Interview With Alex
Alex Cutler x Lorin Gallery:
Interview before his Solo Exhibition - Abundance and Absurdity
Luxi: “Abundance and Absurdity” is the title you have picked for the exhibition, a title that indicates a contrast but also a sophisticated sibling-like relation in the alliteration. What does “Abundance and Absurdity” mean to your painting practice? And do you see it as a thematic expression of the real world in visuality?
Cutler: I think abundance is a good word for the energy I bring to my studio especially while creating for this show. I believe it sums up the world as I see it at this moment and in turn influences my creative practice.
The absurdity is that abundance can also leave a vapid taste in the mouth. With so much of something aspects can go overlooked. I find this phenomenon fascinating to explore and absolutely a theme in the real world, habitually and visually. Whether we like it or not we are all still learning to cope with bombardment we encounter every day in the age of the internet and social media. We are still so young in our evolution and adaptation required to find balance in this.
Luxi: In terms of abundance, we can see from your painting various visual elements derived from sources ranging from mundanity to pop culture, from art history classics to millennium cult. Can you tell us more about the selection of images that will go into your painting? Are there any particular genres that you’d like to look at? Do you have a standard for the selection, and if not by standard, what are the proper instinctive responses the “right imagery” arouses in you?
Cutler: As far as the selection of images I choose, it is absolutely an intuitive process. I live in this world with my eyes open and my work is never far from thought. I have put a lot of time and energy into educating myself, developing deep connections with my taste and what I am attracted to. Sometimes I see something that resonates, and I’ll snap a photo or make a note and it will go right into the work the next day. Sometimes it’ll take years for it to find its place.
As far as Genres, I like it all, it’s all relevant and has a voice in the conversation. This is especially indicative of the times. There is a coexistence of styles, images, ideas from infinite origins. Anything goes. We are fortunate in that regard. But bottom line, for it to be the “right imagery” and make it into a painting, I have to intuitively feel like it belongs there.
Luxi: Abundance and absurdity are two related concepts, between whom the flimsy demarcation is vulnerable. In this relationship/dichotomy, what do you think is your painting trying to arrive at? Is it a co-existence, a balance between the micro and macro? Or the constant shifting between the two stages?
Cutler: leading the witness... all of those things, but especially I am seeking harmony. My process can be riddled with ups and downs but ultimately, it’s just me and the work and we are working together to achieve harmony. Or if there is a certain unavoidable dissonance it’s my job to know when the pie is cooked, so to speak.
Luxi: Based on an abundance of imagery sources, the concomitant question to an artist will be: how to put them together? How to create a new visual order on your canvas in the absence of mundane logic? Can you tell us more about your painting process as with creating layers and trying to find the new order, new sequence?
Cutler: I think I am naturally very spontaneous and experimental. I think repetition is a fun tool but not a recipe for success. With that being said, I think experience has taught me that some structure and premeditation can add wonders to a spontaneous process. I could truly equate it to a healthy balance and awareness of the masculine and the feminine. Both exist in us all and both play a crucial part in the picture. For example, I can feel when one is pushing harder than the other, things may look rigid, tight and beckon the viewer to come closer yet fall apart from a distance. This in turn might dictate a contrasting next decision or even the preparation of a mark for moves in advance. I have to listen to those voices. Pictures like life are always seeking balance, especially when the scales are tipped.
Luxi: Can you describe to us your mental stage when creating this series? Were you hyper-excited, as if struck by a constant flow of images? Or were you more tranquil, as what Wordsworth described: “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion collected in tranquility”?
Cutler: Fortunately the world I subscribe to and the studio practice I have created for myself allow for the full spectrum of energy and acceptance of whatever headspace I am in. Somedays I come in tranquil and focused, and others I’m buzzing with high energy and a short attention span. The full spectrum can produce some powerful results, and as long as I am in tune with myself and what the picture is asking, I can do what needs to be done. That said, somedays I also come in with an energy that pushes a picture off-kilter. Sometimes this can ruin it, or I have to dig myself out of that hole with some subsequent moves. Suffice to say it’s all a documentation of the human condition and therefor in general a good thing.
Luxi: Collage will be an apt way of describing your method, though it also risks some inaccuracy as we can see in your painting something that undermines and blurs the boundary as is usually noticeable in a collage work. How do you see your own painting in relation to this technique/ genre? And as we see many artists in an Oedipus relationship with the genre they are trying to bring innovation into, do you think collage is such a genre that enforces pull and push to your work at the same time?
Cutler: If we want to be specific they are all paintings and drawings, there’s actually not a single collage in this show. Honestly, I don’t concern myself with genre, it feels limiting as an artist and a viewer.
I have tremendous amount of adoration for compelling art, artists and history but I don’t concern myself with carrying the torch. If that’s going to happen, it’ll be naturally through doing a good job. If I sought such things directly or put too much thought into it, I would probably miss my mark or my art might feel contrived. I am more concerned with making the best work I can with whatever medium that seems fit.
To elaborate, I think compelling art has a lot to do with the mind, the body, the medium and time. Let’s take painting for example, I primarily paint in oils which depending on one’s experience can be considerably unforgiving for a number of reason. But sometimes the juice is worth the squeeze. I might make some decisions when preparing to paint concerning intention and intuition. Once I’m in it though, regardless of it being premeditated or spontaneous, I’m aware of the vitality and volatility of that paint; I’m subject to my bodies physical limitation and inclinations. My mind may drift in and out of focus and different feelings may arise. And whether I’m aware of it or not the picture will take a certain amount of time to complete, and with the passing of time comes change. All of that is imbedded into the picture. So the equation is artist, medium and time (in its simplest form). This is what concerns me most in making art and viewing art. Genre and even fixating on subject feels inconsequential or at the very least secondary to this equation. I’ve seen awful paintings about important matters, just as I’ve seen powerful paintings about seemingly nothing.
Luxi: Some of your visual elements are fairly contemporary, but some of them are also more timeless, historical. Do you think there is a very clear temporal mark on your work? For instance, something in response to the bombarding, overwhelming visual explosion in the contemporary, cosmopolitan environment? Or do you see your work as diachronic – bringing a dizziness of the visual swirl that aggregates images from across human history?
Cutler: I make work that reflects the environment I live in, the things I see. It would make sense that the visual bombardment comes into it, it would make sense for the historical to be represented as well, If I think too much or involve myself too much in what its about, while I’m making it then the results might feel too on the nose. It’s about keeping the channels open and constructing compositions derived from the world around me.
Luxi: This exhibition at Lorin Gallery is your largest show so far, and it showcases not only the large-scale paintings but also the drawings that you have poured in abundance into your notebooks, as well as poetry that serve as a mysterious echo to the visual world. What is the role drawings take in your creative process and in your oeuvre? Are they a preparatory process which paves way to your painting, or are they more like an experimental light-weight field that gives you fluidity and flexibility?
Cutler: While I wouldn’t say the poetry and drawings offer a direct framework for the paintings I believe they all live in the same world and inform each other. Drawing for me is an intimate and boundless exercise. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember. While I don’t use drawing to do preliminary sketches or studies for the larger paintings, I think that whatever I’ve been drawing sticks around my head an inadvertently bleeds into the painting.
Interview and Text by: Luxi H.
Images credit to Alex Cutler and Lorin Gallery