“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.
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.
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.
Artist Marion Grant is a lifelong creative innovator, with a career spanning fine arts, graphic art and textile design. Her work strongly aligns itself with spiritual growth, and her strong use of color and lyrical compositions follow the precedent of other spiritual artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Anselm Kiefer. For Grant, however, spiritual development and transcendence serve as key attributes in her art-making. Her focus as a fine artist distinctly embraces self-empowerment. Combining a decades-long artistic practice keenly melding color field theory and harmoniously blending distinct visual elements, Grant’s work continues to speak on a personal level to her collectors, peers and all who encounter her works.
ANTE. You work in a very multi-disciplinary style, from digital art to fabric to mixed media. What originally encouraged you to develop your talents as an artist across different mediums? How has your practice evolved?
MG. I feel like all my life experiences coalesce into how I approach art-making. After studying Fine Arts at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, I got my dream job working for the artist Frances Butler who was a huge idol of mine. Working with her, I was responsible for silk-screening fine art textiles. Butler was truly an influential artist for me.
Eventually I returned to New York to pursue a career in the textile industry which was headquartered there. I attended classes at Parsons to learn some specific skills for the industry, eventually going on to work professionally in the textile industry for the following twenty years.
While I worked in the textile industry full time, I continued developing my career as a fine artist. During this time I was creating large scale multi-media paintings which involved silk-screening, chemical patinas, assemblage and painting. I sold artwork to corporations such as Pfizer and Signet Bank. And I was also silk-screening on fabric, making award-winning, one-of-a-kind tableware.
I see my process evolving, with every stage leading forward to something new. In this way, my process acts like an open continuum. I don’t see myself as the type of artist who works exclusively in one medium: in fact, after working in the textile industry I transitioned to work as a graphic designer using contemporary technologies to create digital designs for marketing materials in the dance world. Through this evolution, I realized I’m the kind of artist who likes to explore and discover new things. I like applying an interdisciplinary approach to art-making, uniting the corporeal, metaphysical and psychological. I tend to experiment with unique elements and alternative processes, particularly if it’s something that hasn’t been done before. Once I innovate, I’m then ready to go on and explore what’s waiting to be uncovered. I just don’t like to repeat things because my impetus is to explore the unknown. My work exists at the boundaries of past tradition and new technology.
ANTE. Your work draws from a deep, richly nuanced understanding of color combinations and color theory. How do you balance colors in your work? How do you see color as a key factor in how your artwork is experienced?
MG. When I attended art school, color theory was rooted in a scientific approach. I recall choosing not to enroll in color theory classes because my approach to color is purely intuitive. I studied enough to understand complementary colors and the color wheel, and from there I was able to instinctively grasp color combinations.
After working in the fine arts industry, I transitioned to become a designer in the garment industry. There I developed my skill set and realized I excelled at selecting colors for fabrics. Eventually I transitioned to working in home furnishings as a colorist. I was in charge of painting several different color combinations in gouache paint to define different fabric “looks”, then going to the textile mills to oversee the printing of the selected color combinations. This was a very specific job which required a keen understanding in learning how to balance color. The colors that live with you in your home set a mood and reflect your taste, making color a key element affecting sales in this field.
Great color combinations speak to people. They want to live with furnishings because the colors they’ve selected make them feel good and reflect their personality. I feel like color is experienced on a visceral level and can evoke certain emotions. I wonder in some sense if color evokes emotions similar to how music does, maybe on a subconscious level? It’s my hope that throughout my career in home furnishings that I helped set a tone of comfort and joy in a home.
Through my spiritual development, I have learned how colors have profound spiritual implications and can greatly effect our vibrations and how others perceive us. Each chakra is represented by a color, and it’s helpful to have some understanding of energies and the colors representing them. For example, blue indigo is affiliated with an increase in peace, tranquility, and devotion. It is symbolic of the inner mind, intuition and the vast cosmic consciousness. It is also the color of the third eye chakra. To increase clarity of thought and intuition, it helps to meditate with indigo. Interestingly enough, I see my artwork innately incorporates some of these color meanings. One example is my fine art print “Primordial Space”, which is about meditating in a vast cosmic consciousness – an investigation of both inner and outer space.
ANTE. Can you walk us through how you approached your acrylic “skins” series found on your website under “Alternative Media”? When did this process enter your artistic practice, and how is it evolving over time?
MG.I began work on the acrylic skin series about six years ago. When I left the textile industry, I returned to Parsons in 1999 to take classes in new computer programs specific to design in order to build a wider skill set. Through these experiences, I began making art on the computer. My style of digital art involved combining portions of my previous artistic processes. This included painting, silk-screening and various chemical processes and patinas. After working and developing my digital art, I wanted to switch gears and to experience working with my hands again. I wanted more than just a flat surface in my artwork.
Around six years ago when this series began, I discovered two things simultaneously: first, was the book Digital Art Studio which was published in 2004 outlining how three artists combined digital art with traditional art materials. Secondly, I encountered the work of Catherine Steinmann on view at the Tibet House in New York. I saw her show “Vanishing Tibet” with artist Danny Conant. They were combining digital and traditional processes in photography to create mixed media artworks. I was very inspired when I encountered these works, which were printed on traditional handcrafted paper. I was so excited because I realized this was exactly what I wanted to do, and the spirituality present in the work also spoke to me.
I subsequently discovered Mary Taylor’s work. Taylor was an assistant to a co-author of Digital Art Studio. I took Taylor’s class on working with digital and traditional materials and this launched me into experimenting with digital art and combining it with analog processes. This mainly resulted in using acrylic materials as I don’t like to use anything with chemicals or solvents if it can be avoided. I also happened to meet Catherine Steinmann in this class. We struck up a friendship, and I’m happy to have a peer to share this experimental approach to unusual processes and techniques with.
I started to develop my own process as a combination of digital art and handmade surface details. The process is labor-intensive, and many things can go wrong along the way, but it is exciting in its unpredictability. As a result, this process is continually changing and evolving. Putting the handmade surfaces through a printer is intimidating, as the sticky quality of the acrylic surface can ruin the extremely expensive printer I have to use in this process. These skins also possess a raw quality that in a sense makes them feel alive. They don’t have a stiffness to them, or feel overly polished: instead, they feel organic. This process is aided by layering iridescent paints and hand-embellishments with digital designs in between the different layers.
ANTE. Admirers of your work often appreciate its spiritual and soothing effect. What subject matter and concepts are you investigating in your work? Is it meant to be spiritual, and if so, how do you see this affecting your audience?
MG.My art is intrinsically connected to my spiritual identity. I’ve devoted my life to spirituality, creativity and transformation. Making art is my life’s purpose and serves as a visual meditation for me. I mindfully strive to create works that are uplifting, transformative and healing for the viewer. My work introduces harmony and a sense of compassion to a wider audience, and my artistic practice reflects my spiritual development and vice versa.
I’ve been drawn to and inspired by Buddhist and Hindu imagery because it is so beautiful and soothing. That has been a big source of inspiration, especially for the prints on display in the “Fine Art Prints” Section of my website. I have met those who encountered statues of the Buddha, or viewed representations of supernatural deities, who reported feeling a strong, energetic presence. Through the years many people have recounted these transcendental experiences to me. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of this phenomenon: once, I met a viewer of my work who described a powerful experience they had while viewing my fine art print at a Buddhist retreat. I felt overjoyed and humbled to be a part of this transformation in some small way.
The series I’m currently working on is centered around the dragonfly, which serves as my spirit guide. I serendipitously discovered a dragonfly on the door outside of my building in Manhattan in May. This was a very unusual circumstance as Spring is not dragonfly season, and dragonflies are also not commonly found in urban spaces. The dragonfly is revered as a symbol for transformation and empowerment. It embodies creativity and light: reflecting the sun and bringing us out of illusion. Dragonflies encourage us to apply creativity and imagination to transform our lives and discover ourselves in new ways. The dragonfly appeared at a significant time in my life, and I appreciate its meaning and message for me. I hope that others can connect to uplifting messages that the dragonfly brings as well.
While I don’t feel that people have to connect spiritually to my work, I do hope that my work positively impacts the viewer regardless of their own philosophy. I hope it enriches and uplifts others in their life’s journey.
ANTE. You often incorporate nature and fabric patterns into your work. Do you see these motifs as contrasting or complementing one another? How do you create an interaction between the two throughout your practice?
MG. Contrast is a key element in my work. As long as I can remember, I’ve always combined geometric patterns with organic ones. This balance of subject matter persists throughout my practice, from painting to collage and throughout my digital work. I see both contrasting and complementary elements at play in my compositions. For example, in my work “Blue Dragonfly“ the architectural draftsmanship in the background of the work juxtaposes with the delicate anatomy of a dragonfly’s wing.
In the series Illuminated Miniatures on my website, the contrast lies between the organic, hand-painted watercolors and the textile patterns which are then overlaid in Photoshop. That series elicits a sense of being worn away: of layers being pulled apart and deteriorating as these contrasting elements are combined. In some of my works, iridescent paints between each layer unites the different overlapping layers of natural and man-made patterns. I often incorporate minimal elements, such as flat gray lines, that then create a sense of geometric contrast with the organic elements in the composition. Dorothy Krause, co-author of Digital Art Studio, unwittingly described my work when she wrote that the best digital art “combines the humblest of materials… with the latest in technology to evoke the past and herald the future.” It is this union of opposites, ranging from old to new, from geometric to organic, that creates transformation.
ANTE. You often layer objects and concepts in your work, both physically and metaphorically. What importance do you ascribe to layering in your practice as a whole? Do you see this as crucial to your creative process, why or why not?
MG. Layering is the most crucial element in my artistic practice. It acts as a key factor in my artistic expression, whether using computer programs to make artwork or creating work traditionally by hand. Layering allows me to combine different elements which may otherwise be disjointed, but when separated and re-arranged, allow a sense of complexity and depth. When finished hopefully this combination of imagery coalesces into a harmonious whole giving the work a new meaning. This is the essence of my work.
It’s exciting to work in layers because you can’t really plan it. As a result, you’re never really sure what the end result will be. This method is perfect as it helps me discover new aspects of my process. I might plan a concept in advance, but then let the layering process lead me, allowing it to take over and guide me to unexpected results.
I am now seeing a similar pattern in my spiritual development, made evident by peeling away layers of personal development to reveal more truths underneath. Only after one layer is peeled away can the next layer underneath be worked on. It cannot be rushed. I never thought about this before, but I think it’s interesting to see how this compares to my process of making artwork.
The word “palimpsest” has been used to describe my practice, alluding to my practice of scraping and masking certain elements in an artwork in order to reveal others. By revealing traces of what is left behind, my work shows a worn quality, evoking a sense of history and alluding to mysteries of the past.
ANTE. What new challenges are you looking forward to in your work? What new mediums are you anticipating working with and how would you like your practice to develop in new ways?
MG. Currently I have acrylic skins that I’ve made in a larger format than I’ve previously worked with. I want to print images onto them but I haven’t tried it yet. Printing onto large acrylic skins is challenging on my printer and can be risky. This is one reason why I’ve been working in a smaller scale until this point, but now I want to take on the challenge in this next phase of figuring out how to scale up.
My work has also been developing toward working with multi-dimensional surfaces. I like the extra dimension as it brings out the reflective quality of the paints I use. As well as utilizing transparent and translucent surfaces, multiple layers in a work results in the image changing depending on how light hits the surface. This imbues the work with a sense of movement and helps to keep it from feeling static. It takes thought and experimentation to recognize how to best display my artwork, particularly when it comes to framing. The process is very different with each artwork. It can take time to find the best position and angle for artworks to hang onto the wall in order to truly capture the depth and shadows present in an artwork. It’s not the same as working with an opaque or rigid surface, because each work requires a different approach in order to enhance the work.
With my artwork, the types of energy incorporated into each layer can change as the artwork builds. More layers mean a combination of energies can be present in each work, adding a feeling of depth and complexity. This can almost be considered a type of alchemy in which an artwork transforms as layers are added. My hope is that this will lead me to explore new aspects of my practice I haven’t considered yet.
With a wink to contemporary aesthetics while unabashedly pushing the envelope, interdisciplinary artist Katie Hector, who lives and works in New York City, has rooted her emerging practice in painting with a focus on two main bodies of work: large-scale paintings on canvas and three-dimensional wall sculptures. In addition to her studio practice, Hector works as an independent curator and the Co-Director of Sine Gallery. She has worked to organize and fundraise a variety of projects, including an international exhibition in 2017, multiple collaborative and environmental installations, and over two dozen group shows, screenings, pop up events, and panel discussions.
Hector, who holds a BFA from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in 2014, has lectured at Mason Gross on professional development in the arts all while gaining recognition through scholarships, residencies, and awards including the 2017 Picture Berlin International Residency, the 2016 Merit-Based Scholarship from Urban Glass, the 2014 Scott Cagenello Memorial-Prize, and the 2013 Ruth Crockett Award. We sat down with Hector to get an update on her current artistic endeavors, scope out her upcoming projects and learn about whose work inspires her own experimental practice.
ANTE.Your practice examines, conceptually, parameters of virtual engagement across social media and the implications of modern technology on society. Can you talk us through your two series, FOMO and Interface, and how each examines these phenomena through a particular lens?
KH.I believe both series attempt to describe how new technologies and interfaces, specifically smartphones and social media have created shifts within communication and the contemporary psyche. Through large-scale painting the FOMO Series seeks to address social anxieties and how they relate to internet culture through utilizing abstract mask-like imagery. Repeating ovoid forms allude to a floating face with large staring eyes that take up most of the picture plane. For me, these mask-like forms reference selfie culture, emojis, and online personas while also signifying ancient desires to capture one’s likeness or establish a legacy.
The Interface Series meditates on the fetish object itself, that being smartphones and personal devices. To determine the scale for this series of work I utilize the dimensions of various tablets and monitors as a template. These pieces are comprised of two to three layers of geometric forms cut from various materials and collaged onto each other. I typically slather the base shape in a high gloss industrial enamel, which in effect mimics the sleek reflectiveness of a black screen. Additional layers are then affixed to this base surface and are three dimensional casting real shadows. I think of these subsequent layers as computer tabs, each containing their own set of painterly information and surface qualities. Palette as well as content unite these parallel bodies of work. Hyper-saturated prefabricated colors are sourced from commercial advertisements, anime, clickbait, and memes to create visual lures.
ANTE.You consider pop culture and the presence of the internet in society today through your work, specifying that you “anthropologically observe and document.” Can you walk us through this process and what drew you to this subject matter?
KH.I am acutely aware of the time and place I am a part of. I am a twenty something, a proper millennial, who was taught in grade school how to write a postal address and use the Dewey Decimal System in one class followed with how to type and proofread an email the next. I am a female, mixed-race American: born and raised in a capitalist democratic society. These are my personal truths and they all come into play at various points in the work, sometimes they’re subtle, but it’s all there.
There was a time I felt insecure about my subject matter, that speaking about social media was too Pop-ish and wouldn’t have any lasting impact, but time and time again I couldn’t help coming back to it. Looking back at my experience growing up it was radical to come of age during a time in which sending a handwritten letters became novelty and infinite spans of information seemingly became ubiquitously available. I am particularly fascinated with how we as a society are dealing with this incredible access to information. We essentially have free education where all of human history, the known world, any workshop, or book is downloadable, Google-able. We are living in an age where no one has to wonder anymore it’s all right there, at your fingertips, and one click away. However most people tend to use the internet for pleasure, entertainment, and communication. In American society we have subconsciously ascribed a hierarchical moral value system to how we utilize our internet time, one that is tied to puritan and capitalistic ideologies. Anything that falls outside of the parameters of smut-less, dutiful, goal-oriented work makes us feel kind‘ve undefinably bad: guilty, weird, gluttonous and indulgent. I take note of these patterns of behavior both in myself, and broadly speaking and focus my work on describing this failure to cast off the physicality of our humanity, namely our insecurities, even during our cognitive assertion into a virtual realm.
ANTE. Works from your FOMO series were recently on view in Brooklyn’s culture neighborhood of DUMBO, sponsored by DUMBO BID, as part of an arts + culture event. How were you hoping that visitors would interact with your works and did this transpire?
KH. The space was truly unusual and fun to navigate. Noted as, “likely the tiniest, most inconsequential gallery in NYC, maybe on the face of the Earth”, it was a 32-square foot pop up cubicle erected within the archway of the Manhattan Bridge in DUMBO. The This Friday or Next Friday Space Station is a pure product of NYC, and the limited spaces available to artists. It’s a testament to the fact that anything is possible anywhere and that lack of space is not a roadblock, but rather an invitation for innovation. When I was first invited to show in this space I immediately envisioned an installation; however, in the weeks leading up to the show I was particularly obsessed with making large-scale paintings on drop cloth as the latest extension of the FOMO series. I choose five of these paintings to show and installed them on the interior of the gallery making an effort to completely cover any white wall space. I covered up the cobblestone ground as well with a colorfully speckled soft insulation material that transformed the space into a hyper saturated cubicle. Considering the tiny confines of the gallery itself set within a high traffic public space the level of public engagement with the work was any artist’s dream. It was pure joy watching kids stomping and rolling around on the carpeted ground, people taking selfies in the space, and passersby coming back to peek into the space three or four times like moths drawn to a rainbow flame.
ANTE. Can you walk through how your work has evolved? How did your education in the art field evolve and what mediums do you work within?
KH. In a way I am making the same paintings I always have. I was fairly skilled at rendering faces during high school, and I guess the FOMO paintings can be interpreted as a portrait of a mental state. In that regard the largest shift in the work has been one towards abstraction over the years. Instead of describing an individual the work now comments more broadly on the human condition, the psyche, and asks whether humans are bad or whether they are simply creatures of folly.
I find myself constantly chasing the work, pursuing anything this body of paintings requires. For example I needed to scale up the image to see how gestures would translate at 10’ which was not possible in my first studio, “well I guess I have to move studios and get a bigger wall then.” Each time I take that leap of faith to follow the work and make a big change I become significantly more sure of myself and my ability to make the right decision when it needs to be made. In school I used to think that I wasn’t a serious painter because I didn’t toil over layering and sanding down primed canvases, practice drafting my compositions, or fuss over mixing my paints. I learned each lesson of course, but secretly didn’t care too deeply about those particular processes. Eventually over time all those things fell to the wayside and I realized that they were someone else’s methodology and although it’s cool, and works, it had no place in my practice, so I was able to let them go. I am quite grounded in my content at this point and feel satisfied that it is focused yet will leave enough meat on the bone to sustain my curiosity later down the road. I’ve come to a wonderful point where I am confident about my process, the materials I use, and the speed at which I work. So it’s more or less full steam ahead for now.
ANTE. Work from your Interface series is on view in Burlington, Vermont as part of the “Optimist Prime” group exhibit at New City Gallery. Which works are included in this show and how do they fit the theme?
KH. “Clickbait”, “Double Tapping Moon Vibes”, and “Tumblr Grl 2”, are the three works which are included in the “Optimist Prime” exhibition. Curated by Michael Shoudt, a long time friend and talented painter, the show focuses on gesture and surface in a way that walks the line between painting and object. I’m certain that Michael would dig his heels in the ground and declare that this was purely a painting show, but to me there is a playful testing of those boundaries and a “who says this isn’t a painting” spirit to the collection of work.
ANTE. What other exhibits are your works a part of currently and what do you have upcoming?
KH. I currently have four works (“Golden Toupee” (2015), “Filter Bubble” (2017), “Untitled” (2017), and “Versace Versace” (2018)) all from the Interface series included in an exhibition entitled “Small Paintings(ish)” at BS Projects in Houston, TX. I’m tickled that my work made it to Houston before I did.
Along with being a painter I am also an independent curator, and Co-Director of Sine Gallery. We recently teamed up with Light Year and the DUMBO bid to curate a massive public screening of six interdisciplinary artists: Damien Davis, Patricia Brace, Yali Romagoza, Dominique Duroseau, Jesus Benavente, and Joiri Minaya. The videos will be cast onto the side of the Manhattan Bridge Aug 2nd, 8-10 PM in DUMBO, with the best vantage point being from 155 Water Street. I am extremely passionate about this collection of artists and am so please to represent their work in DUMBO, a community which has time and time again embraced my alternative white cube curatorial slant. Huge thanks to 68 Jay Street and Ardele Lister and Steve West for being eternally supportive.
I am also a Curatorial Assistant for Art in Odd Places 2018: BODY and will be helping to organize various aspects of this year’s performance art festival under the vision of Katya Grokhovsky and Ed Woodham. BODY marks the first exclusively female, non-binary, and trans line-up in the festival’s 14 year history and will include the work from 45 artists from all over the world in a four day performance art festival along 14th Street Manhattan October 11th – 14th. In conjunction with the festival there will be an exhibition and public programming held at Westbeth Gallery throughout the month of October.
As far as upcoming shows go, I have a few projects in the works for the studio this Fall, stay tuned.
ANTE. Can you walk us through some of your contemporary influences? What artists are you looking to as you develop your own practice?
KH. I love Joyce Pensato, I love her imagery, process, her use of gesture. Katherine Bernhardt is another contemporary favorite. I look to her as a example of how an artist can glean new sensibilities from travel and blend them into an ongoing work. Poly Apfelbaum is a classic and I frequently look to her installation-based work, her color, and use of commermerically sourced materials. I have profound respect for the trailblazing forms of Susan Murphy, and what she introduced to painting, and can’t help but gush over the sleek graphic refinement of Tauba Auerbach. Along with these giants I have the deepest respect for the work of my peers: Amie Cunat, Denise Treizman, Katie Bell, Leah Guadagnoli, the list goes on.
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.
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.
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, crèmedelacrème 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.
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 email@example.com