AM: There’s a diametrical conversation going on in the room with the large canvas on one wall - glittering with vibrant colors and paint that’s still not quite dry - and across from that a compilation of mostly monochromatic works on paper hanging informally on cork boards. What inspired this approach to installation?
BC: My initial intent was to simply do a show of only drawings and create a personal retrospective of sorts, but I was also playing around with the idea of showing several recent paintings. It came down to utilizing the space by pairing a single larger work with the collection of drawings, the idea being that there is a dialog between the immediateness of the drawings and the worked layers of indecision in the large painting. They speak the same language and they are saying the same things; only their organization has changed and I really like that.
AM: The works on paper span a fairly extensive period of time, right? You mentioned some of the drawings date as far back as ten years.
BC: Yeah, it’s a collection of drawings that span ten years with the majority of the works being more recent (and most representative of my current affinities and intentions). Naturally, the further back I look into my catalog the less work there is to choose from that fits that current ideal.
AM: Did you feel a need to chronicle the development of an idea or the experimentation leading up to this large painting?
BC: I love that there is this lineage of visual references that almost diagrammatically show the evolution of my thought processes in the work. So much of what I create is driven by trusting intuitive impulses and allowing those ideas to simply manifest. It’s only in hindsight that I can identify the deviations that created those tangents. For me, the process of self editing while drawing or painting is a surefire way of stifling those creative deviations. And while I don’t expect every drawing I create to speak to me with the same magnitude, I do know when it works and when it doesn’t. Ultimately, the drawings exist as a way to inform me about what I’m thinking about. The large painting and any painting I work on for that matter, is approached using the same idea vectors. The only thing that has changed in my process is the range of mediums used and how those materials can convey different aesthetics.
AM: The colors in the painting seem like a departure from your usual palette, which tends toward the austere and neutral. Is this signaling a change in direction?
BC: When I first started painting, when I was 17, my palette was straight out the tube, loud and unmixed. There are only a handful of pieces that exist from those years simply because a lot of the work was just so loud and immature (as it should have been). I didn’t know how to use color in my work because I was much more intrigued by form, and at that time it became easy to work with a limited palette because I was making form-driven work I really liked. The reintroduction of color into my work has a lot to do with my recent experimentation using the iPhone and iPad: using touch screen painting applications has allowed me to make decisions I may not have otherwise made. The immediacy at which creative results can be achieved is remarkable and I found myself creating work with lots of color. The direction going forward is to embrace those color impulses and just trust my experimentations.
AM: So, on the flip side, where does your fascination with geometry and form originate? Many artists have increasingly turned to geometry recently, but it’s been the backbone of your practice from the start.
It’s the way I think. For me geometry is more than just an arrangement of shapes and forms, it’s a personal language, a way to express abstract thought and emotions. As a painter, I may limit myself to a surface plane and to the arrangement of shapes, but those forms can and do elicit an emotional response. I’m driven by primitive forms, by forms that are non-representational.
I’ve managed to hold onto a large drawing I did in the 2nd grade and I’m still amazed by it every time I look at it. It’s a mosaic of squares and within the grid are mini drawings. It still makes sense; it still holds true. And that’s why I create what I do. I draw and paint geometry because there’s a primitive honesty in their existence. I’m not interested in being illusionistic. I don’t need a narrative. I just want to paint how I think.
Brian Cypher’s Personal Geometry opens tomorrow night at The Living Room.