Culturia: In Conversation - Enda O'Donoghue & Alexander Zakynsky

Conversation between Enda O'Donoghue and Alexander Zaklynsky as part of the Culture Residency Program:
Conversation took place at the Berliner Pool and Culturia office in Berlin, Germany on 10 / 11 / 2013.

Culturia Berlin:
Alexander Zaklynsky:

AZ -This idea of painting... when you paint do you think of color as the main medium or technology as a jumping point?
EOD - I think of “material” actually, a lot of painters talk about things like palette but to me thats almost a byproduct
of the subject matter, the source material or the whim of choice. For me its more about the material.
More and more as I paint I get more interested in the bizarreness of using this colored mud on canvas and trying to get it to do things that it doesn't want to do and also trying to keep it present.
AZ -So if your copying pixels, from these paintings that are based on the pixelization, and digital glitches of images does the pixel turn into the pigment, each particle in each pixel, do you think of it in the medium or as in color theory.
EOD -Well, the original photograph is a jumping off point, I try to, as much as possible, discard that in favour of just dealing with the movement of material and paint around on the canvas. It's kind of a macro / micro issue in the work.
AZ -Yes, because I find it interesting when your trying to remake technological instances in the traditional format that it becomes the process of copying and process of reproduction which Walter Benjamin has always been famous for.
EOD -I think there is a fine line there, for me I've always called it translation and try to get away from the idea of rendering something from a photo into paint, like the photorealistic ideal of the direct copy. I've also tried to get away from that idea of using the photograph as just a source material, instead it's more of about ‘taking it apart’, deconstructing it as an image and as an object, “the photograph”, then reconstructing it piece by piece. In a way mirroring the way a computer would process the image but doing it an almost maddening manual sense where it can never match that. I’m interested in the shortcomings of that process.
AZ -The medium always has its abilities and idiosyncrasies.
EOD -With your own work there is the mathematical process which seems quite present as well.
AZ -With my work I work with a lot of layers and collage yet without the collage material, usually with projection of images over painted surfaces using allot of stencils, Laser cut stencils in vellums or vinyls. spraying and painting these out while trying to be very accurate with structural and geometric forms mainly based in a perspective grid. Then putting everything into the perspective grid, Im trying to build up a volume and space within the two dimensional format, at least within the paintings.
EOD -And with a predefined outcome or...?
AZ -Yeah often there is a predefined outcome but there is always this process of deterioration of the original idea. A few of my paintings were developed on the idea of the trace and the vestige, so like the trace of the image, or its like the idea of a trace thought, as in something that just slowly disappears out of memory. The trace of memory. Then the vestige or disappearing, is like this point to get to so there becomes this push and pull in the poetry applied to the painting. But then the process is also deteriorating because the oils are filled with different mediums, drying mediums, turpentine and spirits. Also in the way I work, sometimes I work like a xerox printer, like from top left down or up and down with allot of tape and layering layers of color. I like the process that can develop, it turns into this repetitive, even meditative focus point and once you start this process you have to finish it. It sets you up with a form of work, or rather a timeline of work, and then when you get to the end point you peel of the tape and you have what you got. Yes so with my work Im always kind of applying different imageries together to try and get to this collage of color space or volume space.
EOD -And when you say you have this predefined in the beginning, is it worked out on computer or sketch?
AZ -Both. Sketch and computer, sometimes mining the internet for images, also from my travels and photography, for example the last show I used allot of photos of sculpture that I took in Ukraine, Italy and Barcelona and then reforming them and making these figurative influences into this geometric pattern work. So thats basically part of the process but its always just the matter of applying color.
EOD -Something has begun to happen in my own work over the past year or two is a kind of stop before the end... that is the best way of describing it. Where you have a predefined process from start to finish and instead of working as you describe from top left to bottom right, for me its more like a jigsaw puzzle, putting in a piece over here and then there, a lot of it depending on the drying time and then also the amount of time I have to work on a particular piece or particular area. What I've discovered over time watching at different points, or different stages along that process, how it can often have a life of its own at these different stages and its so often tempting just to say “Thats it. It doesn't need to go any further”, but the greater draw to putting that final piece and seeing that full image come together has always been too tempting, too overpowering. Up until recently but now I've just tried to pull back and say just “Ok, there” It's trying to find at times the natural stopping point and at other times a more controlled stoping point.
So I wonder is this something you ever play with or consider?
AZ -Yeah, I mean there are some paintings I can't stop working on and then there are some paintings that are finished within just the first few gestures just because they work right. I think when I work with painting, rather, painting for me is out of convenience as I think of my paintings as sculptures, with layers and three dimensional, maybe because thats where I came from in my studies.
I was based in sculpture and architecture in college so when getting out into the real world and working with sculptors and for foundries as well as fabricating sculpture, furniture and boats. The ability for me two paint was always for sketching ideas of sculpture and looking into the structure of form and color while trying to develop my ideas for video and installation works that tend to stem from the painting practices. But the painting for me is more of a process of exploration, hashing out ideas and figuring out schemes and spaces, trying to develop more structural and three dimensional ideas. The last five years I think my painting has been developing further because of the need for the commercial and financial aspects of working with art and the opportunities I've had has driven me into the more painterly path?
EOD -So your a reluctant painter?
AZ -Yeah, I'm a reluctant painter... well I wouldn't say reluctant but..., Scale is a huge issue for me as a sculptor and coming from a sculptural mindset, my idea for painting is much more about large scale space and trying to access a large scale within the small confined space or two dimensional. So intentions for my work has always been about atmospherics and structure. When I look at my work, well... Nothings ever finished. Its always like an experiment or expression of some idea. So thats why I had become very interested in painting these sculptures in different light and applying abstraction and different mediums with geometries. I've been kind of jumping about trying to find the right constellation of processes. And, well, so… the creative process itself is always based on meditation and productive construction, but today, with all the distractions of modern technology, its like the process can get really fragmented.
EOD -You were saying earlier about the subject matter, about these statues and source material of found images and the photos from travel. I think that is one of the things that has been an ongoing challenge for me, the decision of what to make or what to choose and now when you have such a huge potential pool to dig into. It is the thing that I think I am most fascinated with by other artists, how they navigate that. How they make their decisions. Because I think it can, for a lot of people, be very debilitating. Like at this point, when you can choose from everything its hard to choose anything.
AZ -Right, Like the whole process gets diluted with too many directions and influences, but then I think thats kind of like the mirror of our current state.
EOD -Yes, it is absolutely.
AZ -How do we deal with that and if were collaging elements of different information from all kinds of sources then how do you put them together to make something a little bit more unique or in an individual direction. as an artist, I guess..
EOD -It's almost like every choice is valid but then also invalid?
AZ -Yes and also maybe too many choices, yet not enough... It's the matter of defining the choice and what's the point of them.
EOD -But with your work do you have this overarching or guiding point, like you want to make this statement, ask these questions or travel on this route?
AZ -I think I have been steering away from conceptual points for making a series of work, I have been trying to develop my work as making explorations, exploring different directions, mediums and processes but the main thing is that I want the group of work to somehow tell a story. As with my Icelandic heritage the idea of the saga and how poetic these stories are. Telling stories with a group of work can get the viewer a kind of access, because I think in contemporary art the ideas can be to visible or to vague? I'm into the idea of the poetry of the experience and the atmosphere of that so with my work they often have titles that connect together in some sort of story, arrangement of the work can be especially important but mainly I want the work to be accessible. So the idea that someone goes through an exhibition, views the work and comes out with a story is interesting to me. Also this last exhibition I had all the paintings were inspired by and started with a particular sound. So i would use the sound to form the work which developed into this type of story based on a waking dream and these passing fleeting moments of balance.
EOD -So your often starting from an abstract point of view or idea, rather than a statement?
AZ -Yes, definitely. Well with in the last five years I have been researching artists and works from the scientific mindset, mainly synaesthesia and some different eastern european artists. So in a form this last exhibition was going from a sound and then making the work based on that sound, I thought of it as a reverse synaesthesia. As if a synaesthetic were to hear a dog barking or brakes squeaking then there would be this image floating before them in color and geometry but I suppose its up to the viewer to judge whether it works as Duchamp would say.
November, 2013