Congratulations on your new group show at FREIGH + VOLUME Gallery? Would you consider this a big boost to your art career?
Funny, I have no idea. It was such a cornucopia of madness (as group shows often are) that I have yet to tell. I received some pleasantly scathing reviews from Paddy Johnson of L Magazine, who inadvertently drove home the exact point I was trying to make … (although naturally I would have preferred it coming from Ken Johnson of the NY Times).
What you enjoyed most about this porno painting and why you did?
It’s a design piece. The content is actually quite demure for an overt painting of sex. It takes a pornographic scene (which is purposely non violent and perhaps even positive regarding the power dynamic in relation to the woman), and de-contextualizes it, neutralizes the sex by playing more on the kaleidoscope design and highlighting a central red space that is far more an abstract thought of a vagina than some vulgar representation of it. The sexual element is clear but kind of incidental, although the point was to make something sensually painted. Its more a satire on the idea of taboo… since the only thing that is taboo and revolutionary in the art world is, it think, real emotional sincerity. If you know my work, you know that’s its salient feature. I make work that looks to infinity, that’s spiritually driven. So why did I make this painting for F + V in this way? I just wanted to play around. Life is not always so serious.
How has your life changed since you started living in New York City?
It’s radically different. I’ve grown immensely as a human being, and as a painter—both soulfully and in technique. The wealth of resources here matches the scope of distractions. And when you sift your way through both and come out the other end, you are wiser, more focused, more experienced, hopefully more kind and more loving, and with a goal beyond the hustle of this city. Painting, not simply my career as a painter, is my life. This is an important distinction to make in this city.
Has the experience of living in New York City changed your art?
Probably. I’ve lived all over the world and in the states. I like to think I walk the thin line of being both a sponge to my environment and clear in my personal vision.
Coming to New York has helped me pick and choose from a variety of influences, so I’m now more honed in my decisions as to what I’m going to be a sponge to.
What’s the last show that surprised you and why?
I’m very difficult to impress, or to surprise. If you want to surprise me, show me humanity and spiritual intensity in the art world – show me something that really strives to be timeless. It’s a tall order. There’s one painting by Michael Borreman’s that caught me off guard last year… there was something of the sort there.
What is your secret place to see art?
Great question! You got me! I go to the Frick collection a lot. I like to see a small number of works that show me what life and love are all about.
Where do you get your ideas for your work these days?
I use emotional experiences in my life as a platform now. I’m entering into a phase in my life where I feel I now have real and intense experiences to channel. And aesthetically I’ve been stripping myself of ideology or stylization as much as possible. My most recent work is inspired in large part by Pat Steir. It’s an unusual turn, having my background and loving Rembrandt etc.
What art work do you wish you owned?
I feel at home and in love with many Leonardos, and Rembrandts, Titians, Vermeers, Caravaggios. But as long as I can remember, if I could take home one work, it would be the Burgers of Callais by Rodin. It’s bsolutely epic.
What project are you working on now?
I’m making light boxes, in combination with etching. They are staggeringly delicate, made of totally contemporary materials. I’ve never seen anyone do exactly this, with this technique. I can’t wait to make more, to make them larger, more complex. It truly combines all of my skills in drawing and my innovation with materials. It’s difficult even to relate to you here how fun the process is!! I’m having a small show of these at a lower east side gallery called End of Century in October.
What art destinations you are visiting this summer?
Burning man. It’s my favorite place in the world for contemporary art. It removes installations from the pretentious white box atmosphere, and makes them interactive. It celebrates them as real physical objects, while celebrating ourselves as real physical beings interacting with them.
Beer, Wine or Liquor?
Wine, really nice wine, and not too much of it.
Besides art, what other passions do you have?
Music: It’s in my blood. Family and friends: I live for meaningful connections with people., and I love brilliant people Plants: I love my garden. Health: I love good food and a good workout.
Do you have a gallery/museum-going routine?
Nope. I think it’s a question of need. Probably there is periodicity to when I go, but its not conscious. When I go to a museum I go because my soul is drawn there.
A secret no one knows about your work:
Great question. It might be a secret to me at the moment as well
Do you have any hobbies?
Music and dance, yoga, audio books, burning man, writing, and ceremony…
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Rachel Lee Hovnanian, Leila Heller Gallery, September 2014
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