As It Transpired – An interview with Victoria Lucas

There is something undeniably fascinating about an artist who is able to work in different disciplines. It’s a fascination comparable to how you might feel on discovering your friend’s secret talent. UK based artist, Victoria Lucas, is one of these artists. Working between sculpture, film, and photography – with a little interactive work thrown in here and there for good measure – Lucas is most certainly not a one trick pony.

 

With a background in sculpture, Victoria Lucas has moved into the digital arts later on in her artistic career, and has now fully established herself as an exceptional digital artist. Although Lucas admits that she is still her own biggest critic, stating that she is still working towards the “feeling of calm and satisfaction” that all artists seem to chase after. Perhaps this revelation wouldn’t come as such a surprise if Lucas didn’t have so many successful artworks to her name already. So, how does the artist who has created pieces such as, ’12 Months of Neon Love’‘Interruptions’, and ‘After’ repeatedly create such intriguing and diverse work? When asked to describe her own work Lucas said that she always “starts with a place”, she “finds a hook” and creating work she hopes might “make people think about things in a different way.” “I kind of experience things and I’ll find poetic meanings in certain objects and places” Lucas says, explaining a little further how the “Non-places” she randomly encounters often become perfect starting points for her work to launch off from.

 

Victoria Lucas art

‘Market East, Philadelphia’ Victoria Lucas

 

Much of Lucas’s work over the past several years has been focused around these “Non-places” – places that many of us encounter and travel through or have past by on a daily basis without even batting an eyelid. This nondescript invisibility of these places to the everyday passer-by plays perfectly into Lucas’s work, as she turns the tables, photographing and videoing these usually crowded and unnoticed spaces in their unusually empty states. It is easy to understand when looking at pieces such as ‘After’ and ‘Interruptions’ how Lucas could use the word “Apocalyptic” in relation to much of her own work. Lucas takes spaces that otherwise would seem run-of-the-mill and mundane and displays them in a rather ominous and uneasy manner. The spaces themselves suddenly become void in their emptiness, and Lucas’s photographs and videos alike show much more than an idle set of stairs or an empty shopping centre – they display a lack of humanity and life, that otherwise would have gone unseen and unnoticed. “Everything will crumble and everyone will disappear.” Lucas stated, after addressing the way in which her own work helped her to “grapple with all the big questions”. Perhaps this is what makes so much of Lucas’s work, which is mostly void of any human presence, seem so human and emotive nonetheless.

 

Victoria Lucas had a lot of great advice for any wannabe practicing artists who might be struggling to find their footing. “Setting up your own things stops you getting really low from rejection.” Lucas advised, admitting herself that the most difficult obstacle she’d faced in her career had been the simple, yet all-important matter of, “Earning money.” Before honestly adding, “It’s a real struggle and it really affects your mental health I think. Being that close to the edge it can get quite desperate.” However, most importantly Lucas wanted aspiring artists to know that, “You have to make mistakes, you have to fail, you have to have those moments. You learn things from it and it doesn’t matter. It’s all part of striving to be an artist.” “Don’t give up and don’t be afraid to fail. Just keep pushing, even when you think it’s impossible.” If any more inspiration was needed on this point it’s very clear that Lucas herself has proved this advice to be true; using her art to work through hard times, and continuously pushing through uncertainty and financial struggle, Lucas is steadily making her way to exactly where she wants to be in life.

 

Victoria Lucas Art

‘Remedy’ Victoria Lucas

 

Finally, does Victoria Lucas believe artists can use art to change the World? “We can, in a very small way, change the world.” Lucas replied, adding, “I think artists have a lot of freedom, freedom that the media or other institutions don’t have, so we can tell things as they are. We have a really valuable responsibility to keep questioning our environment and the things that are happening.”

 

So, perhaps we should all start viewing art in the way Lucas does – as a platform to express our own thoughts while also forcing others to look at things from a different angle. Who knows what we could change?

 

An Interview With Tim Manthey – Don’t Quit Your Daydream

You can often understand a lot about an artists’ work just by the way the artist himself talks about it. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but perhaps the words are sometimes enough. Tim Manthey – an artist who is being referred to more and more as ‘Cloud Nectar,’ a name he originally paired with his work itself – is a contemporary collage artist creating dreamlike pieces that could easily be compared to the works of artists such as Salvador Dali, Andre Breton, or René Magritte with a modern day twist. Describing his own work as being “dipped in a surrealistic batter and deep-fried with love” it’s more than clear that Tim Manthey is connected to his work as an artist should be – he is in love with it, and he is in love with creating it, forming a passion that is readable through every collage he creates.

 

Penumbra

Courtesy of the artist Tim Manthey

So, how does an artist such as Tim Manthey – a previous self-confessed dabbler – create these works of art? Wondering whether it’s a matter of finding one image as a kind of launching off point for each piece and going from there, I was curious to find out exactly what Manthey’s own process for working was. To this question Mathey replied in a somewhat nonchalant manner, “You hit the nail on the head. Unless I’m embarking on a thematic piece, it starts with one image flying off the page.” He continued to explain that “Once [he] gets back to the studio the starter image will mingle with different backgrounds, foregrounds, and other random bits that are in a messy pile on [his] desk. It’s the primordial soup method.” Creating art in such a trial and error manner most definitely works well for Manthey, creating pieces that are constantly free and organic in feeling, even despite the combination of images and colours being far from natural itself. This laid back approach to the creation of his collages works extremely well with the images Manthey chooses to use – with most of them being extracted from “books, magazines, and ephemera that are 20 to 100 years old” everything about Manthey’s work and the retro feeling that it creates rings true to a time of empowerment, creativity, and adventure.

 

Having said that Manthey’s work hints at empowerment, creativity and adventure, it became clear throughout our interview that he himself is also very passionate about all three of these traits. Sounding like some kind of an Artistic Freedom Fighter, Manthey didn’t have a rehearsed or even slightly narcissistic or selfish response when I asked what he’d still like to achieve in his career. Instead, Manthey took the opportunity to make a point of what too many of us know all too well, stating that “So many artists are not able to devote the right amount of time to their work to really let it blossom, because to make art a sustainable livelihood is challenging right now to say the least.” However, Manthey wasn’t simply pointing this out – or worse, rubbing in the fact that he was one of the lucky few that this no longer applied to – instead, he continued to explain that he wants to “see this change soon”, before announcing that he himself “would love to help be a part of that shift.”Manthey also went on to mention that he would “seriously like to get more in touch with the audience”, creating a ripple effect in my mind that perhaps these two wishes for the near future were related. It’s far too true that artists of all kinds are struggling to create – with todays economic climate just proving the cherry on top of a long list of obstacles still to overcome – but with Manthey later describing collaborations as the “hidden treasures in this journey” perhaps working together is in fact the first step towards a better future for all artists. “It’s the wave of the future.” Manthey declared when referring to collaborations, before adding that we should all “Seek out some collaborators. You won’t regret it.”

 

Tim Manthey

Courtesy of the artist Tim Manthey

Unsurprisingly, due to this way of thinking about art, Manthey also had an impressive answer in line when I asked the eternally hopeful question of whether we could use art to change the world. “It’s interesting how currents move. I grew up in the eighties. Western culture and media in the eighties was highly influenced by what artists were doing in the sixties. There is a gestation period sometimes, but art always has lasting effects in the world. Now with streamlined forms of media gathering steam, that gap is narrowing. We are seeing the perspectives of artists shaping culture sooner and sooner. Art can put people in touch with their own original thoughts. Original thoughts when accepted as true, lead to action. Let’s watch this unfold and take part in it, and connect along the way.”

 

With that in mind, perhaps it is time to review the advice Tim Manthey would like all wannabe practicing artists to know. Here is a list of points he wishes he’d “heard from teachers, mentors and sages”;

 

1.)   Run. Physically go running, at night if you can. Visions will come.

2.)   Your unique way of seeing things is important, real, and something you’ve already been using. Be honest with yourself about what you truly desire and it will become art.

3.)   Make lots of mistakes and experiment with mediums until you find a process that you can get totally addicted to. The rewards will flow immediately, because the process is the reward. Everything else is icing.

4.)   Stay very, very curious and let go of cynicism.

5.)   Trust your intuition like gravity, it can’t fail you.

6.)   Doodle in traffic. Sing in the produce aisle. Make art constantly: good art, bad art, mediocre art, it all goes into the soup and leads to the next thing, so keep your hands moving.

7.)   Ask for help. Be specific. Help will emerge from the woodwork. A time will come when you will help others, too.

 

It’s all quite simple, but I doubt many artists can admit to ticking off each of these points as often as they actually should – so, what are you waiting for, take the advice of an artist like Tim Manthey and who knows what you’ll be able to achieve. It seems the simple fact is, you’ve just got to keep moving, in Manthey’s own words, “What will you create?”

An Interview with Jacob Van Loon: The Transcripts

DC: As an artist what is one thing that you still have yet to achieve that you would like to achieve in the near future?

 

JVL: I’m leaving my day job behind to in part return to school as a Drawing student, but also to pursue a residency opportunity that may the doorway to a full time arts career. Those are two elements to my immediate, known future that I need to play by ear. I think a lot of artists operate with hyper-specific goals, but I’ve never picked up on that mode. Maybe it shows.

 

DC: For someone who might be viewing your work for the first time – how would you describe the processes and methods that go into creating each piece?

 

JVL: I work with a willingness to strike out what might be the strongest part of a composition in order to reconsider the entire piece. There are times where one area of the painting or drawing is set, and an instinctual timidity set in for the rest of the piece. The common reaction to that is “work the rest of the piece up to the same level of the area that is strongest”. Most the time, the section that is strongest first is lying. By intentionally disturbing the strongest areas, I’m replacing fear with an initiative. Not holding a part sacred over the whole has other implications, but that’s why my work consists of more than one layer. To be able to see the initiative.

 

DC: The combined processes that go into creating your work often seem extremely time consuming, how do you remain motivated to keep up with – and more importantly finish – each piece?
JVL: I’m not convinced I know how to finish a painting. I force myself to stop working on a piece, and sometimes it happens where I think it’s a finished piece but I look at it a few weeks later and start adding more. The level of detail I work within facilitates that, but also diffuses the endpoint. Most my work focuses on small details of an idea rather than an overarching concept, so anything other than the detail-intensive work I’ve fallen into seems like a disservice.

 

 DC: Colour seems to act as a very important presence, within your paintings in particular – is the addition of colour simply another step in the process of creating your work that comes somewhat instinctively, or are there more conceptually driven decisions behind the colours you choose to use?

 

JVL: My use of colour is unassigned, and I prefer the less-is-more approach when using colour. It’s easy to lay down everything thick and bright, and I think each residual drawn or painted work emphasizes more control over that impulse. There’s surface-level implications with using a desaturated palette – it points to weathering, sun-bleaching, lack of maintenance, and the like. Even those obvious considerations are minimal to me, texture and value has always been more interesting to me than colour. Kaskaskia was one of the first paintings with extensive green I’ve completed in the past three years. 

 

DC: You have a particularly impressive web presence, how important do you consider it, as an artist, to get yourself and your work out there on the Internet?

 

JVL: It’s been unequivocally important, in the way of opportunity and career experience. There’s a lot of falsehood to endure when relying heavily on web presence, but I don’t perceive that as being different from more conventional approaches to the same objective. I’ve done my share of spending time trying to gain connections and forging relationships with people on a local level. Every artist I know goes through that, and dealing with the non-commitment of others can really wear a person down especially when their livelihood is at stake.

There’s a pushback with a lot of artists about using the internet on the level that I and others do, and it has nothing to do with age or a generational gap. Some people disagree with using the internet as a platform for artwork. The reason for dismissal is always fear-based. “My work doesn’t look good on a computer screen,” “Someone will steal my work,” “I don’t trust XYZ intention of the people looking at my art on their computers” “I will be exploited,” “it’s not the same experience,” “It’s not personal enough,”. I don’t care how contentious this is to say: It’s almost guaranteed that you are in some way arrogant or stupid if you are a practicing artist who refuses to use the internet. It doesn’t matter what your reason is, babies cry for a lot of different reasons but it all sounds equally annoying to my ears.

Online platforms give you chance after chance to put your best foot forward, and it’s usually at no cost except for time. It’s still humbling to know my work is hanging in different places all over the world, because of the presence I’ve maintained online.

 

DC: Your aesthetic is “influenced by architecture, cartography, scientific illustration and graphic design” – how is it all of these different inspirations came together to help to create your work as it is today (is your work literally a representation of all of your creative interests in one space)?

 

JVL: I like to consider all the processes I was taught when making a piece, but it’s not necessarily a high-priority focus that a viewer recognize all the influence. My approach to visual art is similar to the problem-solving aspect foundational to design. What a 12th century illuminated manuscript has in common with the advertisement for Target on the subway is that they are both made to structure information to the viewer in a way they normally wouldn’t see. I’m happy to have a lot of opportunity to act on that impulse through my drawings and paintings.

 

DC: Are you ever tempted to recreate any of your paintings digitally?

 

JVL: I’m most interested in learning 3-D modelling at this point, for structures that would accompany or enhance my 2-D work. I hope to have an opportunity in the next year to test some ideas.

 

DC: Recently your paintings seem to have become much more three dimensional, almost suggesting a natural yet architectural growth. Was this change a conscious decision or just another natural progression of your work?

 

JVL: Up until the middle of last year, my work had architectural influence but intentionally lacked structure or conventional depth (tied to landscape or dimension). Stations / Colliders address space in a much more direct way, where what isn’t drawn into those spaces is of equal importance. They are also a more direct correlation between design and the act of drawing. They probably have more in common with the painted works than I think they do.

 

DC: Do you ever find it difficult to balance commission type work with your own creative projects?

 

JVL: I’ve been fortunate to have clients who give me space to continue my body of work, on commission. A lot of my work is commissioned with the understanding any new piece will be a sensible continuation of existing work.

JVL: I’ve been approached by a few different agencies/other entities for specific projects, but have been less inclined to take on a prompt birthed in a room full of marketing people/CDs who have never actually looked at my portfolio to know what I do best. I like being challenged by a prompt, not manipulated.

 

DC: How does the natural transition between ideas and pieces work specifically for you – is it all planned and sketched out before you start, or do you let it evolve and form into new work freely?
JVL: I don’t plan every piece. An old drawing teacher of mine basically said thumbnails and sketches are the devil, the notion of which I whole-heartedly reject. Some of my work needs to be fleshed out before the final piece starts, even considering that my painted work is full of live edits, and you can see that decision making in the final pieces. The figurative work I do is much more automatic, because it’s a destructive/deconstructive approach in comparison to my drawings and paintings.

 

DC: Have you ever worked collaboratively with another artist/Would you ever be interested in working collaboratively with another artist?

JVL: I love collaborations but it’s difficult to find proper time to do anything like that in great depth. I’ve done some back-and-forth with Gabrielle Rose, Ben Sears, Ryan Humphry, Michael Chase and a few other friends. I’d like to do some extensive piece with Michael Canich.
DC: Has your work ever taken any dramatic turns either conceptually or in the way that you use materials and processes?

 

JVL: My work is drama-free, and non-toxic. I combine a lot of things that aren’t totally unconventional but not necessarily made to be combined. The mixtures can generate some surprises down the road as whatever chemistry I’ve created on the surface is dynamic and prone to change over time. That’s rare though, and I tend not to mess around too much if the work is commissioned.

 

DC: Had you always wanted to become an artist?

 

JVL: No way.

 

DC: What has been the most difficult part of reaching the point you are at today with your work and career?

 

JVL: Keeping the self-doubt out of my work, completely.

 

DC: Any advice for any practicing artists?

JVL: Don’t stop working, and don’t let your work get ugly.

 

DC: And finally, do you think art can be used to change the World?

I’m not concerned with that.

 

With Thanks to Jacob Van Loon.

An Interview with Jacob Van Loon

I dont care how contentious this is to say: Its almost guaranteed that you are in some way arrogant or stupid if you are a practicing artist who refuses to use the Internet.

These strong and opinionated words are those of Chicago based artist Jacob Van Loon, and as a successful artist with an impressive web presence, perhaps they are words best taken on board. Attributing the humbling fact that hiswork is hanging in different places all over the world, because of the presence [hes] maintained online.Obviously Van Loon is doing something right online that so many others are still missing out on; and with the wise and somewhat modern opinion that Online platforms give you chance after chance to put your best foot forward, and its usually at no cost except for time surely all practicing (and wannabe practicing) artists should be following suit.

While Jacob Van Loons web presence might seem as if it takes up most of his time alone, his real passion lies in the artwork that he uses said web presence to advertise and reveal to the world. Working with a willingness to strike out what might be the strongest part of a composition in order to reconsider the entire piece Van Loon uses sharp lines, de-saturated colour, and a spectacularly steady hand to create impressively intricate yet bold drawings and paintings. With an aesthetic influenced by architecture, cartography, scientific illustration and graphic design, Van Loon is the first to admit that his approach to visual art is similar to the problem-solving aspect foundational to design, aiming to represent this information and his influences in a fresh and unique way.

With such intricate and detail orientated work I had to know how any artist could possess such admirable motivation and determination. However, with his reply beginning with the statement, Im not convinced I know how to finish a painting, it seems as though Van Loon may be more like other artists than I first assumed. With the widely believed opinion that artists are never truly finished with their work ringing true in my mind, Van Loon adds I force myself to stop working on a piece, and sometimes it happens where I think its a finished piece but I look at it a few weeks later and start adding more.

Jacob Van Loon

Jacob Van Loon – Homan Square

I was surprised, however, to find that colour didnt play such an intrinsic role within the creation of Van Loons work as I had always assumed it did. My use of colour is unassigned, he stated, adding that he always preferredthe less-is-more approach when using colour. Stating thattexture and value [had] always been more interesting to [him] than colour. Everything makes a little more sense, as while colour does clearly play a large role in the overall aesthetics of the work, the texturing and appearance of layering is most certainly more key to each pieces individual success. This act of layering and texturizing within Van Loons work is even noticeable within his most recent works  works which also seem to relate more closely to his constant inspirations of design and architecture of a more direct correlation forming between design and the act of drawing.

Having already taken part in nineteen exhibitions since 2009, and with a handful of commissioned projects under his belt, it is no surprise that Jacob Van Loon expects to have a busy few years ahead of him. When asked about his plans for the near future, Van Loon commented that A lot of artists operate with hyper-specific goals, but Ive never picked up on that mode - indicating that he prefers to set short term goals that can be taken on over a matter of years – or even months – rather than decades. With plans to leave his day job behind to in part return to school as a Drawing student, but also to pursue a residency opportunity that may be the doorway to a full time arts career - heres hoping that Van Loons career continues as successfully and impressively as it has started.

As an artist who is not concerned with whether or not art has or can change the World, I will leave you with Van Loons simple yet wise advice for any wannabe practicing artists;

Dont stop working, and dont let your work get ugly.

Jacob Van Loon

Jacob Van Loon

An Interview With Jeff Luker – In Wilderness

An Interview With Jeff Luker

In Wilderness

“Keep making the art you want to make, that will make you happy”, “do something new or at least true to what you believe in”, and most importantly, “be brave.” This is the advice Jeff Luker offered up to all wannabe practising artists when I interviewed him recently. Making the point that “the world doesn’t need more people making art that is on trend”, Luker played true to the main message and theme of his own work, honesty.

 

Jeff Luker’s photography is the rarely discovered artwork that a viewer would willingly opt to disappear and live within. With a relentless honesty and a sense of artistic integrity that many artists – both current and future – could do with learning a thing or two about, Luker creates photographs that capture fleetingly youthful moments in the split second they occur. “I want my photos to be true, not some fake version of what I think the world could be” Luker responded when I inquired as to whether he ever structures photos and shoots purposely around concepts. “At the end of the day I want to know I was there, and it happened, and it was real.” The idea of an unaltered and honest representation of reality is something that seems so overlooked in the Art World today; it’s not glamour, it’s not an unachievable lie, and there is no trickery to be found within Luker’s work, overall he perfectly achieves what he sets out to work towards with every photo, it’s honest and that’s what makes it so special.

Jeff Luker

As a self confessed “shoot first, ask questions later kind of photographer” it’s really no surprise that Luker’s photographs seem to sing of a fleeting life, with every image representing this attitude of “right time, right place and capturing that moment.” But, this sense of youth and adventure is by no means the only thing Luker wishes to represent within his work. “Now that I am getting into my later 20′s, I am not interested in youth culture in the same way” Luker stated, admitting that like all artists he wants “to keep progressing” and making “work that make sense to [him] and [his] worldview.” Personally I feel as though this sense of self within Luker’s work plays a huge role in how honest the outcome is. Luker’s main intention as an artist is to continue making work for himself – representing his own life, opinions and views – and that is what makes each photograph so true and pure, they’re his photographs.

 

That being said, every artist has to make money somehow, and Luker, like many others, also has many commercially creative projects under his belt. Having worked for companies such as Nike, Levis, and Urban Outfitters I had to enquire as to whether or not Luker ever felt a sense of imbalance between his own creative projects and commissioned work. To this, Luker replied “while they do sort of draw from the same place, personal Vs professional definitely have their differences”, stating “taking photos for [his] own projects is [his] first love” before adding – of course – that he also loves Commercial work as “it is such an exciting and fun process”. Overall, I think it’s more than fair to say that while working on both his own creative projects as well as commissioned work for such impressive names and labels, Luker has definitely “been pretty successful at balancing the two”.

Jeff Luker

Proving to be an artist after my own heart, Luker went on to affirm that he is a “very spontaneous person” announcing – when asked of his future plans for work – that he doesn’t “know what the next five years look like or even the next six months.” Currently working on a book about the American Wilderness Luker is hoping to allow his work to evolve and grow, naturally leading him and his photography to wherever it has to be. “I think it is so hard for people to let their work progress naturally at a pace it should,” he added, before – somewhat bravely stating – that “art and photography are just so fast paced and people are just cranking stuff out. I try to not let all that interfere with my own process.” This rather Zen approach to creating artwork of any kind seems to be something that more artists should attempt to adopt for themselves; after all, art shouldn’t be rushed just as much as it shouldn’t be created purely for the sake of money, we all need to learn to take our time, remembering to concentrate on what’s actually important.

 

So finally, does Jeff Luker believe Art can change the world? “Yes and no. I think art can change how we feel about the world and how we go about our lives and the choices we make. But I think we need to recognize that everything is connected. Making art is essential, spreading ideas, communicating with each other, sharing our emotions, are all so important. But at the end of the day I think what is most important to changing the world is just to be a good, kind, and compassionate person. What was it Gandhi said, ““To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.””

 

Jeff Luker uses his “35mm film – Kodak Portra” most often, but as a camera enthusiast he also owns a collection of other cameras including the “Yashica T4, Nikon FM2, Contax T2, Contax G2” and shoots digitally with a “Canon 5dmk3.”

 

Keep up to date with all of Luker’s work at www.jeffluker.com and be sure to follow him on Instagram http://instagram.com/jeff_luker and Tumblr http://jeffluker.tumblr.com/.

The Full Kevin Townsend Interview : The Transcripts

Q: Your work often takes on many forms, would you describe yourself as a multi-disciplined artist or do you consider your practice more specific and specialized?

A:  I don’t often think about how to categorize my work, but if I have to describe it, I guess I am equal parts process and concept driven— my work begins with an idea or concept and evolves organically through process, the materials aren’t the driving factor in the work any longer. (Earlier in my carrier I would call myself a printmaker, but that no longer feels accurate)

Q: On your website I read that you are a teacher as well as an artist, if there was one thing you could teach people through the work that you create what would it be? What would be the most important thing a viewer could walk away from your work with?

A:  It’s funny, while my work isn’t meant to be didactic or instructional— I want both my students and viewers of my work to dig deeper, to look beyond the surface, to ask questions, to really read the work through their own eyes. As an artist and an educator I am interested in engaging in a dialog— the ideal scenario (in each case) results in some degree of questioning, introspection, synthesis, searching or personalization of what is offered.

Q: You have said that your current work encapsulates “issues of temporality and permanence” does this underlying concept have anything to do with the materials/mediums you chose to use to create this work – e.g., is the temporality you speak of represented by the temporality of the chalk that you often use?

A: Yes. As this series of work has progressed the idea of the work becoming a more direct metaphor for memory, ultimately lead to the work taking on some of the characteristics of being more fragile, malleable, temporary became increasingly important. As the drawings became more temporal, they also became more performative and public— I needed an element of risk and a way to further give up control and drawing with chalk in awkward and intimate places evolved very organically. Once the works shifted to the point where these repeated lines began being deposited on blackboards in public restroom walls, both the act of making/drawing and the drawing itself were exposed, the work became incredibly vulnerable. Protected by the privacy of the bathroom any visitor could anonymously wipe the drawing away or draw into it at anytime and yet they don’t. The custodians of these spaces have to make a determinations at the end of the evening or the following day about wether or not to erase the marks I’ve left. I also quite enjoy the added associations with chalk as a child’s mark-making tool or the instructional tool of the teacher.

Q: So, Memory is the foundational concept for all of your work when, how and why did the issue of Memory become so important to you and your work? (If this question is too personal please feel free to disregard it)

A: Put simply, a series of events in my life left me with intense, vivid memories that shaped my life in dramatic ways—becoming the architecture of my identity. I shared these experiences with others, who remember them differently and who were equally and oppositely affected by these events. I first became fascinated with the idea of ‘truth’ as it relates to memory as a way to help me accept our divergences. The more I read the more fascinating it became to me— The reality that our memories can be encoded with bias (written in our brains as a hybrid between the actual events and the version of the events that we need in order to maintain our own self concept) was revolutionary to me. The science of memory gave me some peace and the mechanics and physiology  of memory gave me inspiration.
Q: Your drawings (particularly your recently completed work) are beautifully fluid and organic, does this represent the way in which you create them in an instinctual and of the moment manner, or are you the kind of artist who prepares, practices, and plans everything first to then copy onto a larger scale?

A:  Yeah, I like to think that the drawings reflect the fluid nature of their creation— the follow of time arrested and rendered as a landscape without any pre-cognition or visualization. Each drawing literally starts with a single line, made entirely in the moment, the drawings end in one of two ways: either I run out of available space and the drawing stops or If I hesitate for longer than a minute or catch myself plotting the next move the drawing ends. I want to keep these drawings as documents of the moments spent making them, records of the present and presence, too much pre planning would kill that for me.

Q: For your site specific work, such as “Waiting For Rain”, “We Run Ourselves Aground” and even “Drawing Room” to a certain extent, how are the display spaces selected – do they all hold a specific relevance to you, is it just a matter of where the work can look its best, or are the spaces you choose to use completely random and instinctual?

A: Often in the early iterations of the work, the locations emerge out of familiarity and proximity. In the pieces you mentioned, the locations are all easy walking distance from my home/studio and are areas where I know intimately the traffic patterns and lighting conditions. I’m interested in people encountering or engaging the work in a way that is surprising or unexpected, but also in a way where it doesn’t feel oppressive or ego driven— I guess most often, I’m looking for a bit of subtlety and intimacy

Q: This is purely a question formed around my own curiosity more than anything else, but, when creating site specific work, or even when you photograph your work displayed in the urban environment (“In Transit (Dream to Dream)”) do you always receive permission to use these spaces as part of your work or do you wholly play the role of the Rebellious Artist using what’s around and hoping you don’t get caught/asked to move along?

A:  I have never sought permission to install my work in the public space, this is not to say that I won’t in the future, but at present I’m interested in a quieter dialog with public space rather than a shocking visual collision. For ‘in transit (dream to dream)’ I showed up at the train station during morning rush hour, with a crowd of people waiting for the train, took out my staple gun and proceeded to install the tar paper over the advertising posters and then spent the next 3 hours drawing in chalk on the piece. No one said a single word to me and the police drive through that station every 20 minutes like clock work— I could feel them watching me, but no one ever engaged me, stopped me or interrupted me in any way.

Q: Your work has primarily been black and white, however, there are some pieces (especially within your recently completed work) that involve colour, when you use colour are you using it on a purely aesthetic level, or does it add to the concept, helping to create another meaning and message through the pieces themselves?

A:  In dealing with memory I often think of things in terms of binary oppositions: black and white, presence and absence, etc… the choice to work in black and white resonates the most strongly for me, it feels the most universal. Where as color is intimate to me, its more personal— I think the use of color in many of these pieces is indulgent but it isn’t calculated. I’ve come to recognize it as a transition marker in the work, the need to insert color often signifies some shift in my thoughts regarding the work or perceived deficiency. I’d like to think that I will play more with the juxtaposition between color and black and white as the work moves forward, but only time will tell— I thought I was done with the line drawings 3 months ago…

Q: What’s next for you and your work, and more importantly how does the natural transition between ideas and pieces work specifically for you – is it all planned and sketched out before you start, or do you let it evolve and form into new work freely?

A:  For a long time in my practice, I had my next works planned and on deck, waiting to be made. Currently the work is driving the work. Concepts lead, process creates and aesthetic concerns follow (often in the editing). I make hundreds of line drawings but only show a handful, many don’t make the cut.
I keep running thoughts, reactions and ideas in a journal/sketchbook, but show up each day to the studio with only one plan: work. 
That said, the work is moving more towards focusing on the act of drawing, the performance, the ephemeral— existing somewhere between drawing, sculpture, installation and performance.

Q: Have you ever worked collaboratively with another artist/Would you ever be interested in working collaboratively with another artist?

A: I worked for a while as a master printer, collaboration is something that is in my artistic DNA and I would love to collaborate in the future. Currently, I am interested in engaging the public as collaborators in new work, but I am always open to other potential opportunities.

Q: Has your work ever taken any dramatic turns either conceptually or in the way that you use materials and processes?

A: Yes. I was trained as a printmaker. I made somewhat narrative, dream-like figurative vignettes for a long time as a means of dealing with issues of memory. They were deeply personal, technically interesting but unsatisfying to me. I began reading about the mechanics and physiology of memory and it changed my world… for 2 years I made shitty hybrid works that tried to bridge the gap between representation and concept, trying to resolve where I had come from with where I wanted to be. I ultimately abandoned all representation in my work as it felt like a crutch— I let the concepts lead. I am always trying (struggling) to simplify, remove the excesses and distill the concepts down to their essence… In many ways, I think I am still in transition, midway through a rather large dramatic turn.

Q: Had you always wanted to become an artist?

A: Looking back it was a toss up between architect, artist and archeologist— I seemed to have something with careers that began with ‘A’…

Q: What has been the most difficult part of reaching the point you are at today with your work and career?

A: Wow. This is a loaded question… Are you a therapist?
I guess it can be boiled down to one thought: balance. balancing my two passions: teaching and making, balancing heart, head and hand, balancing my needs with the needs of my family.

Q: Any advice for any wannabe practicing artists (the kind who are just about to graduate from University, for example)?

A: Hmm… Keep your eyes on the horizon and hands on the wheel, don’t try to plan a specific route to your desired destination— explore many paths to your goal and be willing and open to taking a path you may not have considered. Say “yes” a lot early on when presented with new opportunities. Be humble, no one likes an ego centric, overly self involved artist. Realize that this choice to be an artist is less about career and more about a worldview— you are a synthesizer. Your skill set and creative problem solving abilities are valuable in many contexts, the trick is finding the contexts that are meaningful to you. And finally: don’t pursue teaching as a profession unless you genuinely love it— teaching, being an educator is not a 9-5 job to be used as a fall back means of support. Our students deserve passionate, driven and dedicated teachers.

Q: And finally, do you think as artists we can use art to change the World?


A: Yes. Art has already changed the world several times – Artists gave a face to Christianity and these images were used to convert millions of illiterate people to a new worldview. America used art to support ideas about westward expansion. The final scene of George Lucas’s ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ revolutionised the prosthetic limbs industry, Kubrick’s ‘2001’ planted seeds for the iPad. I believe that the arts can show us what is possible. 
to quote  Arthur O’Shaughnessy (and Willy Wonka),

“We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.”

 

Written By Daniel Coleborn

An Interview With Kevin Townsend – We Run Ourselves Aground


Can Art change the World; has it really got the power to make a difference? This is a question that could boggle and fluster so many artists from their usual calm and collected state. Boston based artist and teacher Kevin Townsend, however, seemed to have the perfect answer when I broached this topic as part of an interview conducted recently. Townsend simply stated in reply, “Yes. Art has already changed the world several times” before using examples ranging from early Christian art, to Lucas’s Star Wars, and Kubrick’s 2001 to elaborate on how much power art does have, and has always had, over the World as a whole. This was simply one of Townsend’s flawlessly composed yet whole heartedly honest answers that I received in response to the questions I posed before him; yet, I believe it is one of the best ways to introduce him as the Artist, Intellect and Teacher that he is.

Kevin Townsend‘Carried By Strangers’ 2013, Kevin Townsend.

Understanding that a creative career in the visual arts relies heavily on “balancing heart, head and hand” it is no surprise that Townsend’s own work is structured heavily atop a personal and heavily humanised foundational concept. Townsend’s current work is primarily “driven by issues surrounding memory, its formation, storage and subsequent degradation over time”. By using materials such as tar paper and white chalk as a “direct metaphor for memory” and its “fragile, malleable, [and] temporary” states, Townsend creates abstract yet immersive work that cries out for the viewers’ attention and interaction through its relatedly humanised marks. Like many artists, Townsend’s choice of concept seems to be rooted in a personal history that only he can – and should – ever know the whole story behind. However, when asked why this concept was of such importance to him and his work, Townsend stated, “The science of memory gave [him] some peace and the mechanics and physiology of memory gave [him] inspiration”. This indicates that he – much like many other artists – has found a link between art and science that seems to feed and inspire his work to become somewhat of a midway marker between the two opposing industries.

Kevin Townsend

‘In Transit (Dream To Dream)’ 2013, Kevin Townsend.

What the audience sees and takes away from an artist’s work is an agonising and uncontrollable matter that every artist has to deal with; this is an especially unstable issue for artists who work in an ambiguous manner such as Townsend does so often. For this reason I expected Townsend to have a fully rehearsed and extremely specific response when I asked what he’d like to teach people through his work. Instead, he simply replied in the casual yet intellectual manner that, I was quickly beginning to realise, perfectly demonstrated how he was able to work so fluidly between an artistic career and that of a teacher. Purely stating that he wanted the “viewers of [his] work
to dig deeper” until they “really read the work through their own eyes” Townsend made it clear that there is no ulterior motive behind his work; anyone is free to see it as they please, taking away whatever they want from it, as long as they take away something that is.

Kevin Townsend

‘We Run Ourselves Aground’ 2014, Kevin Townsend.

By creating artwork that possesses such a natural dialogue with the viewer, and through successfully balancing his own Artistic career while also blazing a trail as an outstanding educator, Kevin Townsend is a creative individual that everyone hoping to work in the creative sector should strive to be more like. So, what are his words of wisdom for any wannabe practicing artists? Well, to summarise a little, “Keep your eyes on the horizon and hands on the wheel”, “explore many paths to your goal”, “Say “yes” a lot early on when presented with new opportunities”, and most importantly perhaps, “Be humble, no one likes an ego centric, overly self involved artist.”

Kevin Townsend was recently featured on artistaday.com and has also confirmed a solo show to take place later this year. If you’re interested in his work be sure to check out more of his work at sevenknotwind.com.

Written By Daniel Coleborn