An excerpt of the memoir I wrote and am revising appears today in Joyland Magazine (click here) for anyone who is interested in reading. Not much about art in there— just the seeds. Thanks to Rachel Morgenstern-Clarren for wonderful suggestions and edits.
Hi, everyone. I had this content in another section of my website for a while, but I’ve decided it made more sense for it to be a blog post. Apologies if you’ve already read it.
The following images are some monoprints I worked on this summer in North Carolina. I am a neophyte to this medium, and my goal over the several days at the Penland School of Crafts was to take as much advantage as possible of printing's particularities. While monoprinting can still include a large painting component, there's still a spontaneity and dimensionality realizable in printing that straight painting misses. Even with that however, I'm hoping for great imaginative feedback into my painting practice back in Brooklyn.
NB: The little blurbs next to the images are more process glimpses than "gallery" descriptions of the prints.
Etching oil on Arches. This was my first print and made in about half the time I'd normally use to paint a small portrait that's about 8 x 10 inches. This was created mostly reductively, i.e., a solid brayered surface, then values brought up with rag, brushes, Q-tips, fingers.
First, I rolled a transparent blend on the polycarbonate sheet, or "plate." Then I inked a mylar stencil of a tree I made. I pressed it face down on the plate and then removed the stencil so that there would only be a phantom of the ink when the plate was run through with the paper through the press. I also tapped cheesecloth on the background to create texture.
Using the same stencil of the tree as above, I brayered over the plate with a dark ink mixture and placed the stencil to "mask" the area I wanted to keep lighter. I "etched" with a 2H pencil in the areas I wanted to bring up in value as well as used rags, Q-tips, fingers, hands to work reductively. I also flicked mineral spirits on the plate, which explains the round blossoming areas in the background.
"Agitated Tree: Ghost."
I ran the plate in a second time since there was still a decent amount of paint on it. This is the "ghost."
"Look At Me: Vin."
On the fourth day, I made this. The day before I had worked on a complicated embossing which finally came off the press at 12:30am and still needs some painting and also a collage element, so I'm not posting that yet. I am not posting the rest of my embossments here in fact: the raising and indenting of the paper are so subtle none of it really came across in the scans, which is a total bummer. You have to actually see all those details in person. Which is also kind of neat.
Anyway, on the fourth day, I made this. The background is brayered and agitated in the same way as in the tree prints above. At left there is a hint of a figure of a woman crying; she shows up in my work fairly often and was inspired by a statuary in Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. The dominating figure is that of my friend Vin Ganapathy and it was applied in chine colle, meaning "glued paper." I printed out my photo of Vin, pasted the back, laid the image face down, and ran the plate through the press. It resulted in the very graphic image you see here.
"Rubino Left, Rubino Right."
I used some photo references I had from a sitting I did with a friend, Chris Rubino, back in Brooklyn. Transparent blend here, and I chine colle'd his scarves.
I was sleepless much of Penland, and I made this print between 2 and 5.30am. Needless to say, I was not firing on all cylinders so I decided to give myself a break and make something "easy." I created it reductively and somewhat additively, in a similar manner as to the first piece I made, "Disappearing Vin." I made a mixture using a lot of blues and blacks-- there was a particular Payne's Grey in the print shop I was obsessed with. I don't usually use Payne's Grey in my oil painting, but this Payne's Grey was out of this world. That long kind of thin line on the bottom right hand corner? That was a hair of mine that fell onto the plate and got pressed into the print.
"Rubino: His Ghost."
This is the second run of the plate above. This time I didn't use Stonehenge or Arches or Rives, but a thin, beautiful Japanese paper. There's a horizontal line running about a third of the way up because I didn't have the correct pressure on the press the first time I ran the plate through. It took off some of the ink and when I ran the ghost, it showed where some of that ink was thinner.
A chine colle with Vin again and also a crazy red paper from India. Same day as above and again, not firing on all cylinders. Once again, the pressure on the press was not accurate, despite my checking before.
And that, my friends, means I only have to make a mistake multiple times before I get it right.
I’ll be in conversation with Artists Network writer Courtney Jordan about my work this Friday at 6:30pm at Equity Gallery where I’m having a show.
I didn’t get a ton of pics from the opening a couple of weeks ago, but here are some.
Last Thursday (September 27th) was the Marist Show opening reception, and it went great. I went to Maine the morning after— woke up at 5 am and was on the road at 7 for an 8 hour drive, so I didn’t have time to post here on the blog. Back in NYC now, so here are some pictures! We had a lot of people come out, including the president and president emeritus of Marist College, along with family, friends and lots of college students. I had forgotten how much I love speaking to students. Thanks to everyone who came out! The show is up until October 20th, with Gallery Hours Monday-Saturday 12-5 PM.
We made it to Poughkeepsie with all the paintings for the Marist show which opens on Thursday the 27th. I’m exhausted so that’s it for now. Vin was an angel.
Usually I'll do a color study before diving into a big painting. The main reason is to map out the overall visual impact I'll be going for, which is difficult to do on the actual final canvas when I'm in the weeds painting. The color study allows me to push and pull the hierarchies of values and since it's at such a small scale (usually 8 x 10 inches), I'm able to work the whole of the little canvas quickly and manipulate the drama of the painting over and over as I need.
This time, with my 90 x 60 inch painting of the golems which Vin Ganapathy inspired (26 heads), I did so many compositional studies before transferring that I was so anxious just to begin. Now that the painting is underway (I won't post until it's a bit more further along), I realized I actually did need to step back and do that color study, in particular to figure out how to resolve the background. Shortcuts never do seem to work out for me after all:) Anyway, it was a nice breather from the big 'un.
My friend Patty Watwood hosts a paint-out every summer for a few friends up at their place near Narrowsburg, New York, on the Pennsylvania border right at the Delaware Water Gap. It's usually about six or seven artists and their plein air boxes and a model, and we go out to the meadows and the pond and paint for about four days. There's a pig roast on Saturday night and loads of people come and drink around the fire. It's a good time.
This year we had quite a truncated version due to some heavy thunderstorms, and only a couple of us ended up braving it, on the last two days which had finer weather, but we all had a great time as we do every year, and the pig roast-- and the ensuing fun-- still happened :)
I spent the morning making a new tab on this website to show you some of my monoprints from my week at Penland. Pls take a look if you're interested!
In the past few months, I have spoken to more than a few friends who either are not on social media or recently gave it up, and who therefore come and visit my blog for updates! Thank you, awesome friends! I will make an effort to keep this more populated and updated:)
Below is a Sunday afternoon sketch of my place, as it just seemed right to play it fast and loose on a rainy Sabbath in Brooklyn. My mannequin is named Dorothea after one of my favorite heroines, from George Eliot's "Middlemarch." Despite her benign name and frame, which was molded in a warehouse in New Jersey, the poor and earnest Dorothea tends to freak out visitors. A painting in the background is of a geisha in a kimono as well. Poetry on the fridge, lots of tchotchkes on the shelves and classical philosophy books too, from an earlier time when ancient Greek comprised the entirety of my life.
One of the poems on the fridge:
"Waking Up" by Jorge Luis Borges
Translated, from the Spanish, by Alastair Reid.
Daylight leaks in, and sluggishly I surface
from my own dreams into the common dream
and things assume again their proper places
and their accustomed shapes. Into this present
the Past intrudes, in all its dizzying range–
the centuries-old habits of migration
in birds and men, the armies in their legions
all fallen to the sword, and Rome and Carthage.
The trappings of my day also come back:
my voice, my face, my nervousness, my luck.
If only Death, that other waking-up,
would grant me a time free of all memory
of my own name and all that I have been!
If only morning meant oblivion!
A good friend of mine from art school, Danny Grant, hosts a fun and informative podcast where he talks to artists about their painting practice and philosophy. I had a wonderful conversation with him a couple of weeks ago during which we caught up about the evolution of my painting, what it is like to have and not have an arts community, the book I'm revising, how to be fearless and find your own voice in your practice, and the secular humanistic philosophy and pedagogy I have been thinking about and developing for years-- it was a fantastic time. Give it a listen if you have a chance: on iTunes or at www.dannygrantfineart.com/podcast.
Hi everyone! I cleaned up my website a bit and added a drop-down for a big project I'm involved in this year called Frankenstein: Konfidential, and I thought I would mention it in the blog, too. You can find more information about it on our website (launching in July) and on Facebook at the Frankenstein: Konfidential Facebook Page. Just a little bit about it here: a great writer friend of mine, Tommy Zurhellen, approached me last year to collaborate with him on the re-telling of Frankenstein, which is in its bicentennial this year. My part of it is to use his manuscript, Mary Shelley's original and also the myth of the golem as inspiration and respond with a visual evocation-- i.e., giant paintings. It's been awesome. We have two shows coming up in the fall.
Nice to be here.
I did this video - stop motion- a few years ago of my painting "Rachel in Profile." It's very subtle: she's blinking. I realized today I had never put it on the website.
Second painting I need to get done this week. I am cranking it in the studio. My friend Kait came last week and sat for this. I don't know how this got quite so "come hither," but it did! Looking forward to transferring it tomorrow. Leaving to grab some stretcher bars now!
My girlfriend Victoria came by yesterday and sat for me for a few hours. I'm doing a little painting - deadline at the end of the month, so it's been *real* today. This is the compositional drawing I did from life, and then the hat I put on a mannequin to finish up the details today. The painting is going to be vertically long: 45 inches x 26 inches. I don't have the body in yet-- next Saturday!
I just found out that I was awarded the Falls Family Scholarship to attend a two-week monoprint workshop at Penland School of Crafts in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina this summer! I am very excited, as I have been looking forward to diversifying my practice and learning new media. I first started learning more about printing when I was at Vermont Studio Center this summer, and I just want to DO IT now!
Last night I took an encaustics class at Trestle Gallery in Industry City. I came with a project in mind for Frankenstein Konfidential. That didn't go well-- preconceptions and all. I should have just played.
This was the first painting I made after I left Water Street 10 years ago. I had been a student for three years there, and had worked and loved hard so many moments. I remember my last day of school: the economy was in the midst of collapse-- it was 2008-- and I was walking through Times Square towards Hell's Kitchen, towards home. Across the tall buildings, the stock tickers ran red and maniacally, telling the tale of the plummeting markets, and the talking heads played on the big screens and the humans blinked morose and thoughtful.
I had in my bag a check that was something just over $13,000-- it would have been more than $20,000 had it been sent a week before, from Canada: I had just found out that I had won the Elizabeth Greenshields Grant. (A few years later, I would win it again.) Unlike the talking heads of the blinking screens, I was not morose, though perhaps I was thoughtful, contemplative. That day at the computer in my studio, I put out a call for models on Craigslist. Within 10 minutes I was inundated by emails, and I started booking. I could not believe that, for $20 an hour, men and women would come to me, show their bodies to me generously and allow me to capture their spirit with mine. And so, at the beginning of the American recession, I experienced the beginning of my own American dream; in the midst of an external reckoning, I awoke to an internal quietude and power that still marks one of the most valuable moments of my life.
I was ambitious, and went straight to the galleries right away. This painting, “Hopper’s Closer Look”, inspired by his masterpiece “Automat,” sold before the show opened in Soho at Eleanor Ettinger and it now lives in Mumbai. I’m posting this today because an artist I met for the first time on Monday remembered seeing it at the show that many years ago, and it reminds me that everyday I should be grateful that I can continue to paint and work, which is to do what I can to reach my essential self. That is what, in my worldview, keeps me in fellowship with the rest of humanity. It is my effort to bridge the internal world-- so rich, dark, spirited-- with the external-- so rich, dark, and spirited.
Please follow me on instagram, @hyeseungs, if you're interested - I post these a bit more quickly there. Thank you so much!