Saturday, November 1, 2008

Interview with Bart O'Reilly

Bart O'Reilly, Baltimore Artist and friend will be unveiling his new works in an upcoming, two person show this month, opening in Philadelphia on November 14. I was excited to get a sneak peek and a chance to discuss the paintings:

Do the titles of your work relate to the projected images or more to the painted results?

The titles come at the end of the process. In previous work I used footage from film and television and took quotes directly from the source that related in some way to the painted results. For this body of work I made my own videos which forced me to approach titles in a different way. I always have the source material in mind when coming up with titles but I allow the final painting to suggest things also. The ideal title refers to the source while at the same time giving people an open ended way into the painting. Titles are very important to me in this regard.

How does creating your own video change the direction of your painting? Do you think of the flat composition when filming, or are they separate processes that come together through the projection?

Creating my own video has changed the direction of the painting in many ways. It brings the work closer and makes it more personal. As a result the painted response can be more deliberate. When filming I see the camera as an extension of the paintings. I try to be aware of the edges of the frame and use close ups and cropping as a way to think about composition. The projection adds a new dimension and the paint creates surface and depth. I do not see them as separate from each other. I want there to be a dialogue between the two.

When did you first decide to combine painted and projected imagery?

I was in art school when I started to combine projected imagery and painting. I was making drawings by placing sheets of paper on top of television screens and tracing the figures while they moved. I then came to the point where I wanted to paint them. I began projecting moving images directly onto the canvas. This opened a new door for me as a painter, allowing me have a rapid succession of imagery to respond to at all times.

How did your Irish background affect your earlier work? Has your current surrounding dictated your new direction?

Ireland was going through some major changes in the 1990's. Our economy began to boom and with it change and development was taking place all around the country. In Dublin, where I grew up, we saw a lot of jobs in technology, pharmaceuticals and finance. Many of these companies were American corporations seeking our government’s tax incentives. I think the fast pace of the city from the mid nineties on encouraged me to look beyond a more traditional approach to painting.

Living in America has had an effect on the work for sure; there is an accelerated scale and pace of things here and amidst all of this I am looking more and more at my day to day life for subjects to work from. Recently working with artists with disabilities has had a profound effect on me.

What has working with film done for your ideas about digital media and abstraction?

When I started painting in Dublin there was still this notion that painting was some how not relevant in the face of new media and the post conceptual practices of many of the Young British Artists. I realize that this seems out of date now with the amount of painting that has been made this past decade. However the challenges that pop and conceptual art posed to the continuation of abstract painting are still important to me. I am not trying to make autonomous works of art but want to respond to the fast paced and often confusing nature of our present moment.

The work is about the painting, in the end, so are you looking to slow the pace of our digital age and indulge in the details?

Yes. When projecting on a canvas I see it as a screen. The pouring of the paint and brushwork is an attempt on my part to interact and make a record of the visual stimuli.

I like the notion that after hours of staring at a screen only some of the information actually stays with us. It is what left that is important to me.

What about digital media motivates your work?

What I really find useful in my own practice is the fast nature of it. Trying to find a footing amongst the daily bombardment is always motivating.

With art and media merging in infinite ways, it’s refreshing to see a classic stance on the issue. You place your canvases on the floor when you work, which slows your ability to make marks, and changes the nature of the paint on the canvas. How do you then use/tie in the digital media in your work?

The video “Divisible” that I made this year was my way of tying the two together and illustrating the process. I made a film with a camcorder. I then painted the back of a sheet of Plexiglas and projected on it. I poured paint on it in ways that interacted with the original footage. All of this was captured on video and became the finished piece. There is a clip on You Tube.

The video is what led me to the idea of laying the canvas on the floor and pouring the paint.

By projecting, you seem to distance yourself from the painting, making many of your marks in the dark. This is a different process for you, has this anti-precious approach lead to any unexpected results?

I enjoy the element of surprise that comes with painting in the dark. It also frees me from becoming to attached or too precious with any of the individual pieces. The projector is really a device or a platform that allows me a starting point. It is the unexpected results that keep me interested and going back to the studio.

Can you recognize the imagery from your source material in your own work? Are your viewers meant to relate to the source material in other ways than just through the palette?

I can always recognize the source in the painting and for me none of the pieces are abstract in the true modernist sense of the word.

I hope that if people spend some time looking that the paintings and considering the titles they get a hint of the source material even if it’s not specific imagery. Having said that a personal interpretation that has nothing to do with what I was thinking of is always interesting to hear.

The title of the show seems to fit your work in a profound way; can you speak to this

a little?

A Slippage is defined as “The act or an instance of slipping, especially movement away from an original or secure place”.

I think maybe all the motion and mark making that goes into the making of these paintings can leave some viewers with a sense of unease when looking at them. They are ultimately records of shifts and changes and sometimes the image I want to connect with most has gone from the screen before I pick up my brush. I believe we are in unsettling times and hope that the work can somehow empathize with this mood.
If you get up to Philly at all, be sure to check out Slippages!