All new posts will be at the new location.
You can now find The Semi-Finalist at https://www.thesemi-finalist.com/
All new posts will be at the new location.
In the studio with a nearly finished piece.
My first encounter with Iván Carmona’s work was seeing Imprint of Place, the two-person show that he was in last year at PDX CONTEMPORARY ART with Liz Rob. I went during the first Thursday opening and the gallery was filled with supporters, collectors, and casual onlookers, but I remember immediately feeling like I was the only person in the room. Rob’s wall pieces maintained a commanding presence from the outer edges of the space and a long table full of Carmona’s intimate, brightly colored sculptures pierced through the winter coats shuffling across the gallery. Seeing that table was like unexpectedly seeing an old friend at a party who I hadn’t realized I was missing and having them call me over for a private reunion.
When I think about that moment, I don’t remember hearing a single conversation taking place in the gallery. In my mind’s eye it was as quiet as slipping under the warm, soapy water of a bath, and I can see myself walking towards the table of painted sculptures that felt like they had been conjured into existence specifically for me to look at. It was, quite simply, a transfixing visual experience.
Iván Carmona recently let me visit him in his Northwest Portland studio. Below are some Semi-Finalist questions and Carmona’s responses. Many of the photos are by Mario Gallucci courtesy of PDX CONTEMPORARY ART.
Left: works in progress in Carmona's studio.
Right: Flamingo, flashe on ceramic, 2019. Photo: Mario Gallucci
Semi-Finalist: Iván, your work is often deceptively simple. How do you arrive at a given form?
Iván Carmona: My forms are inspired by nature, fruit, tree leaves, pebble- stones. Sometimes it is from my Puerto Rican culture or a specific time from my childhood memories.
SF: Can you talk more about how memory plays a role in your creative process?
IC: I think that my new body of work comes from a romantic idea of nostalgic memories of a past childhood, my first impressions of nature and cultural experiences.
Works in progress.
S-F: Have your abstract vessels and shapes always been on the minimalist side, or did you arrive at this language over the course of several years?
IC: No, I was always attracted to the minimalism movement. Before that my work was concentrated on human and animal figures and then I slowly turned to abstractions.
S-F: I’m very drawn to the color in your work. It’s bold, direct, and completely approachable. Can you talk about your color choices and the inspirations for them?
IC: In my process, sometimes the form and color emerge at the same time. The form and color activate a specific moment, a memory of my life.
Left: Abrázame, flashe paint on ceramic, 2019. Photo: Mario Gallucci
Right: A corner of the studio.
Iván Carmona talking about form and memory.
S-F: You’ve mentioned Alexander Calder and Isamu Noguchi as influences. What kind of impact have they had on your work?
IC: The use of materials on their own and how the history of that material speaks. His (Noguchi’s) innovative work, he experimented with biomorphic forms to create unexpected aesthetic combinations.
S-F: Are there other artists, living or dead, that you’re currently looking at? And what are you taking away from them?
IC: Ellsworth Kelly: his use of vibrant, saturated colors and his use of negative space. Anthony Caro: suggestive shapes which he then painted with uniform colors, linear in form, and prominent in character.
Left: getting ready for the kiln.
Right: Cacique, flashe paint on ceramic, 2019. Photo: Mario Gallucci
S-F: What are some of the other projects that you’ve been developing alongside your cohesive body of abstract forms?
IC: I love the symbolism of everyday objects and tools. With them I like to deconstruct them and create a new narrative, a personal or political statement.
An example of Carmona's interest in using found and modified objects to create new narratives.
S-F: What’s next for you?
IC: I’m working on a new body of work.
S-F: What’s your dream project?
IC: My dream project is to make a colossal piece for a public space.
S-F: I can't wait to see it.
Above: Llanura, flashe paint on ceramic, 2019. Photo: Mario Gallucci
Below: Huella, flashe paint on ceramic, 2019. Photo: Mario Gallucci
The artist in his studio.
Left: Pavo Real, flashe paint on ceramic, 2019. Photo: Mario Gallucci
Right: Ventanita, flashe paint on ceramic, 2019. Photo: Mario Gallucci
You can see more of Ivan Carmona's work here.
Sublime opens on December 4th, 2019 and runs through the end of the month.
Full disclosure: I live with an Iván Carmona original and it makes me incredibly happy every time I look at it.
Transmission, oil on linen, 36" x 34", 2019
A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to visit the studio of Cara Tomlinson for a Semi-Finalist interview. I've followed Cara's work since the early 1990's and have always been drawn to her subtle use of color and the scale of her forms. She somehow makes her compositions appear both intimate and monumental at the same time, a combination that has kept me coming back to look at her work again and again.
Below are some Semi-Finalist questions and Cara Tomlinson's responses.
Left: Skinning, oil on linen, 20" x 18", 2019
Right: Generator, oil on linen, 20" x 18", 2019
Talk a little bit about your background as an artist. Where did you study? Who influenced you? What were your formative years like?
I grew up in San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. As a young kid, I identified early that art was my thing. I got up early every morning before anyone else was awake to draw and paint. My mother was creative and had lots of art supplies around. She even had a studio in the basement. After my father died suddenly when I was seven, art became a place of refuge. I was that shy girl that drew horses. In high school, I was selected to take classes at the Corcoran Museum School in DC. The summer I spent in DC opened my eyes to the rigor of making art as well as the history of art. I wandered the National Gallery daily (sometimes a little drunk since I found out that the cafeteria didn’t card), looking at 17th-century Dutch painters, Impressionists, and Italian pre-Renaissance masterpieces.
Back in Portland, I took evening classes at the Museum School (now PNCA) at the Portland Art Museum. Making art in close proximity to historical art has always interested me. The idea of context, building a dialogue with the past, engaging history, both cultural and personal, is the way I’ve created the language of my work.
Above: Facthum, oil on linen, 34" x 32", 2017
I got my undergraduate degree from Bennington College in Vermont. The art department there was fierce. Many of my teachers were New York School second-generation Abstract Expressionists and still engaged in showing in the city. It was an intense environment with an expectation of pushing yourself as far as you could. After graduating, I moved around a bit. I was in San Francisco for a while and in Minneapolis. I got a studio and started working as an art preparator at the Minneapolis Art Institute. After surviving several winters there, I was ready to come back to Oregon for graduate school. I was accepted at the University of Oregon where I was so lucky to study with three very gifted painters: Ron Graff, Jan Reaves, and Frank Okada. This was a medium-centric education, exploring the deep craft in painting. We thought about paint, made paint, worked with the alchemy and magic of paint equaling light and color, and even made our own paintbrushes out of roadkill! All three of these artists where amazing colorists and materialists.
After graduating with my MFA, I was lucky to land a teaching job reasonably quickly. I ended up at Dartmouth College for a bit and then at the University of Iowa, teaching undergrad and grad students. It was at the University of Iowa that my work really started to coalesce. At the time UI had a big and active painting program with over 30 students and seven faculty members. In the Midwest, I experienced a sense of irony, humor, and pathos that deeply affected my work then and now.
Above: Backhand, oil on linen, 36" x 34", 2019
Below: Companion, oil on linen, 36" x 34", 2019 and paint pile.
One of the things that I’ve always found interesting in your work is your relationship to space and form. Can you talk about that and how it has developed over time?
Starting as a representational painter, I was fascinated by the process of translating what I was experiencing in landscapes to the 2D form. I painted plein air, often seeking spaces that were in-between natural areas and industrial spaces. There is a special kind of alchemy that happens when mud becomes light—oil paint basically is oil and earth-- yet it can replicate the luminosity of light. Landscape painting was my best color teacher. Experience always supersedes comprehension—the sense of being in space can’t be narrowed to the 2D picture plane without a series of compromises—these reveal a lot about the conventions of painting. All painting is flat and abstract, even representational work. In my recent work, I’m much more interested in embracing flat planes with shallow depth. There are references to figures or bodies that are both open and closed—permeable and impermeable that have evolved into an interchangeable alphabet.
The movement in the work comes from the color and from the linear striped elements. One of my longest-lasting questions is how to represent the human and animal body from the perspective of being one. Where do our bodies end and begin in the mind and the environment? How do I create a symbolic form for experience as a living body interacting with other bodies?
When I visited your studio, you talked about how much you still love working within the confines of a rectangle, how relevant it still is for you. What is it about straight lines and 90’ angles that keeps you coming back?
Yeah, the rectangle is this really harsh limit that is completely artificial and yet deeply intrinsic to how we live our lives. It is all around us: in the grid of city planning, our architecture, in the things that fit into architecture like tables, chairs, books, and pictures. Since the painting originates as an artificial window, it makes sense that we still haven’t transformed it since it fits so well into our architecture. I mean, think about those 17th-century Dutch interiors--there are rectangles built upon rectangles. The interior is replicated in the exterior and then again in the painting as a rectangular object. This is the best kind of painting pun. Sure, it is possible to make a painting that avoids the rectangle, but the convention is so rich-- why not take it on? In my work I am interested in how this limit puts pressure on the image. The formal tension of such a rigid boundary creates a symbolic image, separating and making activities within the canvas fixed and still. I want there to be a tension between separation and the longing to belong. To this end, I strive to get the color to move and occupy a space beyond the rectangle.
Above: several rectangles in the studio
Below: Coming Off, oil on linen on wood, 20" x 18", 2019
What role does drawing play in your process?
I’m so glad you asked this question. I draw constantly, and when I was going through all my work recently, I realized how much! I draw from life (mostly figure studies), and I draw from my imagination. The drawings are separate from the paintings. They aren’t outlines or cartoons to make a painting, but they often become the inspiration. Because it’s so immediate, drawing can be very intimate. For many years I had a diary (daily) drawing project—this was a space of complete safety and allowance. Many of these drawings were pretty raw and intense, mostly terrible, but occasionally there are a few that really rise to a different level. Drawing is a parallel practice that is really necessary to me, it's where movement happens-- in the painting, the drawing's energy becomes distilled, formalized and symbolic.
Above: Drawings, ink on paper, each 12" x 9", 2019
I’m a big fan of your color palette. You employ a wide range of hues in your work, but there’s often an overall coolness that I associate with the region that we live in (the Pacific Northwest). How has that developed over time?
That’s interesting you see it as a cool palette. I think you are right, color works on us very unconsciously and is deeply a part of our environment. I remember when I was painting landscapes, and I would get into a zone of feeling and mixing color. It felt as if there was no separation between my experience of environmental color and the material color of the paint. The way I build paintings now is quite different, but I still rely on intuition. Each color is mixed in relation to the next one. Once I have a whole series of these strips, I start carefully considering the choices of color that I put in other places in the painting. I taught a color course for many years and learned a lot about the rules of color, so I do think about compliments, value, simultaneous contrast-- all of that is in my toolbox. There is a lot of calibration, mixing, and re-mixing. I strive for balance, an emanation-- for the sense that the color steps out of the confines of the painting and goes beyond its limits. This is an exceptional quality of color—it hits us before form. It’s a body feeling, not a head thing.
Above: Hapty, oil on linen, 36" x 34", 2017
You recently finished an artist residency in Wyoming at Ucross. Can you tell me a bit about that experience?
Ucross holds a particular space in my heart—it was the second time I did a residency there. I felt so lucky to have been granted this one--at this moment in my life—I really needed it. What is so special about Ucross is the open space--the sky constantly changing the color and light. It is in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains, 20 miles from the nearest town and wildlife is everywhere. There’s nothing quite like being given a gift of studio space, food, and support to do something as seemingly futile as making art. Working intensely and being fully supported is a pleasure like no other. I would paint and draw from early morning until late evening every day, bike home under the stars, sleep like a log and start again. Every other resident is so engaged, working so hard that when we all came together at dinner, there was a tenderness and vulnerability to our interactions. It is really possible to make deep connections to others and work. It makes the effort to move studios for a month really worth it!
Above: Faceoff (WIP), oil on linen, 52" x 48", 2019
Who are you looking at - past or present- that’s currently having an influence on your work?
I haven’t really been looking at very many artists in the last three months. I have been more in the just do it and trust mode. Which is kind of weird for me. I suppose right now the artist that is resonating with me is Hilma Af Klint, whose work I finally saw at her spectacular Guggenheim show last year. I am also looking deeply at some of the other women artists from the 19th century who made paintings in trance states: Georgiana Houghton and Emma Kunz. I am so glad this work was preserved and is now accessible. But I have so many influences at this point, most are subconscious and deeply resonant—artists whose work I have been following for many years: Paul Klee, Hans Hofman, Philip Guston, Jacob Lawrence, Amy Sillman, Brenda Goodman, Thomas Nozkowski, David Humphrey, Tom Burchardt, Sharon Horvath, T.L. Solien, Myoko Ito…to name a few.
Dammit, your studio is organized and clean! Was that just for Semi-Finalist or are you always like that?
Okay, it really was because you were coming over… but I also had just finished an archiving project where I took inventory, photographed, archivally wrapped and uploaded all my old and current work to a database. I was in super organizational mode. I’m so embarrassingly proud of my neatly labeled storage stacks!
Above: The artist Cara Tomlinson.
What’s next for you?
I’m getting ready right now for a January show in NY. This came out of the blue, and I’m really honored to show at the BDDW Annex-- a beautiful new gallery in Soho. I’m also putting together a regional (Cascadia) painting symposium which will be held at Lewis and Clark College this coming March. This will give painters a chance to get together and talk craft and everything else. It always seemed crazy that all other art mediums (Photo, ceramics, printmaking, sculpture) have conferences or have places for practitioners to discuss the practice--all except painting. Probably because painting is considered the mother of all disciplines in art? But now more than ever it feels as if the craft of painting is exciting to discuss. I’m working with some great collaborators from Washington, Oregon and Montana: Elise Richman, Cynthia Camlin, Kevin Bell and Tia Factor. We will have a keynote speaker, panels and exhibit—it should be amazing!
Below: More Tomlinson.
Above:The Artist, oil on linen, 52" x 48", 2019
Below: Yokem, oil on linen, 34" x 32", 2019
Above: Work in progress with brushes and a paint pile.
Below: A corner of the studio.
I first met Amy Bay about a year ago when I attended one of her ART HOUR discussions at Private Places, an exhibition space in northeast Portland. The show, Teeth and Consequences, was both thoughtfully curated and rough around the edges in all the right ways. It was an exhibit that avoided easy ideas about beauty and instead celebrated rawness mixed with a personalized approach to craft that I'm often drawn to. A glass cast of cat hair by Heidi Schwegler, for example, deftly juggled being banal, gross and funny in a piece that couldn't have been more than 7" x 9". It's a work that crawled under my skin and it's still there 12 almost months later.
(above: I Am Curious, oil and marble dust on canvas, 18"x19", 2019)
Over the course of the Art Hour, Amy had us talking about the show in a way that cracked it open and allowed me to peer in and see it in a new light. Every member of our small group was offering up insights that I'm sure I would not have made on my own. Amy, a skilled teacher as well as a dedicated artist, pulled this out of us.
I bring this up because it all seems relevant to the work that Amy Bay is doing in her studio. She questions beauty without completely disregarding it and she is interested in carving out a rough, expressive style that is both physical and intellectual. Below are some photos of her work and a short written interview that she was kind enough to do with Semi-Finalist.
(the artist Amy Bay)
SEMI-FINALIST: In an era of tumultuous politics, quickly transforming technologies, and an increasingly warm planet, you’ve recently been making flower paintings. Talk about that.
AMY BAY: Flowers and other decorative imagery have come in and out of my work over the years. One of my first paintings, even before art school, was of a giant messy flower in encaustic. A few teachers and mentors openly discouraged me from pursuing this type of imagery so I always felt that it wasn’t valid subject matter. In 2016, I felt a kind of urgency about going back to flowers. I had a sudden awareness that women didn’t really matter as much as I had thought, which compelled me to use overtly feminine imagery in my work. Flowers are so closely linked to women- socially, art historically, etc., it felt right to unapologetically embrace them and all of their associations.
(detail of I Am Curious)
S-F: The work of yours that I know best is from your show at Melanie Flood Projects: “Yes Please Thank You.” When I was doing a deeper dive on your website, however, I was surprised and kind of thrilled to see how much of your past is rooted in abstraction. How did the transformation take place?
AB: I had been making these grid paintings that were heavily worked - with maximal color and body and about as much chaos as a grid can hold. I was trying to infuse some imperfect quality into the structure of the grid -- trying to make it more flawed and carry more meaning. I would pair paintings with titles that pointed to intimate email exchanges or bits of conversations or lyrics from the songs of my girlhood and teenage years -- basically things that functioned as carriers of sentiment for me. I ultimately realized that much of this was lost on the viewer and it’s another reason that I returned to the flowers. They have always been carriers of sentiment. But they also have a not-so-happy history for women. As a “serious artist” I felt I was supposed to hate them because they are beautiful and frivolous and easy. So I started to integrate them with the grids and they kinda took over. Elements of the grid can still be seen in a lot of the paintings -- sometimes a trellis-like structure in the background, a floating diamond, or a diamond-shaped center of a flower. I haven't completely let go of it. The way I use it now is much more fluid -- it can still function as an organizing structure at times, but it can become a motif or embellishment within the composition as well. It's not as static and authoritative that way. But the paintings always lean towards abstract concerns even though there are recognizable forms in them.
(Top: Every Morning You Greet Me, oil and marble dust on canvas, 11"x11", 2019
Bottom: Another Green World, oil, graphite powder and marble dust on linen, 18"x19", 2019)
(resources and materials)
S-F: I’m interested in knowing more about the decorative sources that you draw on for your paintings. Are there time periods or regions in the world that you feel specifically connected to? Do you see yourself lifting directly from existing artworks, or are they simply starting points, springboards for your own ideas?
AB: I sample and borrow imagery from greeting cards, wall coverings, textiles, still lives and such. I love patterns and always have -- it’s actually what led me to the grid in the first place! Sometimes I just pick a flower form or a pattern because it’s beautiful or strange and I feel compelled to render it in paint - the compulsion to do this can be very strong. I’m particularly interested in Early American craft traditions like Fraktur, theorem painting and embroidery. These were some of the only educational options for young girls for a huge part of our history. While that makes me feel really angry, I am also moved by the sentiment behind these objects and the ways they record familial relationships and the deeply held beliefs of the women who made them. They are markers of birth and death and love and I think that is powerful and important stuff.
(Left: La Foule (front view), oil, graphite powder, and marble dust on unstretched burlap, 11"x11", 2018
Right: Fancy Fool, oil and marble dust on unstretched linen, 11"x11", 2019)
I’m not illustrating any ideas about the flowers, I’m just interested in their history, their forms and what they can conjure up for people. I’m always probing at beauty and the picturesque and wondering where they end and begin. Decorative imagery has gotten such a bad rap and I really don’t understand why.
(Last Dance Last Chance, oil and marble dust on canvas, 19"x18" 2019)
S-F: In past conversations about your work you’ve alluded to the fact that you have a love/hate relationship with elements of painting. Can you talk about that tension and how you try (or don’t try) to resolve it?
AB: I came to painting late -- after 20+ years of working with lots of different media. I just felt somehow that painting was not mine. Part of it was temperament; I felt out of control when I painted and did not like that feeling when I was younger. But I also didn’t see many women painters in the history of painting, or in contemporary art. It’s hard to envision following a path when you don’t see yourself reflected in it.
Now I see myself as a painter. I am fully committed to the idea of medium specificity and diving deeply into the history, techniques and critical dialog surrounding painting. And that chaos that I mentioned is something that I now embrace. Maybe it has come with maturity, but I can weather the ups and downs. Not knowing where a painting is headed can be very sustaining to me, even while it can be terrifying!
(moremoremore, oil, marble dust, graphite powder and glitter on canvas, 29"x30")
-"And I'm also pretty smitten with glitter..."
That said, I do value experimentation with other media. I find that I have trouble always sticking with painting on a traditional substrate, so I sometimes branch out to unstretched burlap, or wooden blocks or the wall. And I’m also pretty smitten with glitter, which winds up in many of my paintings. This kind of play keeps me from getting too set in my ways.
(Here I Am Where I Must Be, graphite on paper, 9"x12", 2018)
S-F: Who or what are your influences? Are they contemporary, long dead, or somewhere in between.
I’m going to give you a big, sprawling list of women painters -- my foremothers! It feels important to name them. Some have just recently surfaced from obscurity, some are new, some well-known and some are probably younger than I am. Some don’t paint exclusively. They are in no particular order:
Florine Stettheimer, Hilma af Klint, Paula Modhersohn-Becker, Carol Rama, Nicole Eisenman, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Dana Schutz, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Lynne Woods Turner, Alma Thomas, Vanessa Bell, Agnes Martin, Anni Albers, Gunta Stoltz, Anne Truitt, Susanna Coffey, Lois Dodd, Loie Hollowell, Shara Hughes, Mary Heilmann, Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Laura Owens, Howardina Pindell, Gina Beavers, Cheyenne Julien, Amy Sillman, Katherine Bradford, Rose Wiley, Sylvia Sleigh, Moira Dryer, Frida Kahlo, Alice Neel, Summer Wheat, Holly Coulis, Sonia Delaunay, Barbara Rossi, Gladys Nilsson, Anne Vallayer-Coster, Rachel Ruysch, Lynda Benglis, Yayoi Kusama, Sarah Cain, Rebecca Morris, Alicia Gibson, Vaginal Davis, Susan Bee, Joan Snyder, Alice Tippit, Varvara Stepanova, Christina Quarles, Janet Sobel, Maia Cruz Palileo, Pat Passlof, Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, Joanne Greenbaum, Jenny Saville, Joan Mitchell, Keltie Ferris, Judith Linhares, Pamela Fraser, Charline von Heyl, Deborah Kass, Clarity Haynes, Brenda Goodman, Louise Fishman, Jay Defeo, Maria Lassnig, Etel Adnan, Polly Apfelbaum, Vija Celmins, Miriam Schapiro, Joan Semmel
S-F: I love that list! Our interests definitely overlap and you’ve also named a few artists that I’ve never heard of. I need to sit down with a computer and do some research.
What’s next for you?
AB: I have a few works on paper that were just in The Barker Hangrrr at the Other Places Art Fair in San Pedro, CA, but I’m still getting back into the groove in my studio after my show at Melanie Flood Projects last summer. Painting requires so much time and I’m trying to stay open and see what unfolds as I work. I’m also following all the impulses that come to me, even if they don’t totally make sense within the work. Some I will likely abandon after a while, but I just need to let myself do it all.
You can see more of Amy's work and nerd out on her CV at HTTP://WWW.AMYBAY.COM/ .
(flowers, flowers, flowers)
(Below: more Bay)
Installation View, 'Yes Please Thank You' at Melanie Flood Projects
Shangri-La, flashe on wall, 2018
Kindest Regards, oil, flashe, marble dust and graphite powder on linen, 19”x18”, 2018
photo credit: Mario Gallucci
Oil and marble dust on linen, 19”x18”, 2018
photo credit: Mario Gallucci
Oil and marble dust on canvas, 7”x5”, 2018
photo credit: Mario Gallucci
I recently had the chance to visit with Doug Davidovich at his studio in Portland, Oregon. If you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Doug, the first thing you'll notice when you do is that he's a big, angular guy. And in my opinion, his artwork invariably resembles him. Even when he's working small, Davidovich's prints and paintings seem larger than the surface that they're on.
I've been a fan of Davidovich for a long time, so I'm really pleased to have him as our first Semi-Finalist. Below are some questions, answers and photos of his work.
(WIP from the Citadel series)
Semi-Finalist: OK, let’s get started. The first question seems obvious, but I have to ask it: the 70’s… why?
I grew up in Southern California during the Seventies! The sun-soaked colors and clarity of light really shaped my visual experience and aesthetic. Mid-Century Modern architecture and design was predominant, as was the Brutalist and International style. The structural & material simplicity, set alongside minimal landscaping, had a big impact on me; along with the bold shapes of Seventies graphic design and the influence of surf & hippie culture. The warm tones of film and polaroid photography are my default filters that continue to guide my color palette.
(Recent lino block prints and partial view of paintings from the Flat of Angles series)
S-F: I’m often drawn to artists that don’t fit neatly into a category. You seem to love hanging out in that lawless, untameable space between abstraction and representation. Talk about how you navigate that world.
DD: It’s really a great space to be in. I definitely carry along skills learned from my early years of landscape and still-life painting. Photo realism was never the goal. As I moved through Impressionism & Van Gogh, and then to the Symbolists and Modernists, the idea of emphasizing an emotional/spiritual meaning behind certain representational shapes, lines and colors became more interesting than simply capturing a particular scene or motif within a traditional composition. Since I’m still using referential elements and visual logic from the objective world, I retain some basic rules of observational painting & drawing. This gives me a necessary parameter to work in. I’d go overboard without some kind of restrictive navigational guide to follow.
(Above: work table with paintings and drawings on paper; below: close-up of a work in progress)
S-F: Who or what are you looking at these days and what are you taking away from them?
DD: I’ve been learning and studying photography; which is a great tool for composing space and isolating subject matter. Naturally, I’m checking out the work of many photographers: Bernd & Hilla Becher, Robert Adams, Lewis Waltz and Aaron Siskind are some of my favorites. Most are focused on landscape and architectural/structural imagery.
Folk art and craft: the textures and surface treatments of ceramics, textile art and wood carving.
Architecture: both interior & exterior - a constant influence & inspiration for geometry, scale and structure, defined & illusionary space and dimension.
(Above: a wall of earlier work, Llano Road #8-11, acrylic on panel, 2010; below: a close-up)
S-F: You spent a lot of time studying with representational artists when you were a student. When did your work shift away from the influence of your professors?
DD: Yes, two amazing painters in particular had a major influence on my development; Ron Graff at University of Oregon and Stanley Lewis at American University. And that’s a tricky question because I still hear their advice playing in my head while painting. So their influence is still totally with me even though my work now has shifted significantly away from their styles. I was drawn to abstraction and started experimenting with some non-representational elements at U of O. In grad school, the real change in direction was instigated by Stanley’s discussions about the underlying structure in the compositions of traditional landscape painters like Constable. That really inspired me to look at things differently and set me off on my own course. There definitely was a progression, but I’d say it took another four years to develop a personal style.
(The artist in his studio demonstrating angularity)
S-F: Rulers, hand drawn, or both?
DD: Both! I use hand drawn sketches for quickly working through initial ideas, then ruled lines to enlarge the drawings to the scale I want for a finished piece. I also make great use of masking.
SF: What’s the ideal setting for your work?
DD: I’m really attracted to the dynamics of a structured environment, and always consider the role my work will play in activating a particular space. Though I’m naturally drawn to modernist style urban interiors, I love the idea of creating a visual dialogue by combining minimalist aesthetics within a more traditional or rustic space. Ideally my work will play an interesting role in that conversation.
You can see more of Doug Davidovich’s work and contact the artist through his website at https://davidovichstudio.com/ and at https://www.desousahughes.com/.
(Below: more Davidovich!)