Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Artist of the Week

Jason Karolak

It's a swirl of color that begins in the blackness and gradually expands into a spinning mass of color. A mass that is compelling in its depth and roughness, but still refined and elegant. As the colors build and grow the shades of these colors evolve and brighten, and in turn the overall emotions of the piece also begin to change. This is the work of Chicago resident Jason Karolak.

Jason is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is currently an instructor at the school. On the surface his work appears both colorful and free, but after exploring his sketches and learning of the detail and care that goes into each, my view has changed. I now look at his pieces with the word balance on my tongue. Balance in both color and control. Jason's work draws the viewer in, conveys emotion, and rarely lets go.

Recently, Jason was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): There seems to be a large amount of fantastic artists coming through the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and staying in Chicago. What were you able to take away from your time as a student at SAIC, and why did you decide to stay in Chicago?
Jason Karolak (JK): I believe I got better in touch with myself and therefore better in touch with my painting practice. When you are grounded in your work in a direct manner you can access it more rapidly and more regularly. Also, there is a real conversation at SAIC about the ins and outs of painting. Grad students are expected to "bring the goods" formally and materially, without excess focus on a constructed conceptual program, gimmicks, or irony. As far as staying in Chicago, I am working one year at a time. I have been fortunate to be able to have a nice studio, teach college-level courses, and show my work, without excessive overhead bogging me down. At the end of the day, being productive in the studio and making work that I am excited about--these are the most important things.

OA: A common theme in your larger work is that of the funnel shape or possibly the funnel cloud. When did this fascination begin, and what might it signify in your work?
JK: All of the paintings are built up from the bottom of the picture plane. The image emerges out the process of making the painting. For me the form that I create and the process are the same thing. I want the viewer to be able to access the history and evolution of the painting. Often when I start a painting I lack confidence or do not really know what I am doing. As I become more clear, the painting takes a form and a direction and this manifests in bolder marks and richer color. It is a little bit of a battle, an event for me. In the end, if the painting is successful, then I feel really happy. I make paintings to be happy.

OA: All of the pieces that I have seen of yours have remained untitled. Why have decided not to title your pieces? Do you feel titles may lead the audience in specific direction as opposed to leaving a piece open for interpretations?
JK: Sometimes I title the small paintings, but most pieces are Untitled. I do not want to shut things down for the viewer (or for myself). I want the work to set off reactions, be expansive. Sometimes titles can make paintings feel too illustrative. I want the paintings to be experienced in multiple way--through the eyes, the body, the emotions. Can we hear color?

OA: Do you have a specific color palette that you tend to work with, or are reoccurring colors like oranges and yellows simple coincidence? Do you ever consider the specific emotions that color or color combination might evoke in the viewer of a piece?
JK: I guess you are on to me here. Color is really provocative for me. It carries a lot of meaning and a lot of "sub-verbal" suggestion. It is both formal and emotional for me, I do not separate the two. Also, I am building light in the paintings, so there are often appearances of yellows and oranges, two lighter-valued hues.

OA: I read that you occasionally us a quill pen for your small drawings. What does that antique tool bring to your drawings? Do you use these drawings to inform your larger pieces?
JK: The drawings help me expand and refine my vocabulary of forms. I make a lot of small and brief drawings. Things get repeated, changed, sometimes thrown out. Accumulation and adjustment bring clarity and connection. I like using a quill pen because it offers me a slower line--you cannot draw quickly with a wide quill pen. I want to feel the lines and the forms as they go down, not too fast, not too slow. Also, I want a balance between crudeness and elegance.

OA: What's next for Jason Karolak?
JK: I am currently preparing for a solo exhibition of new paintings at Massimo Audiello Gallery in New York in November 2008. I will probably have a couple of paintings in the Next Fair with Rowland Contemporary Gallery in Chicago in April 2008 as well.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
JK: I only drink tea. I make black tea with milk and sugar at home in the morning. Sometimes I stop into Alliance Bakery on Division because they have really great pastries as well.

OA: Do you listen to music while you paint? What type of music do you enjoy while painting and in general?
JK: Lately I have been listening to a lot of music while working in my studio, but I often paint without noise. If I cannot connect emotionally to the music on then it will just interfere with the work. Also, I like to listen to rhythmic music while painting, music that progresses and is soulful. Lately I cannot stop listening to Son House--the music is organic, structured, and generative.

For more information on Jason Karolak please visit his website.

1 comment:

b said...

How are u :)?
I'm back after long break
and i still...