Digging Into the Interdisciplinary Practice of Roni Sherman Ramos

“I always think that my work speaks for itself, because I’m really a traditional painter.” -Roni Sherman Ramos

It’s morning, and shafts of light are pouring in through the windows of Ramos’ Brooklyn studio. Paintings on canvas jostle for attention with nearby works on paper, while ceramic works fill the remaning space. I carefully step through the space, afraid to awaken the spirits seemingly captured in Ramos’ elevated works: nighttime scenes – or are they abstractions with flecks of bright light winding through them? – share a wall with vibrant ochre red compositions that seem to leap for joy at being created. Ramos is studious – rarely a season goes by when she’s not pursuing professional development to deepen her understanding of her artistic practice. She is also reflective and thoughtful, ruminating on the painters and other interdisciplinary artists she has taken absorbed wisdom from. We spoke in November 2019 as she was celebrating the results of a recent trip to the kiln, diving into both her paintings – where her traditional roots lie as an artist – along with her work in the expanded field.

“Reflections” Roni Sherman Ramos, 36×36″ oil on linen

Roni Sherman Ramos: Even though my work is abstract, there are always elements viewers can understand…from a representational standpoint. People are always seeking familiar things in artworks – especially if they are abstract (works). I like to give viewers the freedom to find a mountain, or a face… before recently, I wasn’t even titling my work so that it could speak for itself. I’ve come to realize my work is rooted in nature and rooted in the land, and it has elements of land-driven [representation]… so I’m now calling these paintings abstract landscapes. Now, I’m embracing this impulse toward nature: it looks like nature to me, there’s no denying it.

ANTE. Mag: That’s a big leap!

RSR: Right, I’ve always tried to disguise this impulse before. I can deny it, and put lines through it or..

AM: …cover it in markings or…

RSR: …right or cover these in markings, or disguise it. But it remains. My process is a process of destroying, and re-inventing and resurrecting, as Amy Sillman says. I work in layers – sanding, scraping, destroying and then building [the work] up again and finding things from the past that rise to the surface, then making new marks.  What I strive toward is making sure there are a variety of marks: places where the eye can rest, and places where color leads the eye…agitation is present on other areas of the canvas. Tension and relationships are built through marks across the canvas. I include impasto as well in my works.  There’s always contrast – my work includes defined shapes and diffused shapes. Textures are also very important to me.

“Earth Wind Fire” Roni Sherman Ramos, 24×18″ oil on linen

AM: Can you walk us through your process? Some of the recent works from this Fall have almost an action-painting sensibility, showing brushstrokes and emblazoned areas of texture and scratches…

RSR: Marks and mark-making are both important parts of my practice. Texture as I mentioned is very important. I also love the work of Jackie Saccoccio, I’m a fan of her paint-drip heavy style and sometimes incorporate a similar sensibility but not always.

AM: Is there a new direction you’ve embarked on lately in your work? 

RSR: Lately with my oil paints I’ve incorporated using a heat gun into my process, using the heat gun on the freshly painted coat of oil on linen and exposing a bit of the layers below. This adds areas that build that feeling of agitation, I’ve learned to be careful when I use it as it takes a light touch.

AM: Is this the first time you’ve used the heat gun in your process?

RSR: I’ve used it before to dry water-based mediums, but this is the first time I’ve used it in my oils.

AM: Tell us about the works we are seeing here (featured in this article): are these all recent works? Say from the past two years?

RSR: These are all recent works, but honestly my paintings take a long time to make. Often I think I have control over the process, but eventually I realize the process has control over me. This is just what happens organically: you don’t always know what will happen or how you’ll do something that you’ll like

AM: So is this freeing for you or is it nerve wracking?

RSR: I like the serendipity of it, to a certain degree. Sometimes it’s disappointing but that’s ok, I know I can keep on going but it can take months until I see what I like. I always have more than one work in progress at any given time.

-ANTE. Mag

 

Mediated Forms: Artist Ida Ivanka Kubler’s Layered Practice

Spanning fine art, fashion and even sericulture, artist Ida Ivanka Kubler truly earns the moniker multidisciplinary artist. Drawing particular inspiration from the natural world, Kubler creates a practice synthesizing natural materials and humanist subject matter. Placing the figure in nature, or evoking figurative elements in reclaimed organic matter, Kubler masterfully comments on our place within the wider ecosystem and our integration with natural phenomena in a visceral, poignant manner.
 
We sat down to chat with the artist about her interest in integrating natural materials in her work and how her practice combines disparate elements into a unified whole.
 
The Birth of an Idea II, Silk cocoons and acrylic on canvas, 78x39inch
Ida Ivanka Kubler, The Birth of an Idea II (silk cocoons and acrylic on canvas, 28×39″)
ANTE. Thanks for chatting with us today, Ida! Many of your artworks either draw inspiration from natural motifs, such as landscapes, or incorporate actual natural materials (such as your Birth of an Idea series). Can you explain your interest in nature and how it inspires you as an artist?
 
IIK. Art is a journey. I tried to settle in one place but life encourages me to travel: from forest to deserts, grasslands, oceans, rivers, snowy landscapes, mountains, even the ruins of older civilizations. I accept the paths this journey has brought into my life.
 
My art has become my diary: sometimes in physical form, when I use the materials I’ve gathered along the way, and sometimes in an image when I use the visual identity of a place. 
 
ANTE. You also seem to have an affinity for portraits and the human body. Do you have a preference for portrait or landscape? Do you like to combine the two, and can you explain if you treat either subject differently in terms of medium (oil, acrylic, etc)?
IIK. My professional arts training started in my teenage years with a specific study of the skull found in a book called “Anatomy For Artists”. At arts school I was taught to see the body “under the skin”.
 
From my beginning in this traditional realistic painting knowledge about muscles and bones, I then moved to the medium of landscape. If you have a passion and you wish to follow it professionally, you have to go for the challenges and also take risks. What I’ve discovered is that it is good to use oil paint to convey depth through many transparent layers in portraits and landscapes (such as in my Non-Material series) while for abstract works it’s better to use acrylics as it can be applied only in one layer in perfection. Once can then reach greater depths through examining three-dimensional aspects in their work (as with The Birth Of An Idea Series)
 
Also, once I get too comfortable with one thing I find it stimulating to switch to something else!
 
ANTE. Which artists have inspired how you make your artwork? 
 
IIK. Very consciously for my Non-Material series I was influenced by Peter Doig, especially artworks like “White Canoe”, “Orange Sunshine”, and “Rosedale.” 
 
This inspiration made me go to London to study at Chelsea College of Arts (the same university where Peter studied.) Subconsciously, for my The Birth Of An Idea series I was influenced by Mark Rothko.  I found out this much later, by the time I’ve created the 50th piece and was halfway through the series. He is more into red squares where I like blue tones and circles! But we both use simple geometric forms and color as a medium.
“Non Material II” (Oil on canvas, 47.2”h x 63”w)
Ida Ivanka Kubler, Non-Material II (oil on canvas, 47.2”h x 63”w)
ANTE. Which natural settings or phenomena have inspired your artworks?
 
IIK. Sublime magical settings in the forest, waterfalls, rivers, fog, weather, natural forms, and stones inspire my Non Material Series. Silkworm cocoons have led to The Birth Of An Idea series.
 
As an example, last summer the natural rock phenomenon in Bulgaria, called stone mushrooms, greatly inspired me and I made a short art film where I painted in front of these natural structures. I painted with honey and powders: turmeric, green tea, white egg shell, cacao and fruit powder on a honey comb, and finally the film crew and I shared the artwork together – eating it as a feast!
 
ANTE. Explain your diverse background in creative, arts and fashion industries. How do they inform each other? What is your education and training, and how does it impact the artist you are today?
 
IIK. I was born an artist and my talent expresses itself fervently. When I was young, my mom couldn’t get me away from the table where I was painting the whole day. In my early twenties, I got involved in fashion and I ran a fashion company for many years as a way to make money. I wasn’t ripe enough to survive only from art. With that fashion company,  we were present at fashion shows in both Paris and New York. We had celebrities as clients. One famous actress said once that she loved my dresses as they are like artworks. And indeed I was using fabrics made out of paper, flowers or other very exclusive and rare, crème de la crème fabrics.
 
These days for some of my art shows openings I create my own outfits as a protest to today’s “uniformity”.
 
I’ve attended classes at five schools for my arts training, and one school for fashion, including the National Academy of Arts, Sofia, Bulgaria; University of Applied Arts, Bielefeld, Germany; and Chelsea College of Arts, London, UK.
 
What you learn in art about sculpting was very useful in fashion draping. There is in many ways little separation between the two. 
“Non Material III” (Oil on canvas, 47.2”h x 63”w)
Ida Ivanka Kubler, Non-Material III (oil on canvas, 47.2”h x 63”w)
ANTE.  Can you explain a bit more about your Non-Material series? How do you create these works and what inspired you to begin the series? What direction are you headed with this series?
 
IIK. What I like about my Non Material series is that it combines three important aspects that excite me: traditional professional painting, in-depth technique, and community/family spirit.
 
The depth and transparency in these pieces appears through many thin layers of exclusive paint from the Old Holland palette – for me, the hallmark brand of high quality of paint. This technique is complex, with the result that it takes months to make one painting.
 
The subject “on stage” are two or more people walking next to each other in a natural setting. The scene could be from any period of time, as the clothing of the people is not important, but their close connection to each other and relation to the group as a whole is key.
 
My clients for these portraits are often families. I portray them walking together, perhaps before or after lunch. Walking together creates a special bond in families. Walking together could be a synonym for thinking together, experiencing together, and loving together. To catch the energy in this family dynamic is a very exciting task. Families who are interested in capturing this unique perspective can feel free to reach out to me, as I happily take commissions in this expanding series. 
 
ANTE. Your works are held in art collections the world over. Can you share what are some themes that your collectors admire in your work? What are some common responses that you get from those interested in your artwork, and how does your work inspire them?
 
IIK. I call the responses to my artworks ‘gifts”, as they come to me like positive surprises. My last client was from LA, and my dealer there forwarded her message to me saying, “The piece spoke to me, so I had to buy it and give it a home.”
 
Some of my works have even helped people heal through psychological stress. My works have been published by Behring Institute for Medical Research as deemed to improve individual’s health. I understand myself expressing healing messages through my artworks.
Also, some of my collectors in the past have invited me to paint in salons in their home, so I’ll stay and spend time painting in this room in the their home that serves as my dedicated studio. While I paint, it is often the children who will visited me to watch me paint several times per day. I’ve received emails like: “My little girl is asking when Ida will be back here again?” or “Why is Ida having such a long holiday away from us?” or “My boy is waiting in the morning at the window and asking for Ida”. I am happy I inspire children through my art-making.
 
ANTE. What upcoming exhibition and shows can you tell us about?
 
IIK. My next exhibition will be in LA. To subscribe to my invitation list, please feel free to email me at idaivankakubler@gmail.com