Thursday
Apr042013

Interview: Pavel Romaniko

Our interview series continues with Pavel Romaniko from our next show, Trace.

Can you tell us a little about who and/or what influences your work? 

Influences for my work come from a number of sources including books, films, current political events, etc., I am a consistent reader and a lot of ideas come from texts. Recently, for example, Geoff Dyer been a great source for the way I think of making images and about photography in general.

Tell us a little about your background and what impact that has on your work.

My life is equally split between Russia and the United States.
I live and teach here, in the States, and regularly travel to Russia for family visits and work. My image and object making is strongly tied to my roots and the political situation in my home country. I delve into subject matter that directly relates to questions surrounding separation, navigating dual cultures, and conflicting historical narratives.

What types of processes do you use in your work and how do they relate to your conception of place?

My process of working often involves a lot of initial reading, looking through history books and photo documents. I follow a number of blogs and political commentators, compiling cut outs and images. I later use found imagery and collected information in constructing my sets. Once the sets are built, which sometimes can take anywhere from a few days to a month, I light and photograph them. Most recently I had started making video pieces. To me there is a clear distinction between the place and space. My work does not directly document and only loosely point to any specific places. In my mind, they mostly identify historic or a political spaces which are not restricted geographically or chronologically, but only by history and associating cultural frameworks.

How do you see photography in the 21st century as differing from previous times? 

I do and I don't. I think that the demands that we place on the medium have hardly changed. Ultimately, I believe that the anxiety with which the photographers have been approaching and sampling reality have not ceased, it has just increased with the emergence of digital and the corresponding proliferation of capture devices. Oscar Rejlander’s impulses and methodologies in Two Ways of Life (1857) are no different than, for example, of Andreas Gursky’s production of images. One thing that has probably changed the most is that photography has never been as accessible and democratic as it is now due to the recent and rapid changes in technology. Yet again, the methodologies and consumption models that guide the production of images are hardly any different then even a hundred years ago.

Specifically what unique conceptual concerns do you think photography deals with today?

As I mentioned above, I don’t think that the conceptual concerns around the medium have shifted since the moment of the announcement of photography. If anything, I would consider the notions of the contemporary “photographic appetite” or “photographic noise” to be a unique conceptual concern. The sheer amount and the speed at which we produce and consume images is a fascinating social phenomena. How do we negotiate the volume, what do we do with the images, what complexities does this phenomena present for the present, the future (and the past), etc.? My family album growing up was very small, containing just a few dozens of images; I cherish and remember most of them. How different will that be for the coming generations? What is the notion of a family album now; what does it constitute?

How do these issues manifest in your work?

I take certain joy in producing only a few images a month (sometimes not a single one) towards the current project. Of course, I take other photographs using my cell phone, but still, there is something very pleasurable and contemplative about being slow in production of work.

Speaking of place, if you could visit any place at any specific moment in history, when and where would you go?

Something about going back or forward in time does not sit well with me. Though, for some odd reason, I would not mind being present at the initial performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in Paris in 1913.

Thursday
Apr042013

Interview: Leigh Merrill

And now for another installment of our Trace interviews, next up is Leigh Merrill. Quick reminder, the opening for Trace is April 19th 5-9. 


Can you tell us a little about who and/or what influences your work?

I find influences in what surrounds me – what I see on a morning walk or run, something I read, listen to, look at - all can sometimes spark an idea and get things moving in a new direction. My work is often a response to things I see in the environment. 

Tell us a little about your background and what impact that has on your work.

I grew up in the southwest and that is where I became attuned to how we construct our environments. A perfectly manicured golf course in contract to the desert makes one aware that it is not a natural artifact of the landscape, but one that has been specifically placed. The way we control and construct our environments is a question that I think about in much of my artwork. So, from what was early on just a simple awareness of the artifice and construction of our landscape, grew a larger curiosity and influence on my artwork.

What types of processes do you use in your work and how do they relate to your conception of place?

My process involves shooting thousands of individual photographs in a city or neighborhood – like an archivist or historian might – straight on and simple and with the same lighting conditions. (I shoot on cloudy days that allow for even lighting.) Back in the studio I cull form these thousands of images to digitally piece together and create new photographs of imaginary spaces. Each photograph typically is structured around a particular building or object that fascinated me. The final photographs have anywhere between 10 to 100 bits and pieces of different photographs and digital manipulation.

There is a range of aesthetics and ideas present in all of the work in Trace, but your work functions very well together in this group exhibition. Can you explain how these very divergent approaches complement one another conceptually?

All of us are looking at the construction of place: through regional and cultural artifacts that we leave behind (Mattern’s Driven Snow); the political and personal memories that construct place (Romaniko’s Nostalgia) or through the distillation and rearranging of objects in our environment (my Streets project). Although we use different methods of approaching an understanding of place, these methods look at the residue of how we have shaped our environments. These different approaches offer unique entry points into understanding and interpreting a place. The individual photographs suggest a nuanced way to consider the complexity of understanding and remembering.

How do you see photography in the 21st century as differing from previous times?

The shift to digital has allowed an even greater abundance of photographs. The immediacy and proliferation of images online and via every electronic device we own is overwhelming. I think it forces someone who uses photography for his or her artwork to be more deliberate with the way the use the medium. 

Specifically what unique conceptual concerns do you think photography deals with today?

I am interested in the persistence of the veracity of the photography – its unique ability as a medium to produce an image that looks so much like reality we can accept it as truth all the while knowing that with or without manipulation that image is a particular and subjective view point.

How do these issues manifest in your work?

I seamlessly stitch together hundreds of images to construct a final photograph. Without the veracity associated with photography the power of the image would be lost. It is our willingness to imagine that the places I create could or might exist that is crucial and why I use photography for my artwork.

Speaking of place, if you could visit any place at any specific moment in history, when and where would you go?

There are so many parts of our history that are intriguing. I’d just hope my time machine had a built in shuffle or random button.

Tuesday
Mar262013

Interview: Andy Mattern 

This week we interviewed Andy Mattern. Andy's work is featured in the upcoming three person exhibition Trace, which opens April 19th. Stay tuned for interviews with the other two artists, Leigh Merrill and Pavel Romaniko.

 

How did all of you meet and what made all of you want to do a collaborative exhibition?

Leigh Merrill and I met as undergraduate art students at the University of New Mexico. Pavel Romaniko and Leigh Merrill are both photography professors in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. Merrill had the idea to bring all three artists together because of overlapping ideas in the work.

Can you tell us a little about who and/or what influences your work?

Walking in the city is a source of inspiration for me. I love taking new routes and discovering places I have never been. Whether I’m photographing in the world or in the studio, much of my subject matter consists of commonplace objects and sites that say something about our time. In photography, I’m inspired by the history of scientific and typological image-making like Karl Blossfeldt and Bernd and Hilla Becher, but I also love the poetics and formalism of artists like Hiroshi Sugimoto and Thomas Demand.

Tell us a little about your background and what impact that has on your work.

My step-father was an amateur photographer and residential designer. My mom has had a long interest in the arts including painting and graphic design. My father is a musician and educator. So I have always had a variety of creative directions to emulate. Growing up, my family did a lot of backpacking and traveling, which taught me a lot about the human relationship to nature. In some ways, I see that awareness bubble up in my work, but in an urban context. I’m interested in the unconscious impact we have on our surroundings.

What types of processes do you use in your work and how do they relate to your conception of place?

My process involves both a studio practice and a regular exploration of my immediate surroundings. These days, I capture almost exclusively digitally, but I work in a way that resembles large format photography. With some exceptions, I usually use a tripod and special lenses designed for architecture, so I can compose very deliberately and make multiple images of a single subject, which I later combine seamlessly. This very controlled way of photographing results in extremely detailed images. My goal, in part, is to make uncanny images of everyday subjects that harness something distinctive the human relationship to place.

How do you see photography in the 21st century as differing from previous times? 

It’s amazing. Even in my brief lifetime and experience with photography, things have changed so much. Obviously, there’s the analog to digital transition, but beyond that there is an explosion of image-making by a much larger group of people. I’m still smitten with traditional ideas of formal aesthetics and the individual artist developing a singular vision, but there is an undeniable revolution going on in terms of data art, pixel mining, and appropriation because of the Internet. Photography is more democratic now than it ever was, and the audience as well as the authors are growing.

Specifically what unique conceptual concerns do you think photography deals with today?

I am interested in photography’s complicated relationship with representation. I’ve been reading a lot lately about “concrete photography” as opposed to “abstract photography,” the distinction being that the former is a direct piece of photographic evidence of a process such as crumpling up a piece of light sensitive paper and shining light on it, versus taking a conventional photograph and somehow obscuring the subject. These are both legitimate pursuits, as is documentary photography, however, I’m interested in where they collide.

How do these issues manifest in your work?

In my work, I am looking for a grey area where representation meets abstraction. In Driven Snow, the subjects are printed actual size, so the photograph is approximately the same physical size as the subject it depicts. Because the subject is removed from its original context, however, it is abstracted. So there are elements of both hyperrealism and abstraction in these works. I’m curious how this problematizes the document and comments on photography’s inherent struggle with being simultaneously a reflection of something from the world as well as an object itself.

Speaking of place, if you could visit any place at any specific moment in history, when and where would you go?

Provided that I would not disturb the space/time continuum or start bleeding from my ears… I would like to visit the future in about 500 years. Say, anywhere on Earth, or if we’ve found a suitable exoplanet and figured out how to get there and back, I’d go there.

 

Thursday
Mar142013

Interview: Patricia Villalobos Echeverria & Nichole Maury

Print MKE is happening next week, and greymatter will be hosting "Trace and Gestures."  This themed portfolio was curated by Patricia Villalobos Echeverria & Nichole Maury. As a new feature to the website, we've asked them a couple questions about the show. Here's what they said.
 

Tell us a little about yourselves and how you got involved with this project.

We both collaborated on a course called Trace + Gestures: Kalamazoo <> Granada where we took ten students to Granada Nicaragua to work collaboratively with fifteen Central American artists and generate projects on site.  We came up with the theme for Trace + Gestures from our long standing individual interests in expanding the role of education beyond institutional borders and to engage our students at Western Michigan University with artists internationally.  In our own practice we engage in an expansive approach to print media that includes drawing, installation, video and other ephemeral modes.  We felt that the theme of the course could lend itself well to a portfolio of prints that we could propose to SGCI for the 2013 Conference.  It provided us with the opportunity to work with artists that we both admire that could interpret the theme in intriguing  ways.

 

How did you seek out the artists involved in this portfolio and how was a theme decided upon?

We invited artists that we both felt would lend a particular voice to the theme of the portfolio.  The approaches are varied and engaging and range from the evocative to the humorous.

 

We've always noticed that printmakers have an amazing sense of community.  How do ideas about community play a role in this exhibition?

In some ways it is because of the different paths that these artists navigate that were so intrigued by their unique traces.  It is true that Printmedia engages a very strong sense of community, collaboration and exchange.  Artists in print tend to exchange ideas, techniques, strategies, etc., because of that Printmedia is a strong discipline that engages contemporary artists.  The premise of the exhibition asks artists to think of the way an individual engages with a larger structure (political, cultural, etc...) or within a personal sphere; so the prints herein are a response to that idea, where artists reflect on how a small gesture can have a global impact.

 

One of the ideas addressed in this portfolio is tangibility. How does one’s experience as a printmaker lend to his or her conceptual understanding of tangibility?

This year's conference is dedicated to the idea of "Making" and we felt that what becomes tangible can stem from what is ephemeral and intangible.  We felt that those echoes, those fleeting imprints were something we were interested in capturing with the theme of this portfolio.  We are witnessing an unprecedented time globally, where gestures can have a lasting impact on the individual and on a larger scale; we wanted to engage those concerns with this portfolio.

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