Can you tell me a bit about where you came from and what influenced you to become an artist?
I was born in Cleveland and raised in Canada on a small island called “Thetis”, I’m basically a feral hick from the sticks who learned the ways of the city later on. It took me forever to become social and learn the pecking order of city people. On the remote 40 acre farmland property I grew up on in Canada I did a lot of painting. I also play saxophone which was another thing to study. At a certain point I spent an entire summer making one painting. This one painting was propped up against a tree and I worked on it for 4 months. At a certain point on the island I realized that being an artist was something meaningful to me. Eventually I took painting classes from some elderly hobby painters on the island and practiced my craft even more. My family moved off the island and into the city of Victoria BC after our house burned to the ground. I was age 15 at this point and started attending formal classes in painting at Victoria College of Art and studying sax at the Victoria Conservatory.
Can you describe your studio practice, and how you work out new ideas?
Currently I’m working with re-imagining Renaissance art. Specifically I’m attempting to inject a kind of sports bar atmosphere into compositions by Caravaggio and Velasquez. If you look at Van Gogh it will surprise you to see how many Van Gogh paintings are based on Millet. So in different ways I’m playing with older paintings and reworking them in Photoshop. At a certain point I’m satisfied with the result and make the paintings from the Photoshop collages. I’m also working on a series of self portraits where I insert myself into the cannon by making a picture where I am depicted in front of a famous painting. For example a recent one was a self portrait in front of a Basquiat at the Gagosian show.
Who are some of your artistic influences and why?
I’m influenced by Francis Bacon and Velasquez. Finding influence for painting outside of painting is good, like in films or literature. Art can be about anything.
Do you paint during the day or are you a night owl painter?
I watch movies while I paint or listen to jazz records. Generally the all night painting environment is best. I like to think of it as the other 9 to 5. They say the most creative hours are between 12am and 6am but I make things around the clock. Lucian Freud said ‘ it’s about how you choose to spend your afternoon.’
Your latest Art Documentary “New York is Now” had a screening this weekend at Cutlog Art Fair. How did the screening go? and please tell us a bit about the film and what you are trying to accomplish with it?
The Warhol model of publishing, painting and making films was my inspiration. Now later on I’ve moved away from the Warholian approach and focus more on the Beckeresque. It’s important to look inward so in this case I’m looking inward with film. Film is exciting and a perfect way to bring people together. Also it’s a way of answering my own personal questions about the New York art scene and why we are all pursuing this. On another level it enhances my own personal fame as a painter and gives me an opportunity to write and perform new music for the soundtrack. The films are really raising my level of fame, which brings more attention to my paintings and opens doors to new collectors and exhibitions. My art career is blowing as a result of publishing and film making – I had my 8th museum show this year!
That’s great Noah, congratulations and I love your work! As the founder and publisher of Whitehot Magazine, what do you think about the art world and art market and how they function today?
I don’t follow the market closely but I have met with auction house experts. The entry level for a mid career artist to be in an auction varies. We did a segment about the jump in Jacob Kassay’s prices. If the subject of the work is auction value then the work has failed or the dealer has failed. I like big prices if its warranted, a lot of it is fake positioning or hype around bad young artists work. I’m a fan of Kassay so he gets a pass.
What’s your dream project?
I would love to work with more sexuality and nudity in my work. How that will manifest remains to be seen. I think there is a difference between a fantasy and a dream. Most people would name some famous person they want to work with. Currently I’m focused on building Whitehot Magazine even more and making it even bigger than it is. The magazine is already huge internationally but I have plans to change the art world again. Everything I do is blowing up in a way I never expected. Also I’m working on a new series of large paintings, so my dream project is the one I am doing right now. My life is better than I thought it would be so in a way my current projects are very dream like.
If you could collaborate with any living artist, who would it be and why?
Most of the people I like are painters and painting is a difficult collaboration. I’m a saxophone player in addition to painting and music seems more collaborative, especially jazz. I’ve been over to Ornette Coleman’s place and played his sax. Ornette is a great person and collaborated on my new art world documentary ‘the secret history of contemporary art’ by appearing on camera with me.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Alive I hope, which is important when making new advances. I’m not sure, but in the words of the great saxophonist Wayne Shorter “You can’t rehearse the unknown.” My goal is to be more famous but fame is really elusive and abstract these days. I don’t think dating a celebrity is the answer. Making great work is the key and no amount of fame will create great art for anyone. Fame might make your sub-standard art more famous but it won’t improve it. But back to me seeing as this is an interview about me. I can say that now I am getting shows in London and New York and just did my 8th museum show. I’m looking for more shows in New York of course and generally trying to raise the bar. Frightening other artists with the high quality of your work is kind of a lost art don’t you think?
Yes it is Noah. What exhibitions do you have coming up?
I’m showing in two future shows organized by curator Kristin Sancken. Also my work will debut in London at Flowers gallery in a group show of portrait paintings this July. I am showing with artist/curator Aubrey Romer at Art Hamptons. A recent highlight was a show curated by Dick Goody in Detroit where I was showing with David Shrigley and Michael Borremans, and I just found out that I’m having a solo show opening at the Lodge Gallery on Christie street in New York.
Great Noah, I’m looking forward to seeing your new work. Thanks for your time, it has been a pleasure.
Artist’s website NOAH BECKER
Interview by JAMIE MARTINEZ