When did you start drawing? Were you naturally attracted to this medium, or is this a more recent concern and engagement?*
I sometimes drew as a child but I was more attracted to colored marker pens and then moved into oil painting in my teens. Drawing served as a means to end until I learnt it could be something different at art school.
What do you make of the traditional idea of 'mastery', which despite a lot of innovation, continues to have an ongoing association with drawing.*
I think the 'old masters' had a greater need for masterfully rendered drawings to train artists in figurative and spatial illusionism. In a way, in those days drawing took on the kind of structure-giving task that in the modern era is frequently left to more technological approaches such as projection, photography, reprographics, and so on.
What is a good drawing? What is a bad drawing?*
I think this question does not concern any particular choice of medium. Everyone has their own preferences, such as a bias towards Manga or abstraction or any of the'isms'. When I look at work - or my own - I always try to understand what it was the artist tried to accomplish, and then I use that as a benchmark for evaluation. My personal artistic concerns share little with the drawings of Alberto Giacometti, but in looking at his work I can appreciate a level of perfection that only is possible through the utmost commitment to the medium. Giacometti 'went further' and it communicated in any of his portraits or sketches.
At the same time I am convinced that artists working today often succeed through a more whimsical approach. Drawings after all allow for freshness and openness, and leaving things unsaid or unfinished better than paintings. An artist such as Tracy Emin expresses that really well.
How important is a notion of 'process' in your drawing practice?*
I have been teaching a lot of drawing during the past ten years, and learnt a lot about how students can improve their drawing skill. Generally, the traditional focus on perfectly rendered forms is brought into question, and a much more 'process-based' and 'experimentation-based' approach seems to allow inexperienced artists to develop much faster, and more joyfully.
The main theme of our project is 'OnBigDrawings'. What do you make of big drawings / or small drawings, and why does it matter?*
I initiated this project seven years ago after noticing that some of the most interesting contemporary art that was being produced in Chicago at the time was celebrating drawing, but it do so in unusual ways, and often on the kind of immersive, large scale that is traditionally the domain of painting.
All works of art change is they are executed at different scales, and a small intimate drawing could be scaled and refined into a very powerful large scale piece. While the first is more like an 'idea' the second is designed to be appreciated in a gallery or public art setting.
What kind of relationship do you want your work to have with its audience?*
I am interested in making things that convey an 'experience', rather than just an idea.
What do you make of small, intimate drawings, sketchbook pages, beer mat sketches, and scribbles. Are these sheets more 'personal' or can they be art?*
I think over the centuries most artist and also architects and designers made small sketch-like work, which often serves the main purpose of working out a concept for something larger, that's then executed in another medium. 'Drawing as a blueprint'. I suspect that many of the finest classical drawings made it into museums and galleries more because museum curators, collectors, and other artists appreciated their beauty or value, than by original design. If, however, the artist themselves chose a 'painting-like', and wall-based presentation for the work there is more clarity about the purpose of these pieces as art for public display.
I admire the drawings made by Joseph Beuys made throughout his career as he was very outspoken about the fact that these were meant to be seen and recognized as an art form. Paul Klee is another artist who reflected on the object-character of drawings. Those drawings he deemed more 'personal' stayed in his sketchbooks. Those drawing he wanted to be seen as paintings got executed as larger scale pieces mounted on card panels from a printers shop, and he exploited further opportunities to carve into the drawings, experiment with imprinting and transfer, and add washes and paint marks. A few years ago I saw an incredible overview of Klee's large scale works on card board, and was amazed by how these prices managed to have the 'lightness' of drawing but communicated as paintings. Klee himself was quite outspoken about his preference of a drawing-aesthetic over painting on canvas.
The current student generation is hugely influenced by graffiti and Manga culture, as well as a desire to represent things in more classical ways. How do you relate to this trend?
I work with a lot of students who work in these ways, which were often formed in the course of their teenage years. Most artists want to represent well early on.
I think it is very important for an art education to develop a full understanding in students of other approaches that were hard earned throughout the 20th century, yet I feel the current desire for quick results is beginning to undermine this. If I had not had a passionate art history teacher at art school who pointed out the importance of Jackson Pollock's or Yves Klein's innovations, I would not have become an abstract artist myself, or developed a life-long and in-depth connection with abstract art.
How would you define the fundamental differences between painting and drawing? (A quote: 'A drawing is a painting made with less paint', ... Henry Matisse).*
I am with Matisse - these are two possibilities within a continuum of making art, and I see no ultimate difference.
In 2010/2011 MOMA in New York staged its biggest drawing exhibition of the 20th century, and it was called 'On Line'. Do you think drawing is necessarily just about 'lines'?*
I think it was a fantastic show, but as the title suggests, I saw too much of an emphasis on line-based work.
Asian drawings are known to celebrate a notion of 'emptiness'. Do you seek 'emptiness' in your work?*
I am inspired by Frank Stella's approach to this. Stella is one of the actual creators of the minimal movement in abstract art, which in essence is an appreciation of the more Asian qualities of 'emptiness'. Yet, over the years Stella moved towards a 'maximalism', --structures that are cramped full of forms, colors, textures, materials-- yet he always maintained his maximalism was a form of minimalism. Seeking emptiness through richness of form. I can relate to that idea.
Traditional drawing is a more intimate and 'personal' artform, yet a lot of contemporary art practice seeks a more social and participatory dimension. How is this reflected in your projects and drawings?*
Many of my recent walldrawing projects are done on a fairly large scale, and with the intent to communicate with an audience through an immersive experience. In some recent work this also takes form as public art in spaces and contexts outside of the gallery.
Yet most of my work starts as a simple gesture done with a Wacom pen or on an iPad. A few digits of information, recording someones gesture on a screen. This is the 'mark' of our era - it is hardly physical at all... or is it?
Drawing is often treated as a very technical medium in art education (especially in US art schools). Do you think there could be other ways to teach drawing?*
This is something I try to do in my own drawing classes.
One question foremost on my mind, was: how do the artists respond to Covid-19 and the global crisis, and do you think the new situation has an impact on your creative practice, your exhibitions and projects, and is the nature of work being affected by working from home for extended periods of time? Perhaps artists start making smaller scale, more intimate works, made from simpler and easily accessible materials ?*
The situation emerging early in 2020 quickly made me rethink my creative practice for the year. I had a number walldrawing projects in progress, exhibitions overseas that are nearly finalized, and a series of big black and white acrylic paintings that is nearing completion. Yet I put all these projects on hold -- it won't be forever -- and started working on a much more intimate series of hybrid paintings. I don't have a title for this series yet, but it is brashly painterly and done in neon colors, and very different from anything I have ever done. Each piece originates in a piece of software called 'KidPix', before becoming painted, printed, and drawn hybrid paintings. Maybe this was my form of escapism for this year?
Oh, and then... there is also: OnBigDrawings.