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  • Conversation with Sean Sullivan

    In Art, Artist, Exhibition, Interview, News, Painting, Print on

    Here is an interview I have done with artist Sean Sullivan.  Sean is one of the artists in the show Three Painters at Duck Creek, which I curated for the Arts Center at Duck Creek.  I enjoyed our conversation tremendously and I thank Sean for being a part of the fantastic show.


    Sean Sullivan’s paintings from Three Painters at Duck Creek.  Here is a list of works at the Arts Center at Duck Creek site.

    Hiroyuki:  How did you come to pursue visual art?  Do you remember a special moment or a series of events that convinced you that this is something you want to do with your life?

    Sean:  I really came to art – drawing, writing poetry as a teenager right around the time I discovered music. Music opened my world up – gave me an awareness beyond my own experience. It’s always been and still is a very important part of the process for me.

    As a teenager I was too shy to get up and sing songs so I channeled my energy into drawing and writing poetry. It felt like I was sending signals to unseen allies from behind enemy lines (still does). Drawing and writing poetry in a notebook felt possible to me somehow – both so close to the ‘self’ – idiosyncratic like handwriting. In other words, no one could tell me I was doing it wrong. Intelligence didn’t matter, training didn’t matter. I could pursue these ‘secret’ activities in earnest, at all times – even while in the classroom listening to the teacher or later on the job or traveling on a train, etc.
    Coincidentally as I write this on Father’s Day – it was my father who really pushed me to pursue art and the creative life. He really believed in me and told me every chance he got.

    Hiroyuki:  I like how you as a child recognized the essential quality of art to be an expression of who you are for those who can accept you as who you are.  Ultimately, I think this is one of the fundamental aspects of art that validates its meaning in our society today.  In fact, your work does resonate in me at some deeper levels.

    I’ve learned that you have a special process that’s in between painting and print making. Could you describe how it works and what it does?  And how you came across it and why?

    Sean:  I began using the oil transfer process about ten years ago. I came to it by accident – out of frustration really. Basically I apply oil stick to a sheet of newsprint and thin it out with a silkscreen squeegee until it resembles something like carbon paper. I then place the found paper face down on top of the oil transfer paper and make a drawing on the reverse of the found paper with a Bic ballpoint pen. Each color in a finished piece is represented by a different sheet of oil transfer paper – a hybrid sort of drawing/printmaking process.

    Over the years the process has refined some and evolved conceptually as I began to think of this process akin to plate photography and musical recordings.

    I use ‘found paper’ not out of some nostalgic yearning but because I find new paper to be kind of cold and homogenized. The history embedded (the marks and color) in found paper give me a head start somehow – something to react to. I source the found paper mostly from books (used bookstores and antique stores) that I either buy or many times friends pass along.


    Sean Sullivan’s paintings from Three Painters at Duck Creek.  Here is a list of works at the Arts Center at Duck Creek site.

    Carnival, 2020, Oil on found paper, Unframed: 7.75 x 10.5” / Framed: 10 x 14”

    Hiroyuki:  So you have a real setting with its history and characters somehow when you start. And your action is an interaction with it as much as your own narrative coming out of your psyche. And perhaps the print aspect allows your process to manifest in unexpected, yet organic ways?  And what about the imageries?

    Sean:  Yes exactly. The history embedded in the paper offers a starting point and the process allows for both predictability as well as improvisation. The imagery is improvisational – instinctual even if I try and start with a plan it always goes off track and I just go with it. A piece usually falls flat if I’m trying too hard to ‘do’ something – to control the outcome. Hope that makes sense.

    Hiroyuki:  It certainly does.  How do you describe your improvisational process?  Could you describe your work environment for the readers?

    Sean:  I think improvisation begins before you even sit down to work. It’s an exercise in faith or the practice of faith maybe? I don’t mean that in a religious sense per se, but faith in ability, in intention and in good outcomes. A trust that you can make something from nothing and even if there are ‘mistakes’ or setbacks, by adjusting expectations you can land in a more unexpected, inspired place. There is no right, there is no perfect and starting from that point – everything, every mark makes sense and has a place.

    My studio is full of natural light and close to the family – a small sun porch attached to our living room. Marie and the kids are in and out all the time. It’s a perfect situation for me – I need them close by. The paint I use, R&F Pigment Sticks, I make for a living (for the past 13 years). It’s all close by I guess.


    Sean Sullivan’s paintings from Three Painters at Duck Creek.  Here is a list of works at the Arts Center at Duck Creek site.


    Sean Sullivan’s paintings from Three Painters at Duck Creek.  Here is a list of works at the Arts Center at Duck Creek site.

    Rodriguez Solitaire, 2019, Oil on found paper, Unframed: 8.5 x 12” / Framed: 11.5 x 14.5”

    Hiroyuki:  I like that.  There is an element of faith in facing the unknown as we make.  When I visited you last time, it was eye-opening to see your work being so much a part of your family.  This also extends to your position at R&F Pigment Sticks.  Instead of seeing the creative process as an opposing element against your circumstance, you have put good efforts in creating an environment that enhances your work as much as your life and people you love.  I think this is very significant in terms of making your “faith” grounded to your reality.

    In your booklet “This Means I Always Have Something to Do.  A Conversation Between Sean Sullivan & John Yau” you talked about differences between working within set conditions as opposed to being more flexible and organic.  To me it seemed that you are good at putting your life in a cohesive framework so that you can be free within it.

    Now, I assume that you must have challenges on your path.  Could you describe some of the biggest obstacles and how you deal with them?

    Sean:  My apologies for taking so long to respond to this question – time is elusive! which brings me to a challenge I’ve always faced (I think many of us face) which is time – finding the time to make work. At this point I’ve come to terms with the limitations and to be honest if I had ‘all the time in the world’ I’m not so sure I’d be making better work or more work. Having said that I would like more time in the studio – even just for looking, moving things around – thinking. Another challenge I’d have to say is doubt – at times, extreme doubt – I think in some ways the other side of the coin so to speak. Normally I make work and don’t look back but every now and again I do turn and take stock and that can be sobering. I do have to say through all of these challenges I feel very, very lucky to make work and to share work and for all the talented, devoted individuals that I’ve had the opportunity to work with – galleries, artists, etc. and that I get to continue to make work and maintain balance in our family life is so important. I’m grateful.

    Fairgrounds, 2018, Oil on found paper, Unframed: 6 x 8” / Framed: 8.5 x 10.5”

    Things huddled together surrounded by uncertainty, 2019, Oil on found paper, Unframed: 7.5 x 11” / Framed: 10.5” x 13.75”


    Sean Sullivan’s paintings from Three Painters at Duck Creek.  Here is a list of works at the Arts Center at Duck Creek site.

    Futures, 2018, Oil on panel Unframed: 36 x 48″

    Hiroyuki:  You said “doubt–at times, extreme doubt”.  Could you elaborate?

    Sean:  I think doubt in the studio, in life, extreme or otherwise, goes hand in hand with those moments of clarity and inspiration – grace. Time is really the salve. I think you just have to get through it, work through it, until there’s a ‘break in the clouds’. Maybe just the natural order of things – balance. Sometimes I think my doubt stems from not understanding where the work comes from so the ownership of it – the ego is thwarted a bit. If you didn’t ‘think of it’ then maybe you can’t entirely claim credit for it. Where does that leave you as an artist? An ‘originator’. But that is also what I love most about the process. The unknown – the mystery of it. This also works in reverse for me. What I mean by that is if I do have an idea, a ‘concept’ meaning the ego wants to direct the inspiration – it almost always (in my experience) leads to frustration and disappointment. I will say those excursions into frustration and disappointment are not fruitless and often lead to things unexpected – breakthroughs even. 

    Hiroyuki:  Yes indeed, I feel what you are saying.  Our perceptions seem to struggle at times, clouded by our immediate interests or lack of understanding, or often both.  But, paradoxically, those obstacles also prompt us to explore and seek cohesive expressions that somehow resonate with us.  In doing so we struggle to see and we face the unknown in an honest manner.  This I regard as one of the most crucial aspects of the making process, which I believe resonates with our struggle in how to be.  

    Thank you so much for the fascinating conversation and I look forward to seeing more of your fantastic work.


    Sean Sullivan’s paintings from Three Painters at Duck Creek.  Here is a list of works at the Arts Center at Duck Creek site.

    Sean Sullivan (b. 1975 Bronx, NY) lives and works in the Hudson Valley, NY. He received the NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in Printmaking/Drawing/Book Arts Grant in 2017. Sullivan has participated in group exhibitions at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz, NY; the Markus Luttgen Gallery, Cologne, Germany; and the Museum for Drawing, Huningen, Belgium.

  • HERE + NOW at Pablo’s Birthday

    One of my pieces is in a group show at Pablo’s Birthday, NYC.  Please read what the show is all about below.

    #53, 2005-08, ENAMEL, OIL, PLASTER, TAR AND WAX, 96 DIAMETER X 37 CM, 38 DIAMETER X 14.5 IN

    From Pablo’s Birthday and OFFICE IMPART:

    “Press release

    HERE + NOW

    Exhibition dates: June 26th – July 3rd, 2019

    Press preview: Wednesday, June 26th, 5-7pm

    Opening reception: Thursday, June 27th, 6-9pm

    Pablo’s Birthday and OFFICE IMPART are pleased to present “HERE+NOW”, a 7-day exhibition project which aims to raise awareness about how today’s digital age is changing the traditional art gallery model with the increase of online platforms or other examples of digital presence within the arts.

    Following a conviction in the necessity to create new collaborative models, a selection of the most distinguished online art platforms currently operating in the market have been invited to showcase their artists at Pablo’s Birthday gallery space.

    Participating platforms: Daily Collector, Isthisit?, This Ain’t Art School, ARTPIQ, hiato projects, AXS Art, Freud Monk Gallery will present compelling works as well as a selection of events which will revolve around this topic, “the new digital era”. We are pleased to announce ARTLAND, Daily Plinth and New Art Academy as our media partners. ARTLAND will create and provide a virtual 3D tour of the exhibition, Daily Plinth will showcase a selection of video vignettes from the project, and New Art Academy will include the digital art exhibited in their newborn marketplace for digital art.

    Full list of participant platforms and artists includes: ISTHISIT?,  Stine Deja (London, UK)  and Joshua Citarella (New York, US); Daily Collector, Jenny Brosinski (Berlin, Germany) and Jonathan Todryk (Dallas, US); ARTPIQ, Sooyoung Chung (Seoul, South Korea) and Ant Hamlyn (Northampton, UK);  hiato projects, Paul Weiner (Denver, US) and Irati Inoriza (Balmaseda, Spain), THIS AIN´T ART SCHOOL, Anna Ehrenstein (Tirana, Berlin) and Tara Wray (Kansas, US); AXSART, Tahnee Lonsdale (West Sussex, UK) and Lisette van Hoogenhuyze (The Hague, Netherlands); Freud Monk Gallery, Johan Deckmann (Copenhagen, Denmark)  and Hiroyuki Hamada (New York, US); OFFICE IMPART, Hannah Sophie Dunkelberg (Berlin, Germany) and Tristan Schulze (Leipzig, Germany); and PABLO’S BIRTHDAY with Carla Gannis (Oxford, US) and Liz Naiden (New York, US).

    Recently new innovative models have arisen that look on how to mediate art today. It is a reaction to the changing society due to new technologies, more possibilities, and a broader visual art market. The art scene opens up and is trying to reach a wider audience. The next generation is eager to try out new, more contemporary solutions that are fun, in demand for different formats and other means to present art.

    We are interested in the diversity that new mediums present for showing art, through online galleries, pop-ups, social media based platforms exposing and gathering artists, and young emerging galleries that are vivid, hybrid and engage in this new online-based trend.

    How do these different models work, what are their aims, what drives them? This is what we want to ask. How do these new models change and adapt to the art world? What happens with the reception of art? How and where to reach an audience in the digital era?

    We believe in collaboration and want to group these new ways and create a vibrant exchange by opening a space for it. For one week a group show will develop with a range of diverse players and will be completed by a dynamic program of discussions, performance, and thematization of these changes in the art world.”

    You can see images of the pieces in the show at Pablo’s Birthday website.

  • Freud Monk Gallery Interview

    by Adam Reid Fox

    March 18, 2019

    To begin, could you tell me a little about yourself and your background?

    I grew up in Japan till I was 18. My family came to the States in the late 80s because of my father’s job. So I’ve been exposed to different sets of values, beliefs and norms from two different countries. This has been very helpful in constructing my world view from my own perspective as well as steering my path into my studio practice in art.

    Describe your journey to becoming, (or identifying as) an artist. Has it been easy? Natural? What has been difficult?

    When I went to college my initial interest was in psychology. I think I wanted to find out who we are as a species after learning that prevalent angles in one culture are not necessarily valid in others. Then I took some elective courses in art and one of the art teachers, Karl Jacobson, showed me how visual language can let us speak to each other despite our cultural boundaries. This really shocked me and moved me. It was profound and surprising. I eventually changed my major and started to spend all my time in making art. Looking back it was perhaps natural in a way since as a child I was always making things and drawing. But I really didn’t grow up with art and becoming an artist was not something I would do. I think being displaced and being forced to reexamine my identity somehow freed me in that regard.

    How would you describe your work to someone?

    I describe materials, physical attributes and so on a little, and I usually end up saying that you have to see it. I like an element of the unknown to play a good part in the work so it is difficult to verbalize it.

    What is important for viewers to note when viewing your work?

    I would like them to know that all viewers are invited to appreciate my work. I understand that we don’t share the same background and we have different ways of perceiving things. And I would like to know what they think of them and how they feel about them.

    What is your process like? How important is process in understanding your work?

    The core process seems to be brainstorming through drawing. Basic ideas emerge from it. Some of them become sculptures and others become prints. Paintings follow a different process. I usually go right in without preconceived ideas. I rely on visual elements appearing on the surface to guide the overall dynamics. It can be a very thrilling process with surprises and dramas, and it can also be very meditative and liberating. And all my work, including sculptures and prints, involve this process of examining dynamics within the work—I want all elements to play necessary rolls to compose the profound wholeness.

    I like hearing about artists’ process, but other than that, I don’t know if knowing the process would facilitate the understanding… Also, the process is hardly formulated…it’s very bumpy and often tortuously long and frustrating. But sometimes it goes very smooth. Come to think of it, there might be some keys in understanding the particular work in its particular process…

    But basically making process to me is about observing and letting the elements speak as they form relationships among themselves. So any preconceived formula, rule and so on can be very much hazardous, as much as instructive, as they can get in the way of new discoveries.

    I’m interested to know how you arrived at your choice of process, materials, and ‘style?’ How did this develop?

    Those things are developed by the path of my studio practice. One thing leads to another, I digest the process, and it gives birth to more paths and options, and after awhile I have ended up with a trajectory with certain materials, process and “style”. It all happens in an intermingling dynamic of various elements though. It’s hard to pin point a cause and the effect when I’m in the middle of processing multiple phenomenons on multiple dimensions. A lot of things happen intuitively. I do stop and contemplate here and there, but after all it seems that those things are determined by the works themselves.

    What does your work aim to say?

    Each piece is different so I can’t generalize too much, but I’m very much fascinated by the mode of communication through arts. I think a successful art work allows us to convey a genuine experience without truncating details when it takes us over and flourishes in our hearts. You can live a moment with its infinite connection to ourselves and our environment. And sometimes you can share the experience with others too. I think this is particularly meaningful in a highly authoritarian society, like ours, that systematically and structurally truncates our connections to self, others, matters and environment by limiting them to quantifiable commodities. It is extraordinary that such a trajectory has deprived us of our ability to sense the risks of environmental destruction, nuclear threat and so on. But art can somehow give us a common ground to stand on. I don’t claim this to solve anything, give us a revelation of our time or anything like that, but it is still a profound fact that we have this gift of our life that defies certain obstacles among us for a moment.

    Can you highlight some of your influences and discuss how they have impacted your work?

    I’m sure I get influenced by other artists’ paths here and there, but overwhelmingly, it is my own path in my studio that affects the work the most. I usually have a few pieces in progress so they sort of feed each other in terms of directions, methods and so on. Also, making prints might do something to sculpture making, while sculptures might affect the paintings and so on. It’s all fluid, organic and dialectic.

    Where do you find inspiration?

    Again, things that happen in my studio get me going. It’s exciting to see mere shapes, lines, tones and so on suddenly find their voices and start making dynamics, flows, visual narratives and presences. When I get stuck I listen to music. I also have an electric guitar for releasing some tension and having fun. I also read and write. Actually, making art can be pretty tough, I get stuck quite often.

    In your experience, what is the best thing about being an artist? What is the hardest thing about being an artist?

    There are moments when you forget about everything and you just appreciate the time you spend making the work. And there are even more special moments when you literally melt with the experience of having your work culminate into a finished work. You lose sense of time and space and be one with the experience. Such times are so special that I feel just happy doing what I do in my studio.

    The tough part is that I am aware of what art can be and I struggle with what I can do with art as I look at things outside of my studio with my artist’s eyes. I connect dots and I try to make sense out of events, facts and contexts just as I do in my studio with visual elements. I see that our era is not a time of “democracy”, “freedom”, “humanity” and so on. Awful things are done in the name of those things.

    If you were not an artist, what would you be?

    I really can’t imagine…

    What piece of advice would you give to a young artist?

    The World is huge. Much bigger than the tiny cage old people call “country”, “society”, “culture” and so on. We the artists know the infinite universe of true liberation. Tell people stories about freedom, what it is to be humans, try not to build cages for the people.

    Interview at Freud Monk Gallery

    Wall Sculptures at Freud Monk Gallery

  • New Print B18-03

    I was so frustrated with this one that when I finished it the sense of relief overwhelmed my sense of accomplishment. But it’s always profound to capture something indescribable speaking so decisively. Practicing art making gives us courage to face the unknown, embrace it and appreciate it. If there is truly an essential meaning in “art education”, that’s what we can offer—to see the world for what it is, with the unknown, complexity, bigger dynamics, smaller dynamics, layers, interconnectedness and all to be constructive. Such an angle helps us to be a part of harmony for all, instead of a part of exploitation and subjugation for few.

    B18-03

     

  • New Print, B18-12

    In Art, creative process, News, Print on

    Here is the 7th Piezography print.  I’ve struggled quite a bit but I am very happy with how it turned out.  The whole struggle with the print project is to express subtlety, gentleness, warmth, tangible mass of black emerging from actual ink hitting the paper as opposed to how we perceive the image on screen.  Doing so with a digital software is certainly a challenge that requires more time and trials and errors.  It has been very rewarding and educational, and very much humbling as well.  

     


    B18-12, size varied, Piezography on cotton rag paper

  • Gorky’s Granddaughter: Hiroyuki Hamada, April 2018

    I had a wonderful studio visit by Zachary Keeting and Christopher Joy from Gorky’s Granddaughter a few weeks ago. They captured it nicely for you to see it as well.

  • The Visual Thread

    In Art, Artist, Exhibition, News, Painting, Print, Sculpture on

    Here are some images from The Visual Thread, a group show curated by Lori Bookstein which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.  

    I’m always intrigued by Kate Clark‘s human animal sculptures.  And Heidi Hahn is one of my favorite painters.  I like how her paintings can be very emotional, yet unmistakably absurd and odd, and all the elements are expressed with a very solid formal visual quality.  I am happy to be in the same show with them.  My work sits next to Sam Messer’s striking piece titled “how beautiful is the tiger who killed me”.   

    Well, I can keep talking about other wonderful artists in the show…

    Left: Kate Clark, Charmed, 2015, varied materials, 72 x 40x 23 inches

    Center:  Heidi Hahn, The Body is Not Essential XII, 2016, oil on canvas, 32 x 36 inches

    Right:  Hiroyuki Hamada, #76, 2011-13, painted resin, 46 x 37 x 31 inches

    Left:  Hiroyuki Hamada, #76, 2011-13, painted resin, 46 x 37 x 31 inches

    Right:  Sam Messer, how beautiful is the tiger who killed me, 2017, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 inches

    You will probably recognize some of the artists in the show.

    #LisaYuskavage
    #EllenAltfest
    #RichardBaker
    #BaileyBobBailey
    #PaulBowen
    #MattBollinger
    #AmyBrener
    #EllenDriscoll
    #KateClark
    #EllenGallagher
    #HeidiHahn
    #HiroyukiHamada
    #SharonHorvath
    #SamMesser
    #ElliottHundley
    #SarahOppenheimer
    #JenniferPacker
    #JaniceRedman
    #JackPierson
    #JacolbySatterwhite
    #KahnandSelesnick
    #DuaneSlick
    #SableElyseSmith
    #JamesEverettStanley
    #TabithaVevers
    #BertYarborough
    You can see more images here:
    The show is up till May 20th at Mills Gallery at Boston Center for the Arts.

     

  • Guild Hall Show Opens Today

    In Art, Artist, Exhibition, News, Print, Sculpture on

    I am very happy about how the show turned out.  The new piece (pictured below) was safely brought into the museum.  It is surrounded by five of my Piezography prints.  Scroll down for some images from the show…

    _DSC249282, 78 x 61 x 26 inches, pigmented resin, 2017-18

    Hiroyuki Hamada: Sculptures and Prints
    February 24, 2018 – March 25, 2018
    Reception: February 25, 2018, 2:00pm- 4:00pm

    Gallery Talk with Hiroyuki Hamada: March 10, 2018 2:00pm

    Guild Hall
    Address: 158 Main Street, East Hampton, NY 11937
    Phone: 631.324.0806

    Click to enlarge

  • New Print, B18-06

    In Art, News, Print on

    B18-06(screen shot of pi5 a6)

  • New Print, B17-04

    In Art, News, Print on

    Here is a new print.

    For more info about Piezography process see here and here.

     

    B17-04

    B17-04, size varied, Piezography on archival cotton rag paper, 2016