Betsy Eby, Musical Textures in Space

An interview with Betsy Eby, a pianist and painter who works in the encaustic style, with pigments mixed with liquid wax and dammar resin

I K O N E S S

In her paintings, Betsy Eby fuses the line between the musical and the visual composition. A classically trained pianist, she seeks in her work what Rothko described as “the place where music lives.” The layers and gestures of her paintings evoke musical spaces and rhythms while drawing on patterns found in nature. From her early childhood, musical and natural rhythms blended in Eby’s sensibility. She spent her first years of life in a small town on the Oregon coast, practicing at the family piano by the age of five. Today her work reveals that interconnected sensitivity: her delicate, organic compositions become synesthesias of sound and image.

Painting with Fire features the artist’s recent paintings that utilize the technique of encaustic, which means “to burn.” The process is an ancient one by which layers of pigments, sap, and wax are fused together by the flame of a torch. Eby has slowly…

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Joy C Martindale’s Work with Textiles, and a Short Interview with the Artist

Joy C Martindale's work with textiles
Joy C Martindale, Here and Now I (photographic image, 2016)

Every time I visit a museum which reconstructs scenes of lived life, my attention is captured by the textiles on the mannequins. There’s something about fabrics, with their powerful colors or neutral tones, and their different types of fibers, patterns, and weaves, that appeals to me, to my interest in social history. And then there are the individual stories that we imagine when we shop in second hand stores or find discarded textiles somewhere. Joy C Martindale, an artist based in the UK, plays with all these elements, and more, in creating her textile pieces. I had a nice interview with her recently, which I’m happy to share on this blog.

Mira Tudor: Hi Joy, I have discovered your textile and photo art today on WordPress (https://joycmartindale.com) and it really spoke to me. First of all, the tenuous way in which all these found and assembled textiles hang from tree branches. I find in it an expression of our tenuous connection to nature, envisioned both as something that we are veering away from and something that will outlast us when we fall to the ground. I hope you’ll grant me a short interview, because I’d like to ask you a few questions about your work. First, do you always work with found textiles? Where do you go to look for them?

Joy C Martindale: One day in Autumn 2015 I was at my local beach and I decided to pick up some of the rubbish that was strewn about. My eye was drawn to a small woven scrap of fabric. I thought it was rather anonymous and lovely for that, and it seemed to contain a palpable energy, which I felt it must have gathered over time. I pocketed it and two very short lengths of white rope to take back to my studio. After that I began to head to the beach as often as I could to look for more material. I was surprised that I had never noticed all this fabric lying scattered about along the tideline before. Mainly I began to collect fabrics that I felt drawn to because of their colour, pattern or tactile qualities. Most of the pieces were small shreds but some things were still recognizably a shirt sleeve or a pocket or a section of a bra. Some things I find have obviously been in the sea for years and everything I pick up is dirty, smells awful and has to be washed, but I don’t mind and I feel that I am getting to know each piece through these processes. For a long while I didn’t know what to do with all this stuff that was beginning to amass in my studio but finally I decided to just go for it and I began to experiment with arranging the materials as I would the elements of a painting and sew them together.

From there I began to develop a new body of work. Central to this work in progress is a group of constructed textile pieces, which are made using a range of assemblage techniques including knotting, binding, and wrapping. There were two key factors, which motivated me to work with found materials. Firstly, I was searching for a cheap alternative to painting: not only did my studio tenancy prohibit me from painting, but my toddler daughter was also accompanying me to the studio and I needed to find a way of working that I could pick up and put down again–this wasn’t painting, which I like to approach in an intensive all-out way over many long solitary hours. Secondly I wanted to build a deeper connection to the town I was living in that I had moved to not long before the birth of my daughter: I was looking for purpose and wrestling with feelings of frustration and the desire to break out and move away. The cyclical and ritualistic process of walking along the shore and searching for materials and then working with them provided a way for me to feel both rooted and more free at the same time.

I have always felt a kind of intense passion for textiles and I have previously employed them in my work: whilst I was studying for my degree I experimented with tapestry and during my MA at the Slade I worked with strips of Melton cloth and a giant crochet hook to make large tubular wall hanging pieces. However, I haven’t really worked with them in a sustained way until now. I think I feel more confidently able to own my ideas and to take greater risks than I have done previously.

MT: What happened to painting? Have you tried combining it with your work on textiles?

JCM: I miss painting a lot and I often dream about painting. I am definitely looking forward to the time when I will be able to embrace painting again and I anticipate that at some point I will discover a way to incorporate it into working with textiles or vice versa. Mark making has already found a way in and sometimes I lay pieces of fabric over objects I have collected from the beach and then with coloured fabric pastels I trace their surfaces onto the fabric.

MT: In Call to Return (2014/2016) you spread out and tied a canvas to the branches of some young trees. It strikes me as a wonderful expression of a call to someone who is both a textile artist and a painter, and who was getting over a bout of depression, as you write on your blog. I absolutely love this work. What was the next work you did after this one?

JCM: The first finished work I made after Call To Return (2014/2016) was Here And Now I (2016). This piece took quite a long time come to fruition. For several months I had a vague notion of what I wanted to do: I knew the title and I knew that I wanted to bring together in a performative moment the sea-salvaged fabrics with the trees of my favourite local wood. But I did not resolve the issue of what form the fabric works would take until almost the very last moment. I was still working slowly on a number of pieces that were far from completion when, two days before the deadline I had set myself, I harked upon the idea to make the bundles. I felt that this was the right outcome for the piece and the spontaneous feel of the bundles and the way they were installed in the tree worked strongly together to convey the ideas behind the work.

MT: Thank you, Joy, for this nice interview!

If you want to learn more about Joy C Martindale’s journey, you can find more works and intriguing photographs (I love the kind of found materials she chose to photograph on grass–here) at joycmartindale.com.

Zlatko Mušić’s Paintings, and a Short Interview with the Artist

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Zlatko Mušić, Beauty Lies in Imperfection

Zlatko Mušić is a 31-year-old artist from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Recently one of his paintings (shown above) was chosen to be displayed on a hi-res screen by the Saatchi Gallery in London.

I’ve had the pleasure of an interview with the artist. Here it is.

Mira Tudor: Hi Zlatko, looking through your portfolio at https://zlatkomusicart.wordpress.com/portfolio, I’m struck how versatile you are, moving with gusto from one style to another. I see the influence of Cézanne, Expressionism and de Kooning, but also of Caillebotte, Collage, and Digital Art. I would like to ask you, what are your favorite artists and why?

Zlatko Mušić: The diversity in my artworks probably comes from different styles and artists that had an influence on me, but among the many great artists I like, I consider Cézanne the greatest. Besides Paul Cézanne I would like to mention also Marc Chagall, Edward Hopper and Mark Rothko as some of my favorite painters and influences.

All of these artists together are definition of pure art, in my opinion. Chagall with his imaginative storytelling scenes and bold use of colors, Hopper, on the other hand, with his use of light and the suspenseful atmosphere in paintings, and Rothko, of course, with his monumentality and his understanding of space in painting. They all influenced my work greatly, but in the words of Picasso, Cézanne is the father of us all.

MT: What medium was your favorite when you started making art? Was it always painting?

ZM: Painting was always my favorite medium. In the past, I liked to draw a lot besides painting, but with time as I took more interest in abstract and semi-abstract styles of painting I started to use colors more and to draw less.

MT: Do you work on commission? What are some of your paintings that you created on commission, and what can you tell me about your experience of working with a client to create a painting?

ZM: I work on commission often lately and it’s very challenging. For me, lots of commissions are based on earlier paintings I did–the client often wants something similar to my paintings that he saw in my portfolio or somewhere else. It’s very important to retain creative freedom, but at the same time meet the needs of the client. I’ve also had a few commissions where I had total freedom to do what I wanted, so it all depends on the client. The latest commission I had was a series of abstract landscapes also based on some of my earlier works. You can see one of them on my blog: https://zlatkomusicart.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/the-new-world-abstract-landscape/

MT: Do you sell prints of your art?

ZM: Yes, I sell prints. They are available on http://zlatko-music.pixels.com/

MT: Anything else you’d like to add?

ZM: I also have a shop on Etsy where you can find some of my original paintings for sale: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ZlatkoMusicArt. And you can find me on Facebook, too: www.facebook.com/ZlatkoMusicArt, or on my blog: https://zlatkomusicart.wordpress.com/portfolio/

MT: Thank you, Zlatko, for this interview!

Tea Bag Art by Dawn Gettig, and a Short Interview with the Artist

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Dawn Gettig, Little Bluebird of Happiness

I recently discovered Dawn Gettig’s tea bag art and got quite inspired, so I asked Dawn to tell me more about her art.

Mira Tudor: Hi Dawn, I came across your tea bag art at dawngettig.com today and really enjoyed your use of this medium–its wear made me think of some of the softer creases and stains of life. Then I read your own words about the serenity you need in your life, and realized that sometimes we achieve serenity not against a blank canvas, but, on the contrary, by falling into those creases and stains of our life softly. So I’d like to ask you to tell me more of what you see in the used tea bags you use as your canvas.

Dawn Gettig: I see images, faces or patterns that inspire the finished art. Often, I simply use my intuition and follow it as it tells me what the empty tea bag wants to become. Sometimes I see a woman’s face or a woodland bird or other creature. Other times I paint an abstract image. Often it is the color of the stained tea bag that inspires the subject matter and other times it is the shape of the stain. I use different types of tea bags . . . herbal tea, green tea, black tea. I love the variety of the different colors, shapes and sizes of the tea bags. Mostly, I just love the organic feeling and color of the tea bag.

MT: Your paintings of birds and animals come alive the backdrop of the tea bag as they would against a landscape. What media do you work with to create them, and have you tried before media that didn’t work with the tea bags?

DG: I am a mixed media artist so I use all types of media with the tea bags. Mostly watercolor and/or acrylic paint but will add in graphite, paint pens, pastels, inks, and more. Thick oil pastels don’t work as well on the tea bag substrate because it is so small.

MT: Have you worked with unconventional canvases before?

DG: Yes, I have tried many different substrates. Handmade paper, fabric, leaves, tree bark, stones. But I am especially drawn to tea bags as an unconventional canvas.

MT: What will come after the tea bags?

DG: Well, I am always working on many different art projects and learn many different techniques from other art teachers along my lifelong journey as an artist. I enjoy a wide variety of painting styles and subject matter. I love painting abstracts on large canvases because the story is different for each person viewing the art piece. I really have been enjoying the muted fresco look of painting on joint compound and hope to find the time to create more fresco-type art.

MT: Anything else you’d like to add?

DG: Thank you for the interview, Mira! Please visit me on Facebook Dawn Gettig Facebook and on my Web site at Dawn Gettig

MT: Thank you, Dawn, for granting me this interview!
the-fawn_dawn-gettig
Dawn Gettig, The Fawn
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Dawn Gettig, Jackrabbit

One Cut to Insert the Future into a Past

Zsolt Asztalos came up with an intriguing proposition last fall at Victoria Art Center in Bucharest. He displayed a table with books severed in two, writing in his statement, “Each historical memory is waiting to be conceived by the future, so that a reality is formed.” He titled this work My Story—My Version/Library (2015–2016). Enjoy.

zsolt-astalos_my-story-my-version-library_table_azsolt-astalos_my-story-my-version-library_table_bzsolt-astalos_my-story-my-version-library_book1zsolt-astalos_my-story-my-version-library_book2

Cristian Pentelescu, The Gate

Here’s a work I saw at Senso Gallery in Bucharest last fall, and the beginning of a poem I wrote about it.

I’ve seen warm marble in Bernini’s Rape of Persephone
—Where Pluto’s hand sinks into her flesh—
Pregnant marble in Brancusi’s Beginning of the World
—Where an ovoid rests on a polished steel plate:
The material world and its metaphysical alter in bud—
Marble draped in lavish folds in Michelangelo’s Pietà
Diaphanous in Giovanni Strazza’s Veiled Virgin

But I’ve never seen marble quite so soft and elastic
As that of Cristian Pentelescu’s in The Gate
Or if I did, I don’t remember—

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Cristian Pentelescu, The Gate, Marble, 35 x 20 x 18 cm (13.8 x 7.9 x 7 in)