Sofie Ramos makes jubilant, aggressive paintings that stray off walls and across rooms. Bright, disorienting and graphic, her work knowingly probes the fuzzy boundary between abstraction and decoration.
MH: Can you talk about the history of your painting practice? I’m interested in how you reached to all-encompassing point your work’s at now.
SR: I was always very two-dimensionally minded in my making and so I gravitated toward painting and drawing classes in undergrad. However, I always felt very limited by the frame of the rectangle, and didn’t find the process of creating or finding a composition on this predetermined surface satisfying or enjoyable. I think having access to a studio was one of the key turning points in my artistic development because I was able to put up my two-dimensional work and see it all together. Very quickly, the overall layout of the studio became my main interest—the two-dimensional work serving as elements in the larger composition.
I had always been interested in interior decoration and particularly gifted in nesting in small spaces, and in the studio I was able to integrate this into my art practice to make for a much more exciting way of working. It was at this point that I really devoted myself to being an artist, that I fell in love with making art.
MH: What are your thoughts about decoration, adornment and art? This is something I’ve long thought about in my own work, and it’s probably an inevitable question for someone whose work engages with domestic spaces as installation sites, and is also engaged with abstraction, pattern and makes painting as a “surface treatment” an explicit part of their work.
SR: Decoration is a theme I constantly return to, not only because of my interest in interior decoration and lived spaces, but also because of abstract painting’s illicit relationship to this realm. In spite of Modernism’s exaltation of the spiritual qualities of abstraction, an abstract painting in a home becomes merely a decorative element of interior design. The tension between these quite opposing interpretations is very exciting for me. When does the spiritual or intellectual become superficial and decorative? Who draws the line and can something exists in both spheres? My thank you painting is the perfect illustration of my relationship to this topic.
I am not afraid of the idea of decoration and would argue that a lot of my work uses decorative elements, though in a knowing and sometimes ironic way.
MH: One thing I noticed while looking at your installations was the way your work amplifies the materiality (and 3D objecthood) of all painting, while also flattening architectural space. What are your thoughts about this process of expansion and retraction that happens simultaneously?
SR: My installations really come from the realm of painting—imagining the space as a flat composition, which is best exemplified in my videos that literally flatten the space into an image on the screen. While paintings themselves become very sculptural, the overall environment flattens out into a giant painting. The idea is that paintings are like any other object in the space—an element within a larger composition. They are not really meant to exist on their own, but as part of the space that contains them.
MH: Can you talk about your color palette? I’m always curious how artists arrive at the color families and color relationships that happen in their work.
SR: I try to choose the brightest colors possible to achieve the most intense visual response possible from the viewer not only to seduce but also to refer to an imaginary space or hallucination—something separate from the real world. The saturated hues are also connected to the exaggerated colors one experiences in recalling memories. I use the entire spectrum, selecting the most vibrant from each color family.
It is significant that I don’t usually mix my own colors, but use found colors of house paint because everything is part of a larger installation that always involves painting on the walls. House paint’s connection to interior spaces is more relevant to my work than the art historical connection to acrylic or oil artist colors. As for the color combinations and relationships, these are mostly evolving and experimental, coming from observed combinations and the constant rearrangement of objects and materials in the studio. There are combinations that I return to often, but I try to be dynamic in my use of color.
MH: How does your practice of making self-contained paintings and works on paper fit into the bigger scope of your practice? Do the smaller pieces serve as studies, experiments, works finished and self contained on their own terms?
SR: The paintings are different than the works on paper because they aren’t explicitly self-contained, often existing as elements in installations. The works on paper are more like studies or experiments and do not usually get to be in installations. Paintings are often experiments with materials and techniques, but because they have distinct objectness, they can act in and relate to a space in ways that a small work on paper cannot. They are able to become characters.
The collage/drawing practice is a preliminary and supplementary exercise that informs and inspires the larger installations. The immediacy of working on a small scale with paper simplifies and accelerates my improvisational and inconclusive process of accumulating, arranging, reusing and reworking layers of visual material.
The works on paper are more closely related to the installations that the paintings. However, I am working toward new pieces that read as autonomous paintings that might not exist in installations.
MH: What are you working on now, or planning while you await the right space for an installation? Any painting issues or challenges you’re starting to work through in studio?
SR: I just did a big installation in a group show in Belgium and the next installation is at the Fort Mason guard house in June. In the meantime, I’m trying to play around in the studio and make a body of paintings. It’s kind of nice to get back into the studio without a huge project taking up all my time. I think the major goal for the paintings is to make a body of autonomous works that can exist outside a larger installation.
MH: Whose work are you looking at these days with excitement, and who are some long term influences?
SR: I am excited about Dr. Suess right now, but also artists Joyce Pensato, Amy Sillman and Elizabeth Murray. My long-term influences include icons Jessica Stockholder and Katharina Grosse, as well as younger generation artists Rachel Harrison, Sarah Cain and Katie Bell.
Hattern is an up-cycling design collective based in Seoul, South Korea. They aim to create practical and beautiful products by extracting pattern from waste. To see more from Hattern, click here.
“Christien Meindertsma explores the life of products and raw materials. For her first book, Checked Baggage (2004), Christien purchased a container filled with a week’s worth of objects confiscated at security checkpoints in Schiphol Airport after 9/11. She meticulously categorized all 3267 items and photographed them on a white seamless background. Christien’s second book, PIG 05049 (2007), is an extensive collection of photographic images that documents an astounding array of products that different parts of an anonymous pig called 05049 could support. With this book, Christien reveals lines that link raw materials with producers, products and consumers that have become so invisible in an increasingly globalized world.
With her designs Christien Meindertsma aims to regain understanding of processes that have become so distant in industrialization. Her work has been exhibited in MOMA (New York), The V&A (London) and the Cooper Hewitt Design museum (New York). For her book PIG 05049 she won three Dutch Design Awards (2008) as well as an Index award (2009). For the Flax Chair she won the Dutch design award and Future Award ( 2016) Christien graduated from the Eindhoven Design Academy in 2003.”
Text and images from christienmeindertsma.com
Sarah Maple is a British visual artist. A lot of her inspiration originates from being brought up as a Muslim, with parents of mixed religious and cultural backgrounds. Blurring the lines between popular culture and religious devotion in an unfailingly mischievous manner, Sarah’s aesthetic narrative urges the viewer to challenge traditional notions of religion, identity and the societal role of women.
To see more of Sarah’s work, click here.
Andrea is most known for her intricate embroideries and gouache paintings but she continues to experiment with a wide variety of mediums. Much of her work explores the human body and what defines us beyond our anatomy. She often partners vulnerable figures with intimately detailed patterns to give these intangible entities a physical form.
To see more of Andrea’s work, click here.
I explore issues of hybridity, sacrilege, irreverence, the indexical sciences, ethnography, gender, sexuality, popular culture, deities, monsters and dream worlds. All of these themes marry in a newly objectified realm of mythical symbioses. They are flattened on the medium and made to act as my personal record of impossible discoveries.
My approach to the deconstruction of the non-European, female body image, delving into the miniaturist aesthetic as in “The New Ethnology”, “The New Archaeology” and the “Yogini” series, manifests itself in the form of re-appropriated religious icons. Leveraging embellished photographic portraiture as in “Maharajas” and “Maharanis” challenges contemporary notions of masculinity viewed through the non-European, female lens.By painting these object-beings, I am engaging in a discussion with the viewing audience about the aesthetic treatment of gender and the non-European sacred and secular body in a popular culture context.
These saccharine women and stoic men, flaunting their blood, breasts and armor around and throughout the stretched paper surface, conceal violent stories and ideologies; a complex dichotomy that is not explored or discussed in internationally (or more particularly Western) circulated imagery of Hindu and Tantric gods and goddesses. It is much the same for the ethnic body image, as represented in print media and online or screen culture. The semiology becomes reduced, simplified and pared down to suit a blander ideological palette.
In my work, I seek to open and reveal the dynamism of these icons, both scripturally existent, self-invented and externally defined. I am creating a subversive aesthetic that counteracts antiquated, oppressive discourse, and acts as a restorative force through which people can move outdated, repressive modes of being towards reclaiming their power. To see more of Rajni Perera’s work click here
**Images and text from http://www.rajniperera.com/
Isabelle Feliu is an illustrator originally from Québec City and currently living in Oslo, Norway. Her illustrations are mainly about fashion, often coupled with scenes of interiors, nature, and animals.
I love Feliu’s melding of contemporary fashion illustration with a variety of art historical influences. Her busy, somewhat flattened interiors and lounging ladies remind me of Matisse, while the stark stripes in a Paul & Joe illustration recall the strong striping of Mary Cassatt’s prints. Tropical nudes in bold colors speak to Gauguin and the figures roaming among verdant foliage recall Rousseau. Additionally, her women are refreshingly solid, with thick legs, rounded shoulders and rather tiny heads; a wonderful departure from the exaggerated twig-limbs of most fashion illustration. Feliu’s women make the case for high fashion as accessible to all body types.
To see more from Feliu, click here!
“Sabina Ott is known for her broad range of work– from painting to installation to sculpture– and her central role in the art world as teacher, administrator, and as the founder of the exhibition space Terrain, which invites artists to create installations and performances using the exterior of her Oak Park home. She earned both her BFA and MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Exhibiting since 1985, Ott has participated in over 100 solo and group exhibitions at institutions in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Auckland, New Zealand; Melbourne, Australia; and many cities across the US. Her work is in numerous museum collections including The Whitney Museum of American Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Oakland Museum of Art, and has been reviewed in Art in America, Art Forum, New Art Examiner, The New York Ties and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. She has received a Guggenheim fellowship for 2015-2016 and recently held solo exhibitions at the Chicago Cultural Center and the Hyde Park Art Center. She is Professor of Art at Columbia College Chicago.”
All text and images from Sabina Ott .
Johnson Tsang is a Hong Kong sculptor specializing in ceramics, stainless steel sculpture and public art work. Tsang’s works mostly employ realist sculptural techniques accompanied by surrealist imagination, integrating the two elements, “human beings” and “objects”, into creative themes. Since 1993, Tsang’s works have been exhibited in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Spain and Switzerland and collected by local and overseas museums and collectors.
To see more of Johnson’s work, click here.
Shannon Heath was born in Australian and is now living and creating in Portland, Oregon. With a natural ability to marry colour, pattern and composition and over a decade working as a designer, the foundations were laid for her next creative endeavour as an abstract expressionist painter.Heath’s signature style employs ethereal pastel palettes building layers in dramatic, emotive tableaux. She works with methods of layering and extraction primarily with acrylics and non-traditional painting tools. The process, the transformation that takes place-building layer upon layer, is something that has always fascinated Shannon. It’s the act of painting itself, which conveys pure human emotion directly onto the surface.
To find out more about Shannon, click here.