen, but going into Australia not the US. It was of course a wonderfully funny incident, particularly because it extended into 'real life' the discussion about belief and doubt, and fact and fiction I was addressing in the work.
An Oak Tree has had a great life as an artwork. It is nearly always on view somewhere, and has been shown all over the world - the text has been translated into at least 20 languages. The only place its has never been shown is in the US.

BS: Michael, As a senior tutor at Goldsmiths' College, you were a significant influence on the emerging YBA generation, including Damien Hirst. You were also helpful in promoting the Freeze show to established artworld figures. Looking back on how things have turned out... is there anything you would like to say about Damien Hirst or the others? I will assume that you are very proud of them all.

MCM: I had always tried to help my students in any way I could, particularly in those first years after art school. I knew from personal experience how difficult it was - I never had things come easy. I did the same with Damien and Freeze. I encouraged people to go and see the work. I would never have done this if I hadn't believed the show was of exceptional interest - why waste people's time? It amuses me that so many people think what happened was calculated and cleverly manipulated whereas in fact it was a combination of youthful bravado, innocence, fortunate timing, good luck, and, of course, good work. It caught people's imagination.

People have forgotten how little opportunity for young artists there was in England at the time. They were simply trying to survive - and succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. It is true that I am proud of them, and couldn't be happier they've enjoyed such great success.

BS: You taught at Goldsmiths College from 1974 to 1988- you returned in 1993 as Millard Professor of Fine Art. Would you like to share some of your experiences as an instructor at Goldsmiths?

MCM: Goldsmiths was a particularly great school throughout the 70's and 80's, when few people knew it existed. The radical nature of the department was the creation of Jon Thompson, who hired me and many other young artists in those early years. The approach and values of the school suited me perfectly, and I extended and enhanced them. I devoted a great deal of thought and energy to Goldsmiths.
It was completely focused on helping as wide a range of students as possible to discover and develop their individual creative interests and abilities, whatever form they might take, and its methods were madly daring but they worked. It obviously helped a great many of its students develop the self-knowledge and self-confidence needed to sustain themselves as artists.

BS: Michael, how did you find balance between being an instructor and creating your personal work? I've spoken with many college/university instructors who say that it can be very difficult at times. Would you say that teaching at Goldsmiths- being surrounded by creative minds- enhanced your art?

MCM: It was very difficult. For many years I taught 3 days a week, did my own work 3 days a week, and everything else in life on the remaining day. I found teaching interesting and enjoyed it, and I learned a lot from and through my students. But I never thought of myself as a teacher or sought to make a career in education. I was never the head of department at Goldsmiths and refused the offer at various other art schools.
As I started to make some money in the 80's I taught less and less, and when I didn't need the income I stopped completely. After the years of effort that had involved, it drives me crazy when people talk to me today as though I used to teach and now I make my work. If I hadn't made work all those years, you wouldn't be talking to me today.

I do think I paid a price as an artist, and I am trying to make up for it now - I work six days a week in the studio, and I've never been happier.

BS: Michael, in your later works you used a stylized drawing technique. You often depict everyday household objects and sometimes incorporate art references, such as objects known from their use in Dada artworks. Aside from Dada, have there been any other early art movements that have influenced your work?

MCM: In the late 70's I started to make drawings of the ordinary objects I had been using in my work. Initially I wanted them to be ready-made drawings of the kind of common objects I had always used in my work. I was surprised to discover I couldn't find the simple, neutral drawings I had assumed existed, so I started to make them myself. I deliberately avoided any personal or expressive character in them (un-inflected line, drawing with tape, etc) - I wanted them to be as impersonal and 'styleless' as possible. Ironically, over the years the character of my drawings has gradually come to be seen as my 'style'.
I am always adding to the set of drawings I use. At one point I added the ordinary objects that other artists had used in their work (thus rendering them forever as not ordinary): Duchamp's urinal, Magritte's pipe, John's tin of paint brushes, Man Ray's iron. I have also explored the work of various other artists I admire, including Velasquez, Piero, Seurat, Lewiit, Judd, and Andre.

BS: Michael, you have said the following about your art, "My installations question the nature of picture making. Instead of looking at a painting, it feels like you are stepping inside it. All the images are sucked in onto the canvas and then exhaled on the wall opposite." Can you go further into detail about your personal philosophy about art?

MCM: I came to painting through sculpture, to images through objects. I think that images sit in the middle, somewhere between objects and words. I treat pictures of objects as though they were objects themselves, but also as if they were as malleable as words. An image can picture one thing while representing another. I try to make images that have the immediate presence we take for granted in objects - a chair, a shoe, a book, a Judd – and compose them like sentences.

The complexity of the language of images is disguised by the ease and rapidity with which we read them. I've tried to make work that is as transparent and simple as possible. No matter how much I strip away the result is always more complex to me than I expect.

BS: Michael, there has been a lot of talk about the art market lately. Many people are afraid that the bubble will eventually burst, so to speak. There is concern that younger artists might be thrown into obscurity if this occurs. Do you have any concerns about the art market at this time? Do you think it unwise for a young artist charge high prices for his or her art straight out of college? Also, do you have any other concerns about the artworld at this time?

MCM: There is a complete difference between art and the art market. Prices are high now for the simple reason that there are people are willing to pay them. The market dominates the art world today because at the moment collectors call the shots. Like everything else that won't last forever. I am personally happy for artists to make as much money as they can while they can to carry them through the times when they can't. Whatever happens to the art world, art will go on regardless. As for obscurity, it looms just over the horizon beckoning us all. Why worry.

BS: Michael, your art has many advocates- Damien Hirst, Julian Opie, Patrick Caulfield, and Charles Saatchi, just to name a few. However, there are some who oppose it- the Art critic David Lee and the founders of the Stuckists art movement- Charles Thomson and Billy Childish. Do you take their criticism with a grain of salt, so to speak? Why do you think certain individuals oppose conceptual art instead of accepting it as it is? Would you agree that all forms of art should be embraced for what they are... instead of having the validity of the work questioned? Or is it important for people to question... to doubt?

MCM: I feel sorry for those who build their lives on feeling bitter about other people. They often have a misunderstanding about what it means to ‘understand’ a work of art and therefore feel threatened by what they don't ‘understand’. ‘Understanding’ art is like having a sense of humour - if you don't have one, no amount of explanation is going to make you laugh.

The art world, of all worlds, has room for everyone. So much of conservative criticism is based on confusion and misunderstanding. The term 'conceptual' is used to mean a thousand different things. I have never understood, for instance, why some people see contemporary art as divided between 'painting' and 'conceptual art', as though this represented a genuine division. Surely some painting is conceptual in character, some not. Just as some video is conceptual, some not. It is the nature of the work, not the medium used that indicates significant differences in art.

Most of my work over the past 15 years has been painting - though most of my critics never refer to this work , I assume because if they did, they would have to say they were the 'wrong kind of paintings', or not 'real' paintings at all. The psuedo-question 'is it art?', so loved by some people, has become redundant. In the land of Tate Modern, always filled with art and people, the issue is dead.

Most angry critics who deal in generalizations show hopeless judgement in distinguishing between good and poor individual works. Just as Prince Charles managed to single out for condemnation only those few modern buildings in London of true quality and thoughtfulness, while never mentioning the hundreds of examples of architectural mediocrity around them, art doesn't need self-appointed protectors.

BS: Some of your more recent work has involved the utilization of computers (sample above). Did you find it difficult to make the transition from using physical materials? Also, what are you working on at this time?

MCM: I have been using the computer as a work aid since the mid-90's. It is extraordinarily well suited to how I think and work and has transformed my practice. Nearly everything I have done in the past 15 years would have been impossible without it. I use the computer for drawing, composing and colour planning everything, from postage stamps to paintings to architectural-scale installations.
I made a couple of screensavers some years ago. Inevitably they gave me ideas for works made exclusively for computers. I've done 5 now, using complex randomization programs that leave detailed decision-making to the computer. I am now working on computer portraits.

BS: Speaking of technology, through the use of the internet it would seem that any artist- with reasonable skill- has the chance to make an impact. It is obvious that the internet is changing the world of art. Major online art competitions are becoming commonplace- it would seem that now is the perfect time to be an artist. Do you agree? Or do you think the artworld should be concerned about this? Could there be pitfalls?

MCM: A consequence of the democratization of art since the 1960's has been that anyone who chooses can be an artist. You don't need permission, a college certificate, or particular skills.

The internet has extended the possibility of making art to more people, and particularly of enabling it to be seen by others. I am sure the internet is having a profound impact on art, particularly those who have grown up with it, but making good art will remain as difficult (and as easy) as it ever was. Having a lasting impact may become more not less difficult.

BS: Michael, do you have any advice or suggestions for artists who are just starting out?

MCM: Persist.

BS: Do you have any upcoming exhibitions of your work? Where can our readers view your art?

MCM: I will have an exhibition of new paintings and computer works at the Gagosian Gallery in Britannia Street in London in November 2007. And new prints and editions at Alan Cristea Gallery London in April 2008. I will be doing big site-specific installations at several museums in Australia including the Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney in the spring 2008. I am doing a permanent installation on the exterior of four public housing buildings in Nice, an 80 meter wall made of corian for an EU building in Luxembourg, and a mosaic installation for a new station of the Docklands Light Railway in south London. I've never been so busy.

I have a website: www.michaelcraig-martin.com

There are also two good current publications:

Signs of Life, published by Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2006, with texts by Eckhard Schneider, Liam Gillick, and Edgar Schmitz

Michael Craig-Martin 1964-2006, text by Richard Cork, published by Thames and Hudson in conjunction with the Irish Museum of Modern Art, 2006

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

MCM: I think I have said more than enough.
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Michael Craig-Martin. You can learn more about Michael and his art by visiting his website:
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin