Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Artist of the Week

Man Bartlett

What draws you to a specific painting? What attracts you to one piece over another? I have toyed with the idea of color, and I still believe that colors and color combinations can draw you in and evoke emotion. However, what you may be feeling, what may be drawing you in, is actually the artist's emotion or intention connecting with you through the simple collection of media, paint, canvas, pen, paper, etc. What you feel may be the energy and the motion of the artist creating that circle, or drawing that line, an energy that lasts and endures for ages.

Chicago's Man Bartlett creates work with intention. He works with four basic colors, and focuses on the completeness of the circle. His work has been shown exclusively around Chicago, and he is currently participating in a group show at FLATFILEgalleries that runs through April 11th.
Recently, Man was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your work?
Man Bartlett (MB): I'm fascinated by simple forms that tell complex stories. Lately I've been referring to my work as a sort of Emotive Minimalism. Compacting as much information in as little means as possible. Over the past few years I've been inspired by equal parts Duchamp, Basquiat, Wabi Sabi, and most recently Wolfgang Laib, which I think can inform an approach to understanding my aesthetic.

OA: In your video artist statement you make a connection between your emotion and intention as an artist making a circle and the viewer viewing your circle. Why circles? Can this connection of intention formed in any brush stroke or movement? Are there different emotions attached to each circle?
MB: That's a great question. I believe intention can be placed in any object of creation. In fact it always is, just not always consciously. I remember the first time I saw Duchamp's "Fountain," in Philadelphia. Somehow (and not because it's in a museum or it's been exhaustingly written about), it retains a massive amount of energy and power. This led me to thinking that the intention behind the work is a majority of what we experience in art. "Not what, but how." And by reducing the means of the expression of the intention I'm pushing the limits of our ability to experience it. Circles are the simplest form I have found to explore that. There is an inherent beauty in a circle, a completeness or totality. There is a meditative quality in drawing or painting them which continually attracts me. Also they exert expression in their attempt, or refusal to be "perfect." We know intellectually that perfection is a fallacy, but we spend so much of our time, or I should say I spend so much of my time, trying to reach that state. The circles provide me the opportunity to investigate that. And to varying degrees, each circle I draw has its own specific intention which culminates in the experience of the piece on the whole.

OA: You use oilbar on your pieces, is that a different approach than most artists, I don't see it referenced often. Do you feel that the materials (i.e. type of paint or canvas) used in a painting have a big impact on the outcome?
MB: Another great question. To a degree, yes. If Basquiat's "Gravestone" had been painted on canvas it would have been a very different piece. The fact that it was painted on found (door, wall?) panels lends itself to a resignation and a feeling of utter despair that directly relates to the subject matter. On the other hand I've seen great paintings on Dick Blick pre-stretched canvas (no offense, Mr. Blick). I prefer to find and use the materials that feel right to me and are best suited for the work. Usually of a relatively high quality (Arches paper, Windsor & Newton Oilbars etc.). This is particularly important while working minimally as the devil truly is in the details. I pay attention to everything. Much to the chagrin of framers and others! But to me the entire process is important. From purchasing the materials to the preparation through the completion of the work, to the framing to how it is lit and hung in space, it is all part of the art, and nothing should be overlooked.

OA: You have a very selective pallet, how did you come to settle on those four colors? Has there been any thought of expanding your pallet?
MB: I came to my current pallet by reduction. Those colors speak to me on an organic and spiritual level. And as long as they continue to inspire me I don't see a need to add any more. I've been able to get quite a range with just those four (antique white, titanium buff, raw umber and cadmium red). Although for a different body of work I've been thinking a lot about pure white, purple and gold leaf. I also have a thing for IKB, but don't tell anyone.

OA: I know you have a good relationship with FLATFILEgalleries, but what is you impression of the art scene in Chicago in general?
MB: I love this city. Chicago has been great to me. From my experiences in the theatre through working with FLATFILE I have been fortunate enough to work with professionals who are both amazing at what they do and incredibly kind and supportive. I'm very grateful for that. You don't find that everywhere. And there are a lot of opportunities for people at various stages of their career. To use the word "vibrant" is definitely a faux pas, but I find it to be just that.

OA: What's next for Man Bartlett?
MB: I'm building a studio in my new place that will allow me to work on much larger works on paper, so I'm excited about that. I'm also getting increasingly more interested in three dimensional sculptural/installation work and am experimenting there. I've got a few tentative things lined up for 2008/2009 but mostly it's work work work. The work drives me and the rest follows.

Bonus Questions:

OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
MB: Kona. But I enjoy Folgers too. And I'll switch between black, cream, or cream with Splenda. I recently moved to Pilsen from Logan Square and I haven't found my local spot yet. I'm accepting suggestions...

OA: Do you listen to music while paint? Who are some of your favorite musicians while painting and in general?
MB: Music is a huge part of my life. If I'm not painting or at the 9-5 I'm probably at a concert. I'm almost always listening to something. If I'm working on a circle or line drawing it's headphones and usually Beethoven. For the past year I've been particularly engrossed in his 9th Symphony. Oilbar works run the gamut over speakers: Andrew Bird, Joanna Newsom, Talking Heads, Mia Doi Todd, Of Montreal, Neko Case, Bryan Scary and The Shredding Tears, Philip Glass, Okkervil River...and a host of others.

For more information on Man Bartlett please visit his website and don't forget to visit FLATFILESgalleries before April 11th.

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