Latest Entry: November, 2016
Q - Okay, so we let you out of our sight for a few years and you go off on a few more tangents! Your new works are decidely organic, physical and materials based. What's with the 180 degree flip, save for the title of course which is so JP Paul as you continue to explore the visual and written arts in parallel.
A - Haa! For sure, "Nothing That A Lick of Paint Can't Obliterate" is definitely a mouthful but it does describe the series well in both of its connotations, negative and positve.
It's nice to be back working more closely with the arts world, but I don't think it was such a radical transformation. My works, even the early digital stuff, were always physical. They incorporated numerous elements that were never straight printing. All the digital works I brought to market were one-of-a-kinds. I know there are skeptics and cynics including some of my colleagues who say that digital art can never been one-of-a-kind or even editions limited to some arbitrary number. I cry "Bullshit!" I know many artists who use the computer as just one facet of production and combine them with other layers or elements..Their works, like mine, are one offs in the purest form of the word even though parts of the underlying content may be appropriated from reproduceable digital files. We're not talking dabs of paint over a giclee to give it that hand-touched narrative, nor textured transparent oversprays. Instead there are artists who conceive their work in a form that incorporates both digital and traditional methods and materials from inception. Everything else is just moving tools around like deck chairs.
Sorry for the rant. I just feel there are still too many traditionalists in the art world who need to stop their heel dragging over new art forms.
Back to the question. I'm still very involved with digital imaging and alternative arts. My latest series that you mentioned, "Anonymous Memories: Nothing That A Lick of Paint Can't Obliterate," is not digital because I feel it works better when actual physical layers of torn pictures and papers become the content and the message. I probably could have gone digital, made the works far larger and profited accordingly. I didn't because I want this series to be more personal, more intimate, a reminder that can be placed closer to our most important physical spaces. There was no need to emulate this with digital, in fact I think the rawness, the crude ripping of the paintings' layers and the leftover glue from under layers is the major aesthetic and conceptual point of the work.
Looking back, though, the idea came during a digital moment while we were cataloguing the Perez Franco Estate archives. Carlos kept copious notes and drawings of his worldwide travels and classwork in paper scrapbooks. They created a timeline of his development as a person, a father, an architect and ultimately as the brilliant visual artist that he became. My fear is that these delicate works, some over 65 years old, will deteriorate due to Uruguay's excessive humidity and ozone-layer free sun. We're thinking of digitizing all of the journals to present them in some format. Parallel to this, I noted that pages of the scrapbooks often had photos that had fallen off, descriptions that had been wiped out and replaced, even sketches that he erased in order to align a new idea. These journals had a dynamic quality to them, seemingly a life of their own, which is inconsistent with the fill 'em 'n store 'em nature of most scrapbooks and photo albums.
Q - So the series is essentially an homage to memories of your late father-in-law?
A. - Not really, no. Perhaps partially in some subconscious way since the idea was fomented after reviewing his journals. There's no doubt that Perez Franco was my primary influence, not only as an artist but as a man, In this series I wanted to explore the concept of our lives constantly morphing, sometimes for the better, somtimes not. With that, our perceptions of our pasts and futures change as well, hence the constant attempt to reshape history and thus ourselves even if the end game is a realignment for the current and future. The final image labelling is 100% my references based on my tangents and transitions. Carlos saw life differently than me even though we shared many common values and priorities. To say he is somehow embedded in this work, then yes, that's obviously true.
Q - I notice only 5 works from the series on the AltSur site. I was led to believe there were 15 in total. Holding back on us?
A - I confess! Actually, 5 went to patrons who have supported me since early in my art career. They're kind enough to purchase something from most series I create and always get in early... touch wood! The other 5 are reserved pending interest from a North American gallery. Uruguay is a very small but vibrant art market. It's not necessary that we have too many works here since the season is very short, albeit intense. Best to have works also available for the North American market which is the core of our business at this stage. And as we move to a more internet-centric global model, this becomes even more imperative.
Q - You're now more heavily involved with AltSur Gallery and the contemporary art scene. Any special impetus?
A- AltSur is the visual art business wing under the Artfronts umbrella. I've been active with this group for over 15 years online and over 30 years as a bricks & mortar representive for North and South American artists. Artfronts remains an arts information portal with valuable information for educators and consultants.. AltSur is the latest ecommerce platform for persons who would like to purchase art from the CPF Estate as well as my works or those of a half dozen current artists who we represent. Included in that group is Jay Makins who shares my interest in exploring digital image processes through organic, analog methods and materials. His recent Dot Matrix and Rubric works are spectacular. If you're looking to get in on the ground floor, I suggest you look at his work soon. At under 3k per mid-sized work, he's an up and comer you won't want to miss. Actually, many of AltSur's artists have taken a similar traditional - digital - traditional path and frequently explore both.
Previsous Entries: 2015 and earlier
Q - A few years ago you spent some time at the University of Cambridge in the UK. How'd that come about and what are your lasting impressions?
A - It was an enlightening experience in many ways. My wife was contracted to work in the UK so I took advantage of the two years to do a little coursework and then performed research related to the History of Fine Arts. My research paper involved the psychological affects of change as they apply to art critiquing and public acceptance (or rejection) of new artistic trends, very appropriate for me personally as digital art struggles to solidify its standing in the world of visual arts. It was very enlightening to discuss alternative viewpoints with luminaries in the field, from profs and tutors to museum directors, artists, collectors and curators. I had private tours of the inner workings of the Tate Modern, the Fitzwilliam and Kettle's Yard. I have plenty to go yet and hope some day to return to the UK so that I can complete my work since the only way to appreciate the university is to immerse yourself in the middle of it and its timeless city.
Cambridge is truly one of my favorite places on the planet with an intense yet serene and sophisticated vibe. The university is serious academics and not for the faint at heart since they will attempt to break you down to build you up. As one prof told me, Cambridge is not in the business of failure. They expect greatness from each and every student. If you cannot work independently and express yourself fluently both verbally and in written work, I'd suggest you look elsewhere. This is not the place to learn how to study.
From the positive side, there is an undeniable academic vigor throughout Cambridge. It is impossible not to be affected by the 800 years of history. I deeply respect the traditions of visual arts and this is certainly the place to do it as you walk each day in the shadows of giants (borrowed from the slogan for their recent anniversary celebrations.) Not only in the fields of art and literature mind you. Call me a sappy romantic, but it moved me when I sipped a pint in the same Eagle Pub where Watson and Crick discussed their discovery of the double helix DNA structure or walked by the buildings where Tennyson penned his prose. Then there are the cavernous old rooms where Bertrand Russell and the Cambridge Apostles expounded upon their latest musings or Darwin and Newton performed experiments in makeshift labs. Not to mention catching the vibes in the riverside Anchor Bar from where the still unknown original members of Pink Floyd emerged after long evenings listening to jazz and blues. Entering the halls of the university is intimidating by design but the resources throughout the 30 colleges that comprise Cambridge are extraordinary. I still get chills when I reminisce about an atmosphere that fosters higher learning and demands excellence so instinctively. I believe it would be almost impossible not to improve as a person at Cambridge if you make the effort.
Of course there are always negatives, especially for any North American studying in the UK. I found some individuals in the Faculty of Arts to be euro-centric to a fault. That's not in itself a bad thing since it provides a fresh viewpoint for anyone from the other side of the pond, but it does make it more difficult to support your findings if the majority of your reading and experiences are drawn from elsewhere. For instance, one North American critic/author who I rely on heavily for my studies was deemed unworthy until I mentioned that his work is published by their very own Cambridge University Press. Likewise, much of my knowledge about the world of visual arts is drawn from direct conversations with excellent artists and writers themselves. I've also discussed design and the social impact/rejection of modern architecture with some of the finest architects on the planet whose works and findings form part of university curricula throughout the world. Impressions and facts drawn from these conversations were deemed inadmissible as hearsay because they weren't supported in "acceptable" academic-grade printed material.This isn't a Cambridge flaw, it happens in many elite liberal arts colleges that don't accept real life learning experiences as academic. I've drawn my findings, opinions and preferences from working in the field with leading professionals rather than studying about that field with students and historians. The academians may not like this but I think it makes me just as productive in the real world.
The Sciences, Literature, Maths and Technology are cutting edge at Cambridge. Its alumni roll features more Nobel Prize winners than any other university by a comfortable margin, but the Fine Art department seems a tad traditional and defensive when it comes to discussing contemporary art from outside of the old continent. Slade or Goldsmith's in London are brilliant alternatives for young artists wishing to study the most recent art movements in the UK and the city of London is a creative hotbed rivaling New York.
Q - You've also spent some time living in Jamaica. That must have been a study in contrasts?
A - We've spent many years living in developing countries and actually honeymooned in Jamaica many moons ago. The transition was not at all drastic and in general quite pleasing. That bright yellow object in the sky that we had forgotten while living in the UK was a welcome relief. That said, Kingston is not London and you can develop island fever quite rapidly, especially if you're accustomed to doing the museum and gallery rounds a few times a month or, like myself, need to purchase difficult-to-find alternative materials for producing my work. I was working on a book rather than my art, so the experience was very positive.
Q - What is the state of contemporary art in Jamaica?
A - Jamaica has a very rich cultural history, mostly related to music and literature with a unique African / Caribbean vibe. I'm no expert but from what I've seen the national visual arts have taken a back seat this century with much of the production remaining decidedly colloquial and traditional. This could be related to its dominant conservative colonial past or its importance as a tourist mecca that perhaps generates a need to provide tourists with something that resembles their misconceptions of the Caribbean before arrival. Not sure really. That said, I've seen some chilling graphic work and poignant video productions that echo modern Kingston's battle to overcome severe economic strife and social decay. Unfortunately, most contemporary Jamaican artists are more popular abroad than they are in their homeland, with many choosing to live and exhibit where there is a market for their work. This creates an inevitable vacuum, hence strong contemporary shows are rare except when a local corporation funds a travelling exhibit featuring ex-pat Jamaican artists. But there is hope for the future. Many youths throughout the island have demonstrated tremendous talent and creativity which bodes well for the contemporary scene of this generation.
Q - You mentioned the London Art Scene. As someone who has experienced both, how would you compare it to New York's famous art enclaves?
A - I think they're very similar, certainly many of the same major artists, auction houses and galleries have a presence in both due to the standing of both as important financial centers and the globalization of the art industry. They both have sub-districts for upcomers, established mid-career and master artists. Same story as always. Artists move into cheap space, the region regentrifies, designer labels move in and the artists move elsewhere for lower rent. Pay-to-exhibit galleries are popping up all over the place for newcomers. From what I've heard, the London market is getting plenty of traffic from Asia, Russia and Middle Eastern collectors. I'm not sure if this is logistical, political or quality driven. One thing I know for certain is that it is much easier to navigate Manhattan's Chelsea district than East London due to the concentration of galleries within easy walking distance in Chelsea. Despite all the signage warning tourists visiting London, I was almost smacked by taxis more than once when looking the wrong way before crossing the street!
Q - You've also spent many years living in South America. What are your impressions of its art?
A - Latin America has always had a very active visual arts scene and it helps that I love much of the art produced here, the modern artists of the 20th century, excellent photographers and some of the contemporary work being produced throughout the continent. Digital is on the rise although it's an expensive proposition for many in third world countries, especially for alternative processing and mixed media digital work like I produce. I often go weeks or months at a time searching for appropriate materials. The global trend to installations and non-painting is prevalent here as well, but after speaking to many people in the market, there still seems to be more of an appreciation and respect for traditional painting, watercolors and sculptures that are unfortunately disappaearing in some other cutting-edge art meccas. This works for me since most of my work is two dimensional and I also represent an excellent abstract-figurative painter by the name of Carlos Perez Franco. The themes, the palettes, the techniques, the mystery . . . I've always been a huge fan of Latin American art, be it the masters like Tamayo, Lam and Torres Garcia to more recent artists like Ignacio Iturria.
Q - Do you feel your work has been influenced by the region, and if so, how?
A - Absolutely, and I hope in a very positive way. The obvious influences are the color palettes, both the rich warm and subdued of the southern cone, or the tropical vibrance of the north. Much of my imagery was produced in South America, not to mention the omnipresent Latin surrealism and the tendency to let visual art tell stories that are intertwined in the fabric of a piece but not always readily apparent. I've adopted some of the visual code, the symbols, the colloquial twists. There are plenty of other influences; the us-against-the-world mindset, the David versus Goliath themes of smaller countries, xenophobia and of course the political under-pinnings of a region that has had more than its fair share of chaos. As an ex-pat, I could also add isolation, melancholy and to some extent frustration for not being able to make more of an impact. Patience is mandatory in a region that has a more leisurely, I say healthier, pace.
Q - So what's the story behind the black cap? Haven't seen you without it in years!
A - Ha ha ha! The stock answer is that I'm paranoid about a receding hairline and petrified by melanoma! If you want a deeper answer, perhaps subconsciously the cap becomes a constant reminder that I need to stay true to myself. I'm not a suit and tie kind of guy, I've been there during my corporate days and to be honest I hope that people will accept me for what I am and what I produce rather than reject me for not conforming to any "code." I also hope that my work transcends first impressions. I suppose, subconsciously, that I've aligned myself on the outside looking in. (ie: there are plenty of windows and backs of heads, people depicted from behind in my visualwork, just as there are many observers and lurkers in my writing.) This just makes me work a little bit harder to gain real respect. I think we may sometimes forget that respect is earned, not a given. It may not be the norm in a society that leans more conservative and traditional than they care to admit, but I never judge people by their bank account, career choices nor their appearance . . . although I do still own a spittin' 25-year-old Armani business-casual dress shirt . . . It was gifted!