Is painting still vital, or is it a dead language? We asked several young painters working today the following questions
1. What is painting?
2. What is your favorite color?
3. Which artist or painter has influenced you?
4. Is there a work of art you would like to have in your home next to your own work?
5. What is the best way to exhibit a painting?
6. What are the limits of painting?
7. How do you start a work — do you have any rituals?
8. Is there a future for painting or you are one of the last survivors?
9. If you were about to be reborn, what would you like to be — still a painter?
10. Do you think that today painting is underappreciated?
1. The theme of this questionnaire.
2. Don’t have one.
3. Vija Celmins early work had a big impact on me.
4. A John Altoon painting from the “Hyperion” series.
5. This is not interesting to me.
6. Its forms of circulation.
7. I usually project a drawing I’ve done.
8. People will probably apply pigment to a surface for some time.
1. I’m trying to figure it out through my practice.
3. In this particular period Graham Sutherland.
4. I would like to own an Arturo Martini — his sculpture Donna che nuota sott’acqua (1889-1947).
5. When one understands what it needs.
6. The limits of a painting come from the painter.
7. I don’t have any rituals, just work hard.
8. Yes, there is a great future for painting.
10. I don’t think that painting today is underappreciated, but it is often misunderstood.
1. Painting is a mental space.
2. I don’t have a favorite color.
3. Kurt Schwitters.
4. Schwitters’ Merzbau (1923-1937).
5. Showing the way it expands.
6. It has no limits.
7. I started working when I was born. The ritual is trying to breathe.
8. There is a future for painting.
9. Yes, still a process painter.
10. Painting today is as complex as contemporary society. It is complex by nature.
1. “Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface (support base). The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action.”
2. When I was child, I ostentatiously worked with metallic or neon pink. The color was very specific. As I was born in the ’80s, it was abundant for some reason. A bit later I recognized it was a queer color for me to wear — strange. I obstinately decided my favorite color was yellow then. I was stubborn. When asked, it remains my favorite color today. I’m not sure why. I’ve never made a yellow painting, but I have a few pink ones.
3. Just recently I finished a couple of collaborative works with writer and artist, Graham Skeate.
4. There was a lovely Nelson Leirner at the Tate with zippers [Homage to Fontana II, 1967]. I had been making figurative drawings from memory of coed saunas in Europe at the time. They would look nice next to it. That or R.S.V.P. (1977/2003) by Senga Nengudi, from a two-person show we had at the Studio Museum in Harlem.
5. Once I was asked what the best “wall” was for a painting. It stuck with me. Eventually I started making my own walls, so it became a mute question. People like to say “site-specific” in relation to painting, but it doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s a blank phrase. My work is about place, but it doesn’t care about it. It’s stubborn like that.
6. See answer to question one.
7. No. More often than not I trick myself into working. If I’m not paying attention to something, it’s inevitably better than what I’m thinking about.
8. Labels are fun, but this isn’t a question for someone making paintings — perhaps maybe photographers, or sculptors?
9. I would like to obsess less, but as a result I probably wouldn’t be an artist. Or not a very good one.
10. No, but there isn’t much of a public dialogue about painting. Every now and then there is a dialogue around an essay or idea, but they have less to do with artists making work. Among certain groups there are, but one has to look for it. This is especially difficult if you are dealing with visually hermetic space, which is different than pop and image making. Those are easier concepts to discuss than the hermetic. No one likes that word, for some reason.
1. A mindfuck.
3. Bruce Nauman.
4. A gouache or watercolor by my grandmother, Paula Brunner Abelow.
5. On the Internet.
6. There aren’t any.
7. I check ABAB to see what’s up.
8. There will always be a need for painting.
10. No, I appreciate paintings all the time.
1. Webster’s dictionary online gives the following examples:
– They hung the painting in the living room.
– The woman in that painting is my grandmother.
– I like painting more than sculpture.
– He is studying abstract painting.
– She wants to devote all her time to painting.
– The room is ready for painting.
2. Brown + everything else.
4. Giacometti, The Palace at 4am (1932).
6. Painting is a language. Every language has limits. Limits are good. For example — Star Wars is a great movie and it had a very limited budget whereas the prequels were made with practically unlimited resources and they are terrible.
7. I drink a cup of PG Tips with whole milk when I get to the studio.
8. There must be an algorithm that can predict all this. I wonder what it looks like.
9. Well let’s say I would be an artist. I don’t separate painting from other forms of practice within the scope of art-making.
10. No. In general art is over appreciated these days. Going to a museum is like driving on the BQE.
Rinus Van de Velde
1. To me, painting is a matter of what it could be, the result of a personal choice or belief, something imaginary. It’s important to note that I consider myself a draftsman and not a true painter, whatever that is, even though I use the medium of drawing to relate to the history of painting in a more or less casual way. As my work is always narrative and pseudo-autobiographical, I can imagine myself to be any kind of painter in my drawings. Stylistically as well, I feel I can borrow freely from a whole spectrum of painting. Which means, I guess, that painting to me is a playfield. Next to that, it is of course the act of making a painting, and as such it is a way of spending time, of giving meaning to it and coping with boredom. Painting stretches time: it makes you enter a different time-space continuum, where it is nice to wander around. And painting is magic. Philip Guston once said: “The painting is not on a surface, but on a plane which is imagined. It moves in a mind. It is not there physically at all. It is an illusion, a piece of magic, so what you see is not what you see.”
2. I don’t really see color. My work is in grayscales and I only wear blue, which is as close to colorless as clothes get. I suppose that if I would be more in touch with color, then what people call green would look lovely. So I would say that my favorite color is the gray that corresponds to green.
3. While making a drawing, a lot of painters and other artists come to mind and act like conversation partners. I think about them and consider them to be my references. I imagine myself talking to them, or I make up stories in which our lives become intertwined in some way. These imaginary conversation partners make up a long list of people, who basically lived in between El Greco and Tal R. Here are some names: James Ensor, Philip Guston, Pierre Klossowski, Rodney Graham, Vladimir Majakovsky, W.G. Sebald and a lot of film makers…
4. I don’t keep my own artwork in my house; I keep it in my studio. My “house” — or to put it more accurately, the place where I sleep — only has one table, one chair, a television, a bed and a water boiler to make coffee in the morning. It is more or less a tent. Most of the time I am out or in my studio. But if there had to be one work hanging there I would choose Rodney Graham’s The Gifted Amateur, Nov 10th, 1962 (2007). It summarizes my relationship with painting in a very striking way, as it shows the artist in pajamas self-consciously acting like a modernist painter, in a highly staged, imaginary setting.
5. In a perfect square white cube with light coming in from the roof, dark gray concrete on the floor — a modernist art cathedral that has a whole history of works that have been displayed there previously. It should also be neatly framed (I’m thinking a dark brown, very hard tropical wood). The frame doesn’t have a conservational function; it is merely there to add to the painting’s aura.
6. There are no metaphysical limits, I guess, only cultural or historical ones. A painting can’t produce noise or talk, and most of the time it doesn’t show its backside, but I can imagine a painting that does both. Personally, and more importantly, I think it never reveals its trick.
7. I spit in my hands before I start a new canvas, and I approach it with my right foot first, superstitious as I am. I like to consider myself the Rafael Nadal of the art world, executing the same rituals before starting every time because I fear I will lose the game otherwise. I also have to make sure I have some Coca-Cola and cookies and a chicken sandwich in my studio, so I can work for hours on end without being interrupted.
8. As I consider myself more of a painterly draftsman, I believe I will definitely not be among those who are going to “save” painting. But I am sure it will lead a long and beautiful life if nothing seriously wrong happens to our planet.
9. As I already said: I am not really a painter. But I wouldn’t mind being one in my next life, making abstract paintings with an explosive coloration, or stately group portraits, or vertiginous mountain views. To be a professional table tennis player would also be nice, though.
10. As long as there are books like Vitamin P coming out, I can go to MoMA to see a James Ensor exhibition, Gerhard Richter is alive, there is work by Llyn Foulkes in the last Documenta and Kai Althoff is still making work, I am not worrying.
1. I’m still trying to figure that out.
2. The cheapest one.
3. I have always considered Gerhard Richter my Bob Ross.
4. I don’t like having art in my house, but I wouldn’t mind having Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s candies in some corner of my house.
5. I like José Lerma’s idea of paintings on top of keyboards. It sounds cool.
6. That damn flatness…
7. First, loud music (Lil Wayne?). I go in circles around my studio until I’m dizzy, and then I grab the brush and try to find the surface.
8. It seems to never have a future. It’s always about the present. You either believe in it or not, but if you do, you have to constantly be surviving.
9. A beach lifeguard.
10. It always is… So?
1. Painting is a direct action on a surface or material that forms in real time in front of you and becomes concrete. You control it temporarily, then you lose it again. Signifiers become semi-stable anchor points and keep the performance going, but you can’t recreate it or put it in words. You end up with an object. Painting is the making of an event: today I saw a painting in a foyer, by Olivier Mosset. Painting renders the invisible visible, as Merleau-Ponty said about Paul Klee.
2. I like light magenta but only if it shows up between pyrrole orange and Payne’s gray.
3. Piero della Francesca is a reference. I like the way he paints faces and marble, and the uncanny equivalence I find in this juxtaposition. I love the tension and suspension of the figures and their hierarchic/allover relations, their placid filling of scenarios. Colors are pigments embedded with meaning and scenes are set up as dreamy displays for the viewer. The figures face you, sometimes with their eyes shut, to make you realize something else outside the frame — your own position.
4. I would like a recent Ellsworth Kelly please — J — I would really like to live with one.
5. As the white cube has been so exhausted, I am into semi-darkness. But really I think that a painting needs to be installed. And in that sense the way to display it is relative to the context.
6. Blogs… New limits every time.
7. A work is an ongoing process. In a live-work space like mine there is little separation between morning coffee, e-mail, news apps and the studio. But I look for images, make sketches and research materials, in order to start projects. Sometimes I just start by stretching a canvas. Other times I have multiple panels that are set according to some rule, and I perform this ritual of moving the parts around ad infinitum, looking for a displacement or glimpse at something new.
8. Well, from what I can tell there are a lot of survivors. There is a future… If there is a lasting market, I don’t know… It might be a romantic activity, as writing poetry appears to be. In that sense, painting is often reduced to or even read as décor and could be almost extinguished as an element for conscious social exchange. I don’t envision other mediums though — even if newer or more contemporary — being able to detach or exist without the broad field of painting and its generative activity. And painting is an activity that also exists outside of the market in some ways.
It means individual desire.
9. Yes, but you never know. I could make pottery or tiles, or rugs or jackets or shoes. I think next time I would like to try architecture. Or have a coconut farm on a tropical island.
10. No, it is overappreciated. It’s hard for painting to be new before it becomes something else or someone else’s.
1. Um, same as it ever was? I remember reading an interview with Francesco Clemente about ten years ago and all the questions were like “What is time?” And he had answers!
2. Every color is beautiful in the right context. I tend to be drawn to your basic blue sky, green grass, yellow sun… the classics.
3. I’ve probably learned the most from John Currin, Jasper Johns, Robert Gober, Brice Marden and Philip Guston. True Believers.
4. Fra Angelico’s The Mocking of Christ (c.1440-41). It’s Jesus blindfolded with all these floating hands hitting him and a head spitting on him. I’m pretty sure it’s about not taking life too seriously.
5. I think having a painting in your house is the best. You can see it when you’re in different moods, at different times of day; the things you appreciate keep changing. And if it’s a good painting, the relationship will last.
6. Well, painting speaks a slow language, which is part of its unique charm and also makes it less accessible. It’s hard for most people to adjust to the pace and to be around an artwork consistently over time. It’s impractical.
7. Artwork is usually under development somewhere in my subconscious, often for many years. I first recognize it when it’s about halfway done and then I start painting.
8. There will always be painting. Until the singularity!!!!! j/k, robots will paint.
9. Hmm, maybe a musician? People are so much more susceptible to music as a conveyor of abstraction. Or a comedian like Will Ferrell? Or maybe a good person, like a kind doctor or teacher; most artists are horrible.
10. It’s not for everyone, and that’s fine, but I find most people really like paintings. I get annoyed when the tiny segment of the population that is most dedicated, the art world, seems obsessed with changing the form.