Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Artist of the Week

Austin Ross Knierim

I recently read a statement from a local artist named Danny Powell that said, “Art cannot be taught, it is something that exposes itself to those that are willing and able to encounter and embrace it. Art is about commitment and not formal training." Can art be taught? I asked a friend who is an artist why he doesn’t consider teaching, and it essentially came down to the idea of pushing a set of opinions versus constructive criticism and the ability to explain the difference. In general, you attend school to learn, however when it comes to art is much more about experiencing and experimenting than being taught.

As a student, Austin Knierim is constantly learning and evolving as an artist and a person. However, there is something more intimate that makes a person an artist, it is more than training, more than commitment, it is more than talent, there has to be a magical sense of purpose and confidence in your vision. When I look through the entries on Austin’s blog, and his honest approach to developing his portfolio, I can see that unifying vision. Austin uses all that he sees around him to create scenes and images that incorporate various materials and ideas. He is an exciting talent, and he will continue to grow as long as he is honest with himself and his art.

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

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your work?
Austin Ross Knierim (AK): I would best describe my work as a culmination of my identity as a person, upbringing, and environment that I am encapsulated in. Observing the world around me in an analytical, curious, and whimsical way I've created a running dialog of writings, artist books, paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, and recently video pieces. All in an effort to better understand and catalog every experience and nuance of the things that whirlwind around me. The hope is to have enough information that the viewer is almost seeing things thru my very own eyes.

OA: Your recent work seems to focus on structures, homes and buildings. What is it that draws your towards painting this images?
AK: I feel the best work; the work with the most lasting power is that which comes from the gut. Honest, genuine work that is undeniably linked to the artist identity. Geography is one of the things that shape a person for good or bad that being said I am a product of the suburbs. Suburbs are very strange places, some are larger then the cities they surround and often are the opposites of the more traditional cities. They are accidental cities mergers of several sprawling developments. A suburb is based on growth so if you drive far enough you're bound to see 2 or 3 or more of the same Strip mall, house, and basic shapes that make up the landscape. In my work I catalog these shapes and make dialogs that show the repetition, decay/growth, and absurdity of the contemporary American landscape. Working with this subject is also very enjoyable since I am very much in tune with the tactile. Utilizing wire and metal in my drawings and paintings to actually give the tactile sensations of what the image would feel like rather then creating an illusion.

OA: What has your experience at Columbia been like? Have you noticed a progression in your work?
AK: My experience at Columbia has been a mixed blessing in many ways. I feel having the admissions being so lenient hurts the school, yet I would most likely not be attending if not for such an open policy. The administration is wretched and interacting with it is parallel to that of the human resource cat in the Dilbert comic. Beyond those detractors I've encountered some splendid human beings in that of my peers and professors who collectively have helped me grow immensely as an artist and as a person.

OA: In a recent post on your blog your reference some reading that you have done. How does reading inform your work? What has been the most essential thing you have learned thus far?
AK: Its necessary to have a very in-depth knowledge of the subject matters you chose to work with. In an age of political correctness and just the basic fact that people will go to the ends of the earth to find cracks in your thoughts and work as an artist. The basic truth is that the more you know the better your work will be and the integrity and honesty of it will prevail past any critique of the work. And as soon as you know all there is to know you move on. That's the nature of art, one must accept in order to continue you must be in a forward direction. I've learned a few essential things so far in my young career as an artist. One is to accept and embrace rejection and secondly I feel Maurizio Cattelan sums it up best "Whatever comes after you've done your work, it doesn't belong to you. You can't control it. The work has to fight for itself and define itself."

OA: How do you balance searching/learning vs creating? At this point which is more valuable to you as an artist?
AK: Its very important to continue to push the envelope with any body of work but your right there is a equilibrium that has to be reached for one to make progression. Spending all your time in thought may and most times will lead to answers and just as much more questions. But creation will suffer and you'll find yourself with lots of blank canvas and paper. On the other hand, it's almost irrelevant to create with out first having some basis to go from or all you'll be doing is running in place. For me there usually will come a time where ill get a spark, an idea will form and excitement usually ensues thus beginning the start of the process. Time will pass sometimes months at a time or years and I will catalog these thoughts and ideas and continue to develop them. I pick a few at a time to work on the nuances then when it appears to be promising I indulge in as much as I can about the topic at hand. At this point I feel they are both equally important but creating is definitely at a premium I do not have the base of work to sit on my laurels and ponder. Learning/searching is a luxury of one who has worked to achieve the conclusion of a body of work yet also the arduous process of starting over.

OA: What role do you see the internet playing in your future success?
AK: The internet to me is becoming a very accessible, fast and useful way to view art, while you can never replicate the beauty of actually seeing a piece in person it does a good impression. It also is a loophole for those who wish to avoid gallery representation and still have there work viewed by a large audience. I started my blog mostly to have a easier way of showing my peers and others my work , I'm learning quickly that lots of opportunity exist by having an internet presence such as being shown on Orange alert. I hope to have an actual site within the near future and believe that more opportunities will present themselves as I make a larger internet presence.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, where can you find the best cup in Chicago?
AK: I actually rarely drink coffee and or any caffeinated drink and would much rather prefer a glass of water or a nice pint of beer.

OA: What type of music do you listen to? Do you listen to music while you paint?
AK: It really depends on what stage or medium I'm working on and with. For instance if I'm drawing ill probably go for something more vibrant such as Chinese stars or Talking Heads since I tend to draw more spontaneous. When I paint it's more controlled so I go for more of ambient background music such as Xiu Xiu.

For more information on Austin Ross Knierim please visit his blog.

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