Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Steve Fleming Interview

Fellow Studio Gallery member Steve Fleming has a solo show from February 2nd to the 26th with a First Friday Reception (as part of the Dupont Circle Galleries openings) on 2/4 from 6 - 8 pm and another reception, Saturday 2/5, 3 - 5 pm.

Q: What's your favorite piece from the show and why?

A: I really like the earliest Kalahari painting, especially Kalahari 1 (above). It represents the freshest and most sensitive handling of my impression of the desert floor as seen from a small aircraft. The colors have a nice wide range considering I am painting a dry very desolate place. I really like the scratch work indicating the eons old paths that the animals use to cross the desert in search of food and water and the patches of white paint that are pulled over top of the foundation colors giving the impression of sand forming pockets and ridges on the earth's surface. I like all the later pieces; they became much more involved in terms of color, texture and the feeling of movement but the simplicity of the early work still says the most to me.

Q: Do you paint intuitively, with a hardcore plan, or somewhere in between?

A: When painting acrylics I really do start with a plan and just put paint on paper and canvas and then I let the painting push me to new conclusions and destinations. This approach is very different for me because in my impressionistic watercolor landscapes I use a design pattern which is very specific in terms of the relationship of lights and darks and the location of focal centers of interest. I paint very fluidly and spontaneously but I have a definite plan. By contrast, when I paint acrylics I have a general theme or motif I want to try but I just let the medium and canvas drive me in new directions. I think this works with acrylics because they are great for changing the surface and restating dull and unsuccessful areas in the painting. I can really keep adding and trying one more thing and not stop until the painting feels complete. Many times the painting has a totally different look when finished than I anticipated when starting.

One thing that does define my works is my tendency to paint in a series of work following a theme or concept and then exhausting all of its possibilities. The two major themes of this show are the desert impressions in which I have tried to produce work that evokes the color, texture and character of the Botswana desert. I have flown over it many times and am always stunned by the dry, ancient grays and the spotty areas of life supporting water and vegetation. It has the look of an ancient face gritty, lined and expressive I tried to portray this in my show. The second theme is called "Layers" which came about with juxtaposition of zen circles on top of color fields and forms. I have tried to establish the feeling of looking into the picture plane through layers of symbols finding the distance and subject of the painting deep in the canvas.

Q: For this show, did you do anything differently... new techniques, subject matter, palette, etc.?

A: Actually, since this is the first time I have ever shown my acrylics, everything is new for me and the viewer. I have been a painter of transparent watercolors for 40 years and have just recently made the move to acrylics. I made this move because I wanted to work on a bigger scale and I wanted to get more surface textures without the tricks associated with the transparent watercolors. Most of the paintings were done using a palette knife and for me this is really different because I am pretty much noted for being a really expressive brush painter in watercolor. The journey to paint this show has really taken me to and through some rough yet exciting patches. For the longest time I would mention that I felt my relationship with acrylics was like a marriage that was on the rocks and in serious couples counseling.

Q: A lot of artists have that one piece in their studio that they would never sell. Do you?

A: Funny but I really have no painting that fits that description. Once I am done with a painting I am on to the next one. My favorite is always the one I haven't painted yet. My goal is to sell everything I paint and have the painting make the owners happy for the rest of their lives. I lose interest in a painting pretty soon after its completion and if I am left with it for too long I will begin to tear it apart intellectually and seriously consider painting over top of it. I look at each painting to be a process of creativity and immediate artistic energy, but once I feel it is finished I move all of my passion to the next piece. I belief that when an artist is too involved with past work then the future work will suffer. We must always be looking towards our next painting not the last one. Artistic growth comes from trying new things and pushing out beyond our comfort boundaries.

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