LM: How do you balance historical and contemporary references and techniques in your work?
BC: Balancing historical and modern influences is a decade’s long ambition. I strongly believe that to move forward one must look back. I have summed this up in the past by saying artists ought to “draw from two great sources of influence; the well of history, and the fountain of modernity. The artist who is uninformed of either is more likely to languish or stumble.” In 1994 I made a conscious decision to pursue representational painting as my main mode of communicating, but with the intention of somehow balancing divergent traditions, at times with slight tension. This eventually manifests itself in the Contemporary Still-Life and Contemporary Landscape polyptychs, two slowly evolving cycles of work.
LM: I have read that the way you go about setting up and lighting a setting for a still life is akin to theater. Could you describe how you choose objects and what principles you follow to arrange them?
BC: My Still-Life paintings often begin as either a yearning toward certain colors (a palette), or as simple abstract thumbnail designs, quite literally just a few lines in my sketchbook - rather Mondrianesque compositions of empty spaces framed by horizontal and vertical lines. Once I am content with a simple balanced design or palette I move toward finding objects to give flesh and form to this abstract. As such, the objects in the paintings are not really the “subject.” I make a distinction between subject-matter and object-matter. I suppose it is a difference akin to the distinction between human flesh and the spirit it embodies. All that aside, the “actors” in the still-life are selected for their stage presence and whether they bring out the best in their fellow actors.
LM: When painting realistically, how much detail is enough?
BC: This is probably the single greatest and most constant struggle for me. My natural inclination is toward describing, mimesis; but my desire is to suggest, not describe. I find myself struggling to be more impressionistic, and while at times I have small successes, often I take a work further than envisioned in its degree of finish. The irony is that one of the reasons I was attracted to encaustic medium in the first place was that it did not lend itself well to refined representational painting. I thought “great, this will force me to loosen up.” But I learned to work it to a high finish despite myself! The joy of encaustic medium is surely not in refined representational painting, but I still manage to have fun in the secondary and peripheral areas that are left looser or purely abstract.
LM: What makes this an exciting time to be a representational painter?
BC: After 4-5 decades of avant-garde and conceptual domination in the high browed art scene there is finally space at the table for lifelike painters. It began slowly in the 1980s, and by now academies and ateliers are on the resurgence as people crave beauty and seemingly lost techniques and craftsmanship. While some may fall into the pit of anachronistic and nostalgic forms, it is a relief that some balance is being restored. This ultimately results in better and more diverse art as artists both stimulate and challenge one another. What is exciting is that between the numerous painting mediums, the freedom to pursue diverse, even hybrid forms, and the growing appreciation for representation… we may have already crossed an important threshold from which a talented representational painter emerges with due respect even from haughty curators, directors, and critics who’ve championed the avant-garde for decades.
As an artist I am forever striving with myself in a restless pursuit. Paradoxically, this striving is not to an imagined “end” as though one could arrive. The point of the creative journey is not to arrive, but rather the journey itself, which begins to explain the eclectic nature of my work, and the diverse media and materials that I explore. Evolving as it does, there is nonetheless a thread of continuity in much of my art. This continuity is framed formally with an eye to the aesthetic, and thematically in works with spiritual undertones or where human sensuality are explored (see the Eye Candy series which
developed from rich and decadent foods).
I believe it is terribly important that all artists draw from two great sources of influence, these are the well of history, and the fountain of modernity. The artist who is uninformed of either is more likely to languish or stumble.
- Artist Web Site: brunocapolongo.com
- Archive: 2013