Subodh Gupta: Railway boy / Ten years into Alter Modernity

Subodh Gupta: Railway boy / Ten years into Alter Modernity

>  Ten years into Alter Modernity

Subodh Gupta’s work utilizes everyday objects from his birthplace India to create sculptural forms that speak to our universal memory. His capacity to deal with his origins and communicate cross culturally won him a place at Bourriaud’s Altermodern Tate triennial in 2009. Within this exhibition Gupta exhibited a four meter tall sculpture titled “In Line of Control” made from stainless steel kitchen utensils with an approximate combined weight of twenty-six tons. These kitchen utensils formed a nuclear mushroom cloud. A shape and image that we essentially all fear, wherever our kitchens are located.
Subodh Gupta

Subodh Gupta, Line of Control, 2008

Subodh Gupta in the process of installing “What does the vessel contain, that the river does not” at Hauser & Wirth in London

Subodh Gupta was born fifty-five years ago in the eastern part of India, in Khagaul, in the district of Patna in the federated state of Bihar, one of the least developed areas of the country where almost half of the population lives in absolute poverty. The railway cuts the small town of Khagaul into two parts, each of them is rich with evidence of Hindu temples. The Gupta family is also Hindu. In India the train is the main means of transportation, among the one billion and three hundred million inhabitants, despite of crazy traffic jams in urban areas, in percentage just a small amount of people uses the car for traveling. Subodh’s father worked for the railways, this strongly influenced the boy’s childhood, so much that he was given the nickname “Railway boy”. Trains going back and forth always crowded people. In the artist’s memories there are railway platforms covered by a jigsaw made of luggage tied with laces, suitcases, bags of any shape and color, carried on shoulders, loaded on carts, left everywhere, as well as passengers standing, sitting and lying on the ground. People everywhere, waiting for the train to arrive.

Subodh Gupta, My Family Portrait, 2013 Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth Ph. Axel Schneider

This image of the vibrant and colorful world of the railway will find its place in the photographic, painted and sculptural works of Gupta. His mother took him by train to his drama class when, enthusiastically, the very young Subodh dreamed of becoming an actor. Being an actor in a country where the “Bollywood” of Mumbai produces more than a thousand films every year is a legitimate dream. But at some point the desire for freedom, to act as director of himself took over, pushing him down the road of becoming an artist. In search for freedom and for a more dynamic life he moved to the capital, New Delhi, an immense and chaotic city where many artists live, but only a few privileged ones can afford to own a big studio for their work. Gupta’s artistic career started with painting but, as a result of his wife’s criticism, he decided to change discipline and become a sculptor. Today his talent ranges from various genres: performance, photography, installation, sculpture and painting. He is now famous all over the world for his large compositions made with kitchen hardware. Pots and pans, teapots and plates made of stainless steel and gold-plated brass have become his recognizable trademark. To create his monumental sculptures he uses various kitchen tools, chosen in shops and markets, rummaging in mounts of waste in order to pick up an object (sometimes even broken) that strikes him for a reason that’s clear only to his artistic vision. The works of Gupta are always very aesthetically pleasing, all the metal components are polished to perfection until they become shiny, giving the illusion of the use of precious materials, thus acquiring added value.

Subodh Gupta, two cows, 2003 – 2008

Subodh Gupta, Terminal. 2010 Installation view “India: Art Now”, Arken Museum of Modern Art, Ishoj, Denmark, 2012

Gupta on the one hand explores the spiritual world and the daily life of modern India, on the other he remains anchored to a traditional country. His art is contemporary and classic at the same time and its aim is not to deny the past, but on the contrary he tries to link the world of today to the traditions of yesterday, the day before, and a thousand years ago. He finds reasons to collect objects of everyday life, kitchen utensils which have always been the center of life for every Indian family. For example the shape of the pan has not changed at all during time, in the museum of ancient art we can find the ancestors of today’s kitchenware. Every Indian family, rich or poor, recognizes these objects: the art of sculptor Subodh Gupta is popular in the strict sense of the word “people”. Sometimes Gupta compares opposing worlds: the rich and the poor, always pairing everyday objects (like two entrance doors, two projectors, two toilets, two toilet flushes) changing only the finishing of materials they are made of, for instance gold plating for the first, wood or iron for the other. The message consists in the existential truth, which always remains the same: the door serves to enter and the toilet serves basic needs. Despite the economic conditions people are the same, everything else is just an ephemeral and temporary coating. The art of Gupta could have been considered “social” if it included a sentiment of rebellion, instead the artist channels our thoughts into a philosophical feeling, close to the oriental spirit, sometimes a bit ironic, but always calm and rather complacent. 

Subodh Gupta, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Image courtesy of Subodh Gupta Studio

What does Subodh Gupta like? He likes his India which has become an economic giant, its very large population, which manages to keep alive its ancient traditions and rituals, passing them down through the centuries, the goodness and variety of Indian cuisine, the importance of family values that are the pivotal point of the life of every individual, the aesthetics of the forms of traditional Indian art, and overall of the grandeur of its cultural background.

Subodh Gupta,Very hungry God, Monaco

Gupta challenges the “sacred idols” of contemporary art: he molds an elegant sculpture of the Madonna with an adorable mustache recalling Marcel Duchamp, composes a huge skull with kitchen utensils, winking at Damien Hirst. But if his counterparts are the “hooligans” of art, driven by the desire to shock and shake the brain of the viewer, Gupta caresses his gaze instead, reassuring him with the thought that the contemporary world is not madly crazy because it is well anchored to good reasons and good examples. Gupta also drags us to the world of dreams, his own and a common one, invites us in his Bollywood films where poor and rich people live together in a world of fantasy, almost heaven like. The huge sculptures of Gupta are so refined and beautiful that they could decorate any place. They look good in art galleries and become extra-large jewels in the open spaces, such as his “People Tree” which is displayed in the courtyard of the Monnaie de Paris. A tree with many roots (ancient traditions), with many branches (the people of India) and a dense foliage of kitchen utensils (family values). The art of Subodh Gupta is an aesthetically elaborate and slightly “rococo”, but fresh in its composition, hymn to his old new India.

Vlada Novikova

The irrational rationality in the photography of Philippe Ramette

The irrational rationality in the photography of Philippe Ramette

Parisian but native of Auxerre (1961), Philippe Ramette after finishing his studies at Villa Arson in Nice, stops painting and devotes himself solely to plastic arts, inventing unusual and humorous objects to which later he will accompany his photography. Even though he remains a sculptor, he uses photography to “trace in reality” the sceneries he imagines and which defy the laws of physics and gravity. It’s in 1989 that we have the first photographic work by Ramette, with “Object for seeing the world in detail” the young artist portrays himself with an optical device which he describes as a “point of view on the world”. Ramette will constantly use photography for about twenty years (mostly after the 2000), producing a series of images that try to rationalize the irrational through staging his sceneries which are studied in detail and that take shape in the sketches he immediately crafts as soon as the idea or the “dream” enters his mind. 

Philippe Ramette

Philippe Ramette, Photographie couleur, 150 x 120 cm. © Adagp, Paris 2007 © photo Olivier Antoine

Ramette takes the role of the director but the shots are materially realized by Marc Domage, a photographer who with him concretely creates the sets that were previously conceived. In this case it’s important to stress that the bizarre reality he develops in his shots is not achieved through digital editing but it’s the result of real “missions” sometimes even accomplished in dangerous conditions.

Philippe Ramette, Untitled (Deauville), 2014

It’s 1996 when Philippe Ramette produces his first “zero gravity” photograph with “Balcon 1” where he is looking out of a wooden balcony, where the artist and the balcony in question are in reality are not positioned vertically but they lie horizontally in the middle of a park. The same scene is repeated in “Balcon II (Hong Kong)” made in 2001, where this time the balcony with Ramette is coming out of the water of the Hong Kong bay. This series was then followed by many others, like the “Irrational Contemplations”, the “Irrational Walks”, the “Rational Exploration of Underwater Funds”, the “Pedestals for Reflection”, all collections of images which recall the the characteristic  leitmotifs of the artist, such as the use of what he calls “prosthetics”, that are: the tricks which enable him to hold certain positions during the shots; the self representation, always in a black suit like a man made by Magritte; the idea of defying the laws of physics and the contemplative dimension which is always present in his works. The result is surreal but not at all disturbing, if anything it appears poetic and melancholic like “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” (1818) by Caspar David Friedrich.

Philippe Ramette, Untitled, 2015

Philippe Ramette, Crise de désinvolture, 2003

What is surprising about Ramette’s photographic works is that, even though we are aware of the physical strain the artist underwent during the production of the shots, the results do not suggest any tension but instead it they advocate a sense of calm, as if the scene we are seeing is natural and absolutely rational, permeated by a tranquillity and a “metaphysic suspension” skilfully orchestrated by the mind of an illusionist who is able to translate into images the words of André Breton: “The imaginary is what tends to become real”.

Philippe Ramette Exploration rationnelle des fonds sous-marins, l’arrivée, 2006

Ramette exhibited internationally and his works are in the collection of the Centre G. Pompidou and of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, of the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Marseille, and the MAMCO in Geneva. He is represented by the Xippas Gallery in Paris located in the historical Marais area.

Dolores Pulella

Blurring the boundaries: Gerwald Rockenschaub

Blurring the boundaries: Gerwald Rockenschaub

Rhythm is the motto of the Austrian artist Gerwald Rockenschaub. He is an artist who works in both mediums, the visual art and music and his artistic spirit feeds on the intertwined relationship of composing music and creating visual arts. As an artist originated in the 80’s Neo-Geo movement (also known as neo-geometric conceptualism), Rockenschaub’s work makes him one of the revolutionary and innovative artists of his generation.The Neo-Geo movement, a post-modern art style, developed in contrast to regular figurative expressionistic painting. It defined a particular form of abstraction, applied as a social critique. 

Portrait of Gerwald Rockenschaub, ph. Jan Windszus, Berlin

Rockenschaub’s paintings are based on abstract codes and patterns from everyday life instead of the social and metaphysical utopias of the preceding abstraction. He erodes the characterisation of the image by deliberately leaving out everything that might compose distinctiveness in a painting. Linear structures, individual geometric forms and colour fields show influence in the aesthetic system of Bauhaus, Kandinsky’s features and even elements of pop art. His composition of electronic music comes reflected in technoid aesthetics of his work and their titles.

Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg , Blick in die Ausstellung © Gerwald Rockenschaub , ph. Marek Kruszewski

“ I take a similar approach to create a painting, an object, a sculpture or an exhibition concept as I do in composing a piece of music. I think very musically. Choreography, dramaturgy, rhythm, etc. always play a crucial role, especially in developing an exhibition concept.”

(Gerwald Rockenschaub, 2017)

Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg , Blick in die Ausstellung © Gerwald Rockenschaub , ph. Marek Kruszewski

Taking inspiration from the rhythm of music Rockenschaub plays with functionality and pseudo-functionality while blurring the boundaries between art, design and architecture. In his sculptural work, the artist comments on architecture and intervenes into the concept of the white cube. His work follows a linear thought process and rises dialogue between architecture itself, the artwork and spectator. His paintings as well as installations are often cooperating with the exhibiting space and are tailor-made to change the perception of it. His installations concern the structure, limits and questions of emerging spaces. In other words, he implements the accuracy and reduction of fundamental elements. The spectator is then challenged to new readings of situations raised by the artist’s gestures based on unapparent interventions with simple elements. The architectural and technical tendencies mirror in his use of materials, he is fond of industrial design material like aluminium, plexiglass, and PVC.

Gerwald Rockenschaub, Courtesy the artist and Courtesy Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich : New York, Ph Matt Grubb

Gerwald Rockenschaub, Courtesy the artist and Courtesy Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich : New York, Ph Matt Grubb

Rockenschaub was also one of the firsts to integrate the computer into his design process.He started shaping objects digitally and has also produced video installations. In Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg he, for instance, created a piece of shaking red dots as a metaphor for edginess and nervousness of our times. Notable are also his wall paintings which, according to Rockenschaub, also act as architectural installations made site-specific. The wall is scattered over with colourful geometrical shapes and random design elements that are minimal but don’t negate pop. The meaning is in the order in which all the features are perceived. It is like jumping from one motif to another across the wall according to the rhythm. Is Rockenschaub blurring the lines between music, interior architecture and art confusing us? Perhaps. But his unusual take on visual arts is what makes his work so engaging. Having to experience and explore the pragmatic context challenges the spectator and adds value to his work. As he says his work “always has to do with production conditions that lead to certain consequences and create a certain state of mind”.

Adela Smejkal

Camera Abstractions: Keld Helmer-Petersen

Camera Abstractions: Keld Helmer-Petersen

Thinking about the fathers of artistic color photography it’s easy to recall great names such as William Eggleston and Stephen Shore who throughout the seventies, also thanks to great exhibitions (such as the one that Eggleston had in 1976 at the MoMA), have helped to impose this medium which, at the time, was still labeled by the critics as “vulgar and banal” because it was usually linked to commercial and amateur photography. But those aren’t truly the first great results obtained with the use of color film since, already in the forties, in Denmark Keld Helmer-Petersen had already showed its artistic potentialities and today he is regarded as the father of Danish modernist photography. Isolating the details and giving them a new meaning, Petersen’s aim is to catch the essence of modern life sublimating color and form (as Paul Cézanne did in his paintings) and deleting the depth of field thanks to the constant use of small apertures: the world therefore appears as a flat surface full of interesting geometrical patterns useful for stressing the importance of color. Inspired mainly by American and German photographers and architects (one above all Mies van der Rohe) he shares the ideas of Staatliches Bauhaus, a German school which is all about simplicity, abstraction emphasis and erasing of unnecessary details.

Helmer-Petersen gets his first camera in 1938, a Leica IIIc, as a gift from his mother for his graduation. With that and the 35mm, 50mm and 90mm Elmar lenses he will create all the pictures of his debuts. His first experiments are made with black and white films but, because of the Nazi occupation, they become hard to find so Keld turns to Agfacolor, a German film, with wich in 1948 he creates the work that will impress his name in photography’s history forever: 122 farve fotografier (122 color photographs). At that time the artist is 28-years-old and works in a library, after showing to the owner a selection of his photographs taken between 1941 and 1947 and getting a positive feedback he decides to invest his father’s inheritance in the production of the book, printing 1.500 copies. The value of the work is understood overseas too and so on November the 29th of 1949 the magazine Life dedicates to Helmer-Petersen a 7-page article entitled “Camera Abstractions”. In 1950 he travels to the United States to settle in New York first and then in Chicago to study at the Art Institute (where, among many others, the great photographer Harry Callahan was teaching) and to work for Life. In 1953 one of his photographs is displayed at the MoMA in the collective exhibition “Post-War European Photography” but, unsatisfied with the American lifestyle, Keld decides to go back to Denmark and propose himself as an architectural and design photographer opening his own studio in Copenhagen (1956), later becoming the photography teacher in the architecture school at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (1964-1990).

Keld Helmer-Petersen photo Björn Dawidsson

Inspired by his stay in Chicago “Fragments of a city”, his second book, is released in 1960; here he experiments in the darkroom pushing black and white contrasts to the limit, celebrating surfaces, structures, fragments and spaces found between the huge constructions of the metropolis. In the mid-Fifties he shows his new works in a series of exhibitions in Denmark and Sweden curated by the designer Poul Kjaerholm and based on the contrast between image and background, opposing to a bright picture a dark panel and vice-versa. During the seventies the Danish artist will eventually start to work “cameraless”, creating the images directly in the darkroom thanks to the sole chemical reagents and looking for the ultimate minimalism; that spirit, in addiction to the discovery of computer graphics, will escort him until the end of his life. He dies in 2013 at the age of 93. Black and white represents for Helmer-Petersen both the Alpha and the Omega of his career: the 122 color photographs, so paramount for the history of photography, are to him nothing but an exception, a confirmation to the rule that will make remember him forever.

Luca Torelli

Many thanks to Jan Helmer-Petersen for the permission to publish his father’s pictures and to Dawid (Björn Dawidsson) for his wonderful portrait of the photographer.

A conversation with Gregory Hayes. Perfection is everywhere. Its limits come from the perception of the thinker.

A conversation with Gregory Hayes.

Perfection is everywhere. Its limits come from the perception of the thinker.
Gregory Hayes is interviewed by Editor in Chief Alice Zucca
Perfection is everywhere. Its limits come from the perception of the thinker.

Gregory Hayes explores the endless chromatic possibilities of painting by creating an original method of analysis which focuses on the study of gestures through painting and geometric analytical compositions.This process is done often using a dropper and acrylic colors, small drops are meticulously placed on a grid while layers of paint blend in the bottle. Therefore this results in drops of color which are the combination of various chromatic elements that blend in a swirl generating unusual and unexpected variations.When looked from a distance and as a whole the drops seem to blend in a single entity but they remain identifiable as single units when the viewer gets close to the work and looks at it in detail. The artist displays his skills by using structures which can be identified by looking at the marks left with a pencil revealing the grids where the drops of color are placed. Every element is a swirl of color which is unique and it’s part of the complexity of the entirety, still remaining harmonious as if it was a small complex painting itself which is able to reinforce the feeling of balance of the whole composition. Every drop, being made of multiple colors, escapes the rigorousness of the painting gesture. By trying to achieve the optimal formal precision the artist finds himself aware of the fact that such is unreachable. And it is this almost paradoxical contradiction which Hayes finds perfect in itself. In every series of Hayes’ paintings conscious choices and randomness coexist in a sublime formal symbiosis which leads to unpredictable scenarios that define original archetypes.

Coming from the experience of the American abstract expressionism the gestural component becomes a key element of your paintings and your artistic research. In your works two aspects seem to coexist, a rigorous method and a randomness since the drops, due to gravity and their unpredictability in their positioning and their movement onto surfaces, somehow slip from your control. At the same time, for example in the “Color Array” series, you try to limit their freedom with a predetermined scheme. How much is planned and how much is left to freedom and to the flow of inspiration in your compositions? Can you talk about the technique you use and how you prepare the base for your works?

I do plan in the way I make art, but within the structures I create I leave room for possibilities. In my work I strive for exactness, but perhaps it is paradoxical that in striving for perfection—and never reaching it—it is there that you actually find it. But perfection starts to look different. For me this is a key element in my artwork. It is the imperfect that becomes unique, the flaws that become interesting, the randomness that leads to new ideas. Perfection as an ideal is a limited perspective, but very ingrained in us all—very powerful. So to widen, or change, its hold on our ideas it could allow us to use this power to see more of the beauty that is around us everyday. Perfection is everywhere. Its limits come from the perception of the thinker. For me perfection is allowing each mark I make to reveal itself in that moment.  I have a pretty good idea of what I’d like things to look like, but I let it be open, to bend or flow as it needs to. Being ok with that—the boundary between control and lack of control— is what I’d consider perfect. 

Gregory Hayes, Untitled (OB), 2015, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48 inches, courtesy Nancy Margolis Gallery NYC

How did you come up with the idea of using a dropper?

In my early days of making art I had no formal training in technique. I had done some line drawing and charcoal sketching of flowers and still life at a community college near Buffalo, New York in my late teens, but I had never yet painted. My knowledge was very limited. When I was 24 years old, I started to experiment with painting at Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design in Denver, Colorado, while trying to complete a degree. I really didn’t know how to use a paintbrush (beyond house painting), or oil or acrylic paint, or any mediums really, so I started to experiment with what was around me or what was on the material list for some of the painting classes I was enrolled in. I also didn’t really have a subject matter, so it all really became about understanding material in a matter-of-fact way. 

Gregory Hayes, UNTITLED (RBO), ACRYLIC ON PAPER, 2015, 24 X 24IN | 60 X 60CM

I basically started formulating compositions using geometry similar to doodles I did on my folders and notebooks in high school when I should have been taking notes in class, and I began mixing acrylic paint colors that I found appealing—a lot of trial and error at this point. I was then introduced to the work of artists like Frank Stella, Al Held, Barnett Newman, Josef Albers, Ellsworth Kelly, and Sol Lewitt. Seeing their work gave me many points of departure to move in. But what seemed to attract me most was organizing colors into groups, and finding out how they behaved and felt. The emotional impact of a painting through color seemed to be important to me and still is today. So from there I began to paint larger canvases with house painting techniques, using different brushes, painters tape, and the colors I had mixed.  Afterwards I would always have leftover paint colors in glass jars. The jars never really kept the paint for too long so at a certain point I remember beginning to pour and drip the paint onto extra canvases I had made, I guess I didn’t want the paint to go to waste. Because of this, I really started to feel like I could organize the space on the canvases in a similar way I did with a brush, but with less effort. It allowed for a new kind of freedom in what I was doing. I could also drip the paint into round circles very easily. From then on I started to organize the compositional elements of my paintings using circles from dripping paint from jars. 

Gregory Hayes, UNTITLED (RYB), ACRYLIC ON CANVAS, 2011, 60 X 60IN | 152 X 152CM

While I was attending Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, the head of the painting department, Clark Richert, would often visit my studio to see what I was doing. He became a mentor to me and we would often talk about painting through math and science, and geometry. He was also a painter, so one day he walked into my studio with a small plastic bottle with a small nozzle, like a paint pen, that he had been using in his work to draw circles. He just gave it to me without any explanation and said, “What do you think you can do with this?” I began playing around with the small bottle and I realized that I could drip paint from it with remarkable control; so from there I began to use it to make all my works. My first series of painting I created with this technique was called “Vibrations.” In these works you can see how I was exploring the possibilities the drip bottle gave me in regards to size of each drop.  

Gregory Hayes, 1st Amalgamation, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 60 inch diameter, courtesy Nancy Margolis Gallery NYC

What made you shift from the use of a grid to a fluid movement? Can you talk about the Amalgamation, Ribbon and Reticulum series?

My earlier series of paintings are the most systemic in nature. In my Primary Array paintings a majority of the process is based on a mathematical formula called Ulam’s Rose. It creates the overall pattern you see on the canvas. I also created specific rules to disperse the color throughout the painting on a hand drawn ¼ inch grid that covers the whole surface of the canvas. I did this because I needed justification for my decisions. I needed reasons for my movements, and it felt more comfortable relying on systems. Although, the selection of the colors were always up to me, this was and remains an intuitive process, or as I like to say, a refined intuition—one that has years of experience behind it but still allows feeling to drive it. 

Gregory Hayes, UNTITLED (YGR), ACRYLIC ON CANVAS, 2011, 60 X 60IN | 152 X 152CM

When I shifted to the Color Array series I simplified the systems. In these paintings I used the ¼ inch grid for the compositional structure directly, by dripping paint in a spiral, starting from the center of the canvas moving outward, placing the drips within each cell successively. In these paintings I also started dripping swirling colors of paint instead of using one color at a time. A drip now could have 3 or more colors in it. I felt this brought more probability into the works. The spiraling of the drips and the changing swirling colors creates concentric square patterns with softly shifting hues that seem to make the paintings breath in and out when they are viewed from a distance.  When viewed up close they highlight the complexity that each single drip holds on its own.  

Gregory Hayes / Nancy Margolis Gallery NYC / credits: Alice Zucca

Gregory Hayes, 2ND AMALGAMATION, ACRYLIC ON CANVAS, 2016, 60 X 70IN | 152 X 178CM

As I started making my next series, Amalgamation, I felt I needed to find a way to have more freedom in the placement of the drips. So I decided to extract the grid and use a more intuitive manor of distributing the paint. I began dripping the paint in a motion like a snake swims through water, an “S-like” motion, from one end of the canvas to another trying to fill up the entire surface with ¼ inch drips of swirling color.  I also started to use more colors in each painting. For example, in my Color Array paintings I chose 3 or 4 colors to work with, but in the Amalgamation paintings I use up to 40 colors sometimes, making the color exploration more complex. Each series I create, I am trying to work away from the systemic process, and more toward an intuitive one. 

Gregory Hayes, 2nd Reticulum, acrylic on paper, 2017, 20 x 20in | 50 x 50cm

Gregory Hayes, Detail: 1st Reticulum, acrylic on paper, 2017, 20 x 20in | 50 x 50cm

For the Ribbon paintings and Reticulum works I wanted to find new ways to use paint, and distribute color on the picture plan. Both series involve a similar process of creating small ribbons of acrylic paint, either solid colored or swirled colored, about 12 inches long and ¼ inch wide, that can be picked up and arranged before it is pasted on the surface of a canvas permanently. The Ribbon paintings are fixed onto the surface in a more orderly way, putting more emphases on the color relationships. The Reticulum paintings are more about the weaving of the ribbons in an intuitive way, and about my physical manipulation of the ribbons because I am bending and twisting them. Overall, these paintings reveal to me that even a slight variation in the order of a process can create new pictorial complexity. Ultimately, creating theses newer work has helped teach me to make even better use of my intuition, and depend less on the systemic processes that defined much of my earlier work. By opening up my process in this way, I challenge myself as a painter and hopefully push painting as a whole further. Additionally, I feel the viewer will be able to engage with my paintings on a more emotional, rather than technical, level. 

Gregory Hayes, 1st Ribbons, acrylic on canvas, 2018, 60 x 63in | 152 x 160cm

Color has a fundamental role in your compositions, what is the relationship between the color and the final result and to what extent the choice of colors is based on a chromatic study?

My paintings are mostly about color, and the interaction of color. When choosing the colors for a painting I rely mainly on intuition. However, I have been immersed in my process for over a decade so there is a lot about how I think of color that comes from experience. Another thing I consider is the physical paint properties itself. For example, sometimes different colors have different viscosities when they come out of the tube, and can effect how they interact or flow with other paint as I drip them. This can create different types of swirls and a variety of color patterns unique to certain color combinations. Even the brand of paint can changes things. The different attributes change the outcome of a painting, which I find very exciting. Most of the time I like to explore color combination that I have not tried yet—to see how far I can push them. I often like to choose a set of colors to work with before I start, sometimes 3, sometimes 30; depending on what series I am painting. The end result of my process is a field of resonating colors that can take-up the viewer’s whole vision when the painting is viewed as a whole, or can be a very intimate experience by viewing each dot one-at-a-time. The colors in a painting interact in different ways depending on the colors in each dot and how they gradate into the preceding ones, as well as, what other colors end up surrounding it. I hope for my paintings to provoke emotions through the colors. An important one for me is joy. I get a great sense of joy as I create the works and want that to come through. However, each painting can have a very different feel to it, and can provoke many emotions in the viewer. The will of the artist is not always a fixed experience for the viewer.   

Gregory Hayes, PRIMARY ARRAY #19, ACRYLIC ON CANVAS, 2010, 48 X 48IN | 121 X 121CM

The visual impact of your works as a unity of undertones, and the colors and the patterns which emerge as they blend is able to create a stimulation in the viewer and psychic and emotional response through the impact of geometric shapes and color. Can you tell me more about this aspect? What do you want the viewer to experience while looking at one of your works?

I like how a flower can be so expressive. The variety of intensity and value in a flower’s color, and the complexity of its shape make it seem like each petal is a unique composition, each stem a random happening. Although when you look at it from a different perspective, a majority of the flower’s properties come from a systemic configuration: its patterns, color, and form are built from repetition and regularity. The magic of the flower is the balancing act maintained so well between its systemic and expressive nature. That to me makes looking at a flower an almost endless activity; a single blossom is an abundant display of beauty and mystery. Its shapes and colors constantly reveal the magnitude of details embedded in its mathematically fashioned form, but within the flower’s complexity there is an aura of effortlessness. It is this type of balance I strive to realize in my paintings. I want the colors to allure and captivate, but also to create tension and disarray; the structure to hold symmetry and balance, but also bend and wane organically. I would like the patterns to keep the viewer’s eye moving through the picture plane, or lead to fixating on a complex grouping of colors. However, the paintings are not necessarily about concentration or constant stimulation for the mind, or figuring something out. Rather, they are a place where the eye and mind can come across a sense of joy and stillness, a place where color and structure do not need to be thought about, but felt.

What are your future projects? 

I just got back from spending the spring in Paris where I was working on a new set of Color Array paintings for a show out there. So I plan to use the summer to experiment with new ideas I have with paint and color, and to realize some new drawings. However, I will mainly be working towards my 4th solo show at the Nancy Margolis gallery in NYC opening February 2019. 

Alice Zucca

Roberto Pugliese: acoustic perspectives and auditory visions

Roberto Pugliese: acoustic perspectives and auditory visions

In his artistic research Roberto Pugliese highlights as the focal point of his analysis the physical nature of  sound, focusing on the existing relationship between the mechanical devices which he combines in his works, the acoustic manifestations they produce and their interaction with the space. The sound is conceived as the means of expression of the work itself but also as an interface between the artistic composition, the environment surrounding it and the outside world. The sound is seen as a creator of perspective and depth, both as a physical phenomenon and message part of a dialogue that investigates the bond between art and humanity, nature and technology. His research is inspired by the kinetic art and by the spatial and visual experiments of the sound art. In Pugliese’s works we can notice a constant investigation of the space as an entity connected to physical phenomena, to sound, in an open auditory-technological-experential exchange. Mathematics, statistics and physics applied to music are concepts which recall the experiments made in electronic music during the 50s such as those of Xenakis, Stockhausen, Schaeffer and Lucier but Pugliese tackles the subject with a different aesthetic and formal approach. He is, as a matter of fact, interested in translating the space itself into an audible product that goes back and forth from aestethics to real acoustic functionality in a formal, technical and conceptual balance which sometimes requires interaction and at other times is presented as a closed system.

Roberto Pugliese, Equilibrium Variant , 2011, Ph Thomas Nitz, Marco Gargiulo

An interesting example of interaction between robotic devices is Equilibrium variant, impressive cybernetic work for which Pugliese was awarded an honourable mention at the Ars Electronica festival, annual gathering about arts, technology and society, based in Linz in Austria and also won Vida 14,  art and artificial intelligence competition hosted by the telephone company “Telefonica Fundaciòn” in Madrid. A copy of the piece is in the permanent collection of the ZKM Museum in Karlsruhe, in the Center for the Arts, Technology and Media. Two mechanical arms face each other, one is equipped with a microphone, the other with a speaker. The two arms are programmed to look for an equilibrium through the use of the audio feedback, also known as the Larsen effect. The speaker emits a noise which is picked up by the microphone and transmitted to the amplifier, the noise is amplified and sent back to the speaker. Thus the microphone will capture once again the same sound, this time to a higher volume that will be subsequently further amplified and sent back to the same speaker and so on. In each step there will be an increase in volume that will constantly and rapidly grow producing the characteristic “Larsen effect”, a sort of electro-acoustic chain. The two robotic arms are in constant search for a balance and this process is bound to continue because the feedback does not have an equilibrium, therefore forcing them to constantly seek each other.

Roberto Pugliese, Equilibrium Variant , 2011, Ph Thomas Nitz, Marco Gargiulo

Roberto Pugliese, Equilibrium Variant , 2011, Ph Thomas Nitz, Marco Gargiulo

In common practice when this phenomenon happens, for example during a live exhibition, the sound engineer must immediately locate the microphone causing the Larsen effect, but is unable to shut it off completely because the sound captured by the microphone (e.g. the singer’s voice or the musical instrument) would go missing. Instead, it must progressively reduce the volume of that microphone, operating on the knobs of the mixing console. The sound engineer’s expertise lies in the capability to adjust the sound level only to the necessary amount in order to reduce, or even cancel, the Larsen effect, still preserving the sound coming from the musical instrument that is being captured by the microphone. The working principle inspiring Pugliese’s installation can be compared to the work the sound engineer has to do during live concerts. In the same way that a singer moves around the stage continuously changing the position of the microphone in relation to the speakers, forcing the sound engineer restlessly to adjust the volume of that microphone in order to avoid triggering the Larsen effect, at the same time we witness a comparable and constant struggle by the two robotic arms moving in a three dimensional space in order dynamically to look for a balance point between the triggering and the suppression of the Larsen effect. The distinctive trait of this installation consists of making a phenomenon we were so far only able to perceive through hearing visually available to our eyes: it’s a brilliant visual representation of a pure auditory experience.

Roberto Pugliese, Equilibrium Variant , 2011, Ph Thomas Nitz, Marco Gargiulo

Further magic is made by the hypnotic effect generated by the sinuous and tireless dance of the two robotic arms, which continuously  search in vain for an impossible balance. To the observer this is reminiscent of the mating rituals, or of moments of clash in which two alpha males fight for dominance. However although looking like mechanical devices they appear as living creatures that desperately wiggle while trapped in artificial structures from which they repeatedly try to escape. 

Roberto Pugliese, Concerto per natura morta, 2014 / ph. Michele Alberto Sereni

Pugliese’s works, despite being composed of electronic devices hold connections to natural qualities in an approach that could be divided into various stages: the instrumental analysis of natural phenomena, the processing of the collected data and the translation via computer equipment. In this way it is possible to achieve an original multi-sensorial reconstruction of the unceasing mutation of reality. Pugliese addresses this topic in his work Concert for still life. Floating in the air and to various extents, hanging from steel cables, we see a surreal but evocative “flock” of thirteen chestnut trunks taken from dead trees, all of them placed in a horizontal position after undergoing a particular milling process executed with a specific machine built by the artist which empties them making them hollow. A sound speaker is then inserted in the cylindrical cavity made in every tree. Obviously, the sound reproduced by each speaker is influenced by the peculiar shape and appearance of each single trunk and therefore the sounds produced are tangibly different. The sounds that can be heard coming from the trunks include noises from places where they have been collected and of the machines used for working on them. The digital manipulation of these sounds through specially programmed software, and their following compositional processing take the observer to a fascinating “still life” in which the peculiar soundscape perfectly matches the impressive visual impact that ensures an overwhelming emotional engagement.

Alice Zucca


PUBLICATION LISTED IN THE ITALIAN PRESS REGISTER BY THE SASSARI COURT OF LAW WITH REGISTRATION NUMBER 447/2017.
EDITOR IN CHIEF: ALICE ZUCCA

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