Now Featuring Russell Leng
Russell Leng is a painter who lives in Vancouver. Russell’s work investigates the dynamic oppositions of nature versus city and re-interprets them into abstracted shapes positioned in ethereal spaces. I sent him some questions to find the deeper inquiry into his practice.
KLJ: I have never been to Vancouver, though I have heard amazing things about it especially in relation to the arts. It sounds like it is similar to the Bay area in some regards due to the size though it seems there maybe more artists run spaces than here. Can you talk a little bit about the Vancouver art scene and how you position yourself as an artist there.
RL: To be honest, I feel pretty removed from the Vancouver art scene, more of an outsider looking in wondering what everyone is up to, and when I look in, I sense a lot of other artists are doing the same. Having said that, there are a lot of great artist run spaces and initiatives started by artists, like The Cheaper Show, or the Crying Room.
For me, Vancouver is a stimulus through its unique geography, close proximity between mountains, ocean, and city, and as an edge location. Its a cradle of the coalescence of polarities and contradictions, sometimes seen very clearly and other times not so obvious. This is something I aim to study in my paintings.
I went to San Francisco last year and sensed a connection to Vancouver for sure. It was the presence of the ocean as well as the culture that reminded me of home. Vancouver has a lot to learn from San Francisco’s art scene though.
KLJ: I also think about nature when Canada comes to mind which is no surprise that you are investigating the binaries of city and wilderness. Can you talk about your current environment and your own relationship to nature and urban sprawl.
RL: Though I grew up in the suburbs, my parents had quite a bit of land, and it felt like we were living in the woods sometimes, especially when I was little exploring my back yard. As time went on, and I became aware of the inevitable conquer by developers on the land, I realized that my identity was closely tied to the piece of land I grew up on, which was now in jeopardy, erasing that which felt so ingrained in me. This threat of development led to my interest in land, our identity in it, different forms of landscape, and how all of these things exist together.
Since then I have moved into the city, but make sure I take time to experience natural environments as well. There is a beach that I bike to most days where you can see the open ocean if you look one way, and if you look the other direction, you see the congestion of the city skyline.
KLJ: Your work for me, seems to magnify onto one element of nature and highlight the layers from the outside to the inner workings. The forms appear to be isolated geological findings from a possible unknown world. Is your intention to keep the work abstract, less literal and open for interpretation?
RL: Definitely. Though I am interested in how the natural intersects and collides with the man-made, I am not about to paint a mountain in the middle of a traffic circle. I want to challenge the viewer’s perception of landscape and landscape painting in general by creating an amalgamation of the two in a new sense of place. Perhaps these are geological findings from the future.
KLJ: I can see how you are influenced by Frank Stella in some ways though I also could see how your work lends to a 3 dimensional realm. I am thinking back to the 1970′s during the time of art outside of the white cube and into the actual world. Have you worked in sculpture at all? If so can you elaborate? I see the possibilities within your work to blur the line of painting and sculpture both inside the gallery but also in the land. I think this could create even more tension with your exploration of perception within the landscape. I especially was interested when you mentioned Yves Klein, I think it could be fascinating to see how your work can evolve within painting, objects and environment.
RL: My work tends to take on an element of blending, juxtaposing, and amalgamating. It is never about singularity or isolation, but a collision of forms and places. With this in mind, I could see my work expanding to the third dimension, and it is often something I think of doing. I have experimented with building materials like drywall, roof patch, neon lights, and metal, but there is something about paint and the act of painting that has my interest right now. However, I am very curious to see where my art could go if I start building these things.
KLJ: Just to get into your head in a more visual way, can you describe with only using 10 words, (no sentences) a place you find to be beautiful and inspiring for your work.
RL: raw, vast, windy, crisp, ocean, cabin, open, aurora, borealis, patterns
KLJ: Lastly can you tell us how you approach a painting. ie: process, point of references, materials, etc.
RL: My process starts with observing the land and the city. Then things start to heat up pretty fast and spontaneously. I try to trust my instincts as much as possible, not thinking through my visual process too much, and getting it out before I over think what I am doing and become dissatisfied with it. Most of the time it turns out different anyway. The act of painting is pretty scary, so I try to pull inspiration from artists that are taking risks and creating truly unique work.
Right now I use ink, spray paint, acrylic, and lots of tape. Hopefully in the future my materials list will expand to glass, metal, neon, water, wood, concrete.
Thanks Russell for chatting with LPP!
To view Russell’s three exclusive prints available on LPP, go HERE
To view more of Russell’s work, www.russellleng.com