Friday, August 7, 2009

Say Hello to Eric Elliott

Photinia #2 (2008) Oil on canvas

Hi Eric. First off, congratulations on the Neddy! Did that just feel like a really good review?

Thanks! Yes, it is very validating to know that people think my work is worthy of being nominated and chosen for such a prestigious award.

Photinia #3 (2008), Oil on panel
What you’re able to achieve with a limited palette, some folks can’t do with the entire spectrum of colors. Do you think your paintings would change much if you used more colors?

I’m not sure how much my paintings would change if I added more color. More colors would probably just give me more of a headache. For me it is less complicated to just mix a color from the primaries, because with each different color choice comes an entirely different set of color characteristics I would have to take into consideration. At this point for me extra colors are just superfluous. Maybe if I wanted to paint in high saturation I would need more colors, but for right now, that isn’t what I’m interested in. Although, I have been tempted to do a painting where I switch out the primaries I’ve been using with completely different pigments (like replace ultramarine blue for cobalt blue), just to see if and how it would change the painting.

Photinia #1 (2008), Oil on canvas
How do you choose your subject matter? They seem very traditional (copper pots, plants, your studio), but you make them into something very new.

I don’t know if I think of the subject matter as the subject, sometimes it is, but most of the time the most successful paintings happen when I am able to disregard the subject and just focus on the painting. Most of the time I start with an idea (like how the light will penetrate a space, or that I want the air to envelope an object, or a specific way of applying the paint), and then I try to think of a subject that would work best for that idea. I don’t want any objects to be to distracting or dominating, so everyday objects that surround me seem to work very well. I also believe that every object is just as equally important as any other object, so why not my teapot, or houseplants. When I start to think about why I should paint one object over another the decision seems absurd, but then again I have to paint something, because I’ve tried non-objective painting and that is definitely not for me.

Objects in Studio (2008), Oil on Canvas
You have such a great painterly surface texture.
I like each mark I make on the canvas to have body and thickness. Being able to see the marks on the canvas is important to me. I want the building blocks that make up the painting to be obvious, and I know this may sound cheesy but I think of the brush marks as a metaphor for the elements/building blocks that make up the plant or whatever it is I’m painting. I want to show that the figure and the ground are made up of something smaller. And as I work on a painting the paint just keeps building up until it feels right (and what feels right is an intuitive thing that is different for each painting). I also love how the image dissolves into marks of paint the closer you get to it, and how closeness doesn’t necessarily equal clarity of imagery (but maybe clarity of creation).

Teapot (2007), Oil on canvas
Is there anything about your process that you think would surprise people?
I think most people are surprised that I work with only four colors. Other than that I’m not sure what would surprise people, maybe that I work very intuitively. Finding the paintings through the process of making. I usually just start with an idea like how I want the light or air to penetrate the space, or how I want to apply the paint, and then let the painting evolve from there. Rarely do I have a set idea of what I want when I start a painting, and if I do rarely does that idea become the end product.

Ficus (2008), Oil on canvas

Your paintings almost have an obfuscating veil on top of them that separates the viewer from the object yet still draws them in. What’s your intention behind that?

I want the figure and the ground to start to merge into one. I want the background, space and air to have as equal importance as the objects in the painting. I want to paint the air in front of an object, but I don’t want the object to disappear into the air, but at the same time I do. I think that contradiction is how the world really is (it appears that objects are separate, but really the world is more of a continuum). I believe that painting is the best medium for showing this contradiction, because no matter how much depth I create it is all just an illusion painted on the same flat surface.

Flowers (2008), Oil on canvas

Can you talk about your visual unification theory?

When I look at an object I see it as made up of smaller parts, and just as it is made up of smaller parts I see it as a smaller part of a larger whole. I want to find a way to show this connection between an object and the world around it. In my current body of work I have been doing things like dissolving edges, lowering the contrast, and distorting the focus, all to try to bring more attention to the relationships between the various things in my paintings. I want to show that a solid object isn’t as solid as we think, or that space isn’t as definitive as we think. I want to do this in a way that the viewer can relate it to their own life, so I feel there have to be objects that people can recognize and a space to put them in. I guess I want to show that a person is the world around them, that they emerge from it and dissolve back into it. I can’t really tell you why this concept is so important to me, but it is something that has always been in my work and drawn me to other artist’s work.

Artist's Studio (2008), Oil on canvas

What's next for you?

Right now I am just finishing up some paintings for a show in September at the James Harris Gallery. Once I have all of those paintings out of my studio, I’m planning to do some collaborative works with some other local painters. I want to play with some different ways of applying paint, and what better way to do that than to have other people who do just that come in to my studio and make some art with me.
all images via James Harris Gallery

1 comment:

Kim said...

Thank you for introducing me to Eric Elliott. His paintings and his description of process make me think of dreaming, states of meditation, blurred consciousness, rainy days, which are just as necessary for getting through the day to day as the bright distinction of orange and lemon leaves against a crisp blue sky.

-mrs ramsay