Studio Voyeur

Marcela Florido: Beauty is a Decision

April 16, 2016 |

Marcela Florido is a Brazilian artist who has lived in Rio de Janeiro, London, New Haven, and currently lives and works in Brooklyn. She invited fellow painter Gaby Collins-Fernandez to come to her studio on the occasion of her upcoming show at Galeria IBEU in Rio de Janeiro to talk about geography, abstraction, and learning to have fun in painting.

mf studio 5Marcela Florido in her studio, (all photos courtesy Cristobal Sánchez)

 

Gaby Collins-Fernandez: Let’s start out by talking about how you’re thinking about representation or realism in relation to a plastic sense of painting?

Marcela Florido: Since early on, I have been interested in confronting painting clichés or stereotypes of different vocabularies. My work has been really wrapped up in narratives of where these vocabularies came from and what histories they communicate.

GCF: It sounds like you had an awareness that there is be a gap in between, let’s say, a political ideology or a certain kind of rhetoric and its necessary manifestation in painting and in using different languages formally, abstractly, you’d be able to make that clear—is that correct?

MF: Yes. I was very skeptical of visual vocabularies at that point. For me, they were all linguistics, all power. It was only through eventually finding pleasure in painting that these thoughts began to be undermined. Like: actually there is something here that is beyond the verbal. The more I tried to prove that these visual languages were discursive, the more I encountered their non-discursive power, and this allowed me to keep painting.

GCF: It’s interesting that it was when you left Brazil and the aesthetic predominance of Neo-Concretism there for art school in London that the sensual immediacy of painting became more important than its rhetorical aspects.

MF: In London, I experienced ugliness, roughness, and the cartoonish in art as a positive trait for the first time. I was looking at painters like Paula Rego, Victor Willing, Stanley Spencer. It really made me question my relationship with certain art trends in Brazil that started to feel reductive despite my deep connection with them: all of a sudden, they seemed to be all monochromatic, sharp angles and elegance. I wanted to have more fun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArtist Studio, “Adrift II”

 

GCF: Let’s talk about fun, then, and its relationship to narrative.

MF: In Adrift 3, I thought, there’s going to be a woman and she’s going to have a huge ass and she’s going to be having fun—that was the only thing I wanted when I started the painting. And then it didn’t work at all formally in its logic, space, gestures, color, scale. Narratively, I could check the boxes, but formally it was doing nothing. All of a sudden, formal decisions led the way, which felt very new.

GCF: So in these new paintings it’s not just a further liberation in a sense of what can be, but also liberation from justification as well. In your work with Grupo<>, a collaborative project about Latin American women, immigration and aesthetics with Alva Mooses, Aurora De Armendi, Constanza Alarcón and Mariana Garibay Raeke, you mentioned an interest in talking about authority. In your studio works, politics aren’t immediately clear, so if you’re having a conversation about authority in the work, it could be in terms of genre.

mf studio 1Details: “Signs of Love” & “Seascape, Variation I”

 

MF: Yes, when the conversation around painting is not defensive. But in other circumstances, that’s not necessarily the case. I feel that anyone who is truly after a kind of openness and freedom will inevitably encounter a lot of resistance.

Because of Brazil’s distinct relationship with painting and the history of painting, this conversation raises a lot more questions there than it does here. I don’t think that my paintings talk about authority in themselves, but because they are kind of tacky, made with bright colors, and are big, I don’t think they are going to be received politely or perform a polite role. And that is fine with me, that’s not the intention of the work anyway. In any case, I’m looking forward to finding out in the show. I don’t have a title yet, but I was thinking of Signs of Love and Recent Paintings. It opens June 14th, at Galeria IBEU in Rio de Janeiro, and I definitely want to try to organize a conversation amongst other young artists and curators while the show is up.

GCF: It’s not like the paintings aren’t in their own way tied to associations. In the new paintings, there are female bodies which are almost caricaturedly sexy, and your palette, too, is “girly”—it’s not like you come to the studio and just make really free curlicues. There are substantial issues that you are painting out.

MF: Yes. Although I have never painted political scenes or events, I hope to be using color and form in ways that talk about politics and politics of gender as well, partly by removing them from the picture.

mf studio 6“Então”

 

GCF: But what about this relationship between girls having fun, or representations of hot chicks, and a kind of attitude of sexiness in your work—how are you thinking about that? In Adrift 3, there’s a similar idea of strategic prettiness and women’s bodies. It’s also aesthetic, sculptural in the sense of picking exercise routines targeted towards developing or enhancing certain parts of the body.

MF: I do want more females to come into the paintings. What I felt as an over-concern with the body is something that is so present in my life in Brazil. It is a narrative that I grew up in and that literally shapes the bodies of females around me. It is interesting but it is also scary.

Being “ugly” in the work happens to be distasteful. Being “pretty” (and tasteful) also feels like a choice. Often, the kind of beauty people demand from painting is very self-aware. Looking at paintings that are clearly undercooked and having a conversation about how good they are just because they look nice is like running in circles. But this is also a very strategic way to engage the audience. So, it’s also smart, and it’s a decision: it is a version of beauty which is strategic and performative.

Studio Voyeur: Yvette Coppersmith

August 19, 2015 |

Editor’s Note: This most recent installment of Studio Voyeur was generously contributed by James Murnane, an artist living and working in Melbourne, Australia.

Yvette Coppersmith’s inner suburban Melbourne home studio is based in her renovated garage.  In one of her recent bodies of work, Yvette welcomed others to participate the formation of still life arrangements.  In this case, she invited friends over to her home for BBQ’s, in which they would bring personal heirlooms, items of interest, or flowers, leaving them in her studio for her to re/arrange and formally explore in the resulting works on linen.  In order to give the works a little more breathing space, she will often takes pieces across the yard into her home. Yvette is represented by Fort Delta, Melbourne, Australia.   
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Tammy Nguyen, Studio Visit & Interview

September 19, 2014 |

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SATW: You are currently working on a number of different exciting projects and I have always been impressed by your immaculate work ethic and determination. Tell us about some of your current and upcoming projects.

TN: Right now, I have two solo shows up both of which were created during the last year.  One is called Hermes, the Epiphytes at Wave Hill; the other is Chickens of the Torrid Summer, at the Norwalk Community College. They are thematically and materially different but are both continuations of my fascination with human contradictions.

Chickens of the Torrid Summer is my imagination of war and “epic violence”. It is one iteration that displays my wonder with the Vietnam War through the relatable, or at least identifiable, proxy of a chicken— as bird, fighter, rooster, mother, and poultry. I feel deeply a part and totally distanced from the Vietnam War.  I am part of its aftermath and/or afterlife as the American-born daughter of Vietnamese refugees—thriving with no memory of war, constantly frustrated that I don’t understand it.

The show consists of prints and paintings.  The prints diagram chickens twisting around in a rectangular frame, as if embryonic. They also look like illuminated manuscripts sharing information about double-yolked eggs amidst a jungle made of Vietnam War comic book foliage.  A series of paintings display chickens with their skin being removed— their eyeballs roll around in fat, and a thick air of polluted grey. A diptych presents a cock fighter and his eyes/ future eggs/ a nest.

The reflections present in this show have led me to a new project I am working on now.  I am not sure where it is it going yet, but I’ll start from the beginning. Years ago, I was driving around Saigon, and I found an old US military document which is a researched plan to reconstruct Danang, a large city in central Vietnam. This document, written in 1969, identifies Saigon as a “primate city”— a city isolated by rural and inadequate areas that is large and growing so quickly that it absorbs the country’s resources projecting an unstable national future. Thus, this article makes an urgent case for the development of Danang for the prosperity of modern Vietnam.

Part of the reason Danang is so attractive is that its geography can be advantageous:  it has a large river that runs through it, a beach, a bay, and is surrounded by mountains. Danang is also a significant location for military strategy and many world powers had its eye on it— the French got there in the 17th century and named it Tourane. I took the opportunity last summer to use this document as a guide to survey contemporary Danang. I was really compelled by the term “primate city” and I was also lucky to find an endangered species of langurs that live on Son Tra Mountain— the mountain that housed the US military base during the Vietnam War. With the help of a local naturalist, I studied the langurs and I am now developing a new fiction where these primates and the military document can transform into something new, something twisted. Very excited about this, so please stay tuned!

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SATW: How did you come upon birds as a main subject in your work and how do they function in your pieces?

TN: The birds became a dominant subject two years ago when I was making a body of work about family, traditionalism, my Vietnamese heritage, and my love-hate opinions of all of it. I was reflecting on ancestor worship and making images of my grandmother transforming into creatures that were sentimental to my childhood such as dinosaurs, robots, cougars, and birds. At this point, the bird stood for what death could transform into, one of my many imaginations of reincarnation. Then, Sam Messer (my professor at Yale), asked me if I had ever thought about studying birds. Of course I hadn’t, but then I did with Richard Prum, a profoundly inspirational ornithologist and evolutionary biologist at Yale.

After taking a course on evolution, ornithology, and then also doing some taxidermy for the Peabody Museum, I began to illustrate stories from natural sciences. But, as if a secret concept, I would interchange the words evolution and tradition so that they could mean the same thing and challenge each other. As I did this, I found myself more free to invent. Stories of strange species freely incorporated themselves into my world. The avian world is just like the human world! There are birds that kidnap others’ children, those that have many lovers, and those that stick to one. Oddly, when I look at the depiction of animals, I can see more about myself and human relationships. I am also more open to how I could be wrong and I feel more tolerant of others. This is destabilizing; I love that and I am still talking about my grandmother.

SATW: I love your mix of the mythological and the scientific in your work and am particularly impressed by the text you’ve written for your book, Hermes, the Epiphytes. Can you tell us a little about this text and that juxtaposition and how you hope it might function?

TN: The texts in these books are my original poems, which simultaneously retell Greek myths and explain specific plant morphologies.  All three narratives are told from the point of view of Hermes who has transformed into epiphytes (the books themselves are shaped in human-plant forms). They intend to seduce, confuse, and then destabilize the reader/viewer. Before I wrote the poems, I spent a lot of time looking, learning, and drawing epiphytes, or air plants. Epiphytes are funny trickster-like plants. They are benevolent and mischievous as they cling onto host plants (like trees) for support.  This is so that they can gain the most nutritious proportions of sun and water. To me, this trait is very similar to humans seeking opportunity; and this comparison became the jumping point for the books.

I asked my friend and colleague Bruce King, a classics scholar, if he had any thoughts on tricksters, or even the connection between botanics and mythology. He suggested that I think about Hermes, the popular trickster of Greek mythology—the messenger for the gods and kind protector of travelers and thieves.  Separately, Bruce also described a frequent Homeric analogy between plants, particularly shoots and flowers, to heroes, youth, and beauty. The perfect death of a hero should be when he is young and beautiful much like a flower that dies in full bloom. As heroes are half mortals, they can only come close to immortality through an early death in their highest moment as they become preserved in literature and poetry. This idea is so beautiful to me; it resonates with horror and delight; it is scary, contains anxiety, yet also hope all at the same time.

From this idea, I wrote the poems with this fantasy: What if Hermes had turned into epiphytes, and each epiphyte was a messenger that sent stories where classic myths were explained and intertwined with biologically true descriptions of plants?  What if the plants among us are the characters in the myths?

“Hermes, the Epiphytes,” is a direct simile, obviously fictitious.  However, as the scientific information emerges in the narratives, and the images waver between illustrative and suggestive— what began as metaphor could feel like it has more real-life urgency. In one book, Achilles is the epiphyte Bromelia neoregelia. Achilles is also the hero who should die in full bloom. In real life, the Bromelia neoregelia turns deep red when it is about to bloom—like the entire plant turns red. Then, soon after the flower blooms, the plant dies and another plant must start anew. I hope that by making Achiles the Bromelia neoregelia, tension is created, like a simultaneity between life and death. I want my reader to feel that myth and biology exist on such a co-dependent equilibrium that their comfort in faith and science is replaced with friction— the kind of two identical magnets repelling each other. (more…)

Amy Giovanna Rinaldi

July 4, 2014 |

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Where do you find the supports for your paintings and sculptures?

Each piece goes through a different construction process.  Some of my armatures are made from cut steel and wood – conceived and drawn out before being constructed.  This process is used when I react to a surface material that must be weighted or stretched in a specific way. 
Other sculptures have been born out of the love of found objects.  Parts of chairs, wine racks, back scratchers, and mop handles are collected and remade to eventually serve as an armature for the piece.
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Amy Giovanna Rinaldi, Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York