verdure engraved 2016 issue 3
contents six questions # 9 - petra szeman six questions # 10 - susan laughton coles phillips edward wadsworth helen saunders pudlo pudlat suzan frecon william h page jo delahaut liubov popova varvara stepanova
cover image by pheobe riley law
six questions series
Petra Szeman is an art student at Newcastle University, working around the topics of fiction, fake memories, and narratives embedded into our lives. She mainly works with animation, analogue photography and drawing, but is interested in creating a game as well. petraszeman.tumblr.com
JrF: how concerned are you with the durability (physical or cultural) of your work ? PS: Physically I am not overly concerned, my drawings I keep digital scans of on my hard drive and they’re mostly done in pen so they’d work as prints well; I keep my developed photos in drawers and books and photo albums and I enjoy how disorganised they are, but I organise their scans digitally as well; the rest of my work is animation and that happens digitally, so it can’t lose physical qualities over time. The cultural durability of works is peculiar I think because I work a lot with an overarching sense of nostalgia and many small self-contained narratives, these might expire in relation to me and my experiences but are less likely to in regards of cultural narratives. Though the way these works are perceived would drastically change if our culture wasn’t one quite set on nostalgia as a generally positive thing. JrF: where is the line between success and failure (you can choose to answer this in terms of your artistic career or the work itself) PS: I don’t really think of success and failure but rather categorise my works in terms of works that I’m using at the moment and works that I’m not using and might never use. It’s not that an unused photo or idea is a failure, it’s just that it doesn’t fit my current artistic pursuits. In terms of finished artworks, I work on something until I feel that it’s done, and I count that as a success. If I feel that it can’t be done at the moment, I leave it, but again I don’t class that as a failure.
JrF: given that most artwork becomes a collaboration between the work itself and where it is experienced (physical or online) what is your approach to placing your work ? PS: I want my work to be easily accessible, but I also enjoy it when artworks are only strictly available in certain spaces to look at. Also I feel like some of my works function better online where the audience has the option to experience them privately rather than in a strict gallery setting that creates a distance between the artwork and the perceiver. Though I purposefully create my animations to be straightforward in order to break down this â€œhigh and mighty artâ€? thing that is going on at gallery exhibitions, and I like the artwork to have a similar accessibility in physical terms as well. JrF: what is the connection, regardless of the role of chance, between your first interest in art and your current explorations ? PS: I was always very invested in comics and cartoons and escapism in (an artistically engineered) fiction, and my current practice seems to revolve around these ideas still. Drawing characters from books and starting (but never finishing) comic after comic as a kid had the same desire to create new narratives at its core that I still have today.
JrF: do you remember your first experience of ‘art’ and how it felt ? PS: I was always an artsy kid and I’ve been drawing things since I could hold a pencil, but my first real ‘woah’ encounter with art was when I was 14-15-ish and I went to an Egon Schiele exhibition in Vienna that included interpretations and responses to his works as well as the originals. There was a whole range of contemporary art approaches on display there and that was my first real glimpse into the contemporary art world. Before that I just thought of art as an unmoving and elite thing that one politely looks at in museums and had no idea that it was so pliable as the closest I got to actual contemporary art (coming from a non-art background) was that sometimes I saw abstract paintings and heard people diss them with the usual ‘my kid could have done that’ line. A sound installation from that exhibition in particular stayed with me, as I found it incredible just how much effect a well-designed whole room installation could have on someone. I do work with sound sometimes, but I think I am still connected to this memory in that I seek to create strong atmospheric effects and world-like experiences with my artworks. JrF: in a world that both values (culturally) and often undervalues (as a sustainable career) art how would you describe the benefit to your daily life of being an artist ? PS: I recently had a conversation with someone and he asked what I do when I don’t do art, and I found that almost every aspect of my life seeps into my art. At first I thought this was moderately depressing, but then came to the conclusion that being in this current state of art-making allows me to interpret my life events and feelings from many different perspectives simultaneously, and makes me by default a person that is constantly reflective and considering new angles to look at things. I would say that is a definite benefit.
JrF: how concerned are you with the durability (physical or cultural) of your work ? SL: In a physical sense I want my work to be durable. The physicality of making the work is important to me as an evolving and, more often than not, fraught process. Selfishly I want there to be lasting evidence of this process, as well as a record of my thoughts and ideas. Culturally, who knows? As with most artists I think I would like my work to be ’noticed’ but I feel it is something I have no control over, now or in the future. I think that is why my focus is on physical aspects which I can have some control over. JrF: where is the line between success and failure (you can choose to answer this in terms of your artistic career or the work itself) SL: In terms of the work itself it is a constant seesaw between success and failure. Success being a feeling that the work has taken on a life of it’s own and that it is OK for other people to look at it. A success is when the work surprises me and things happen that I don’t feel responsible for. I feel as if I am viewing it as another person would, not as the artist. If I am unhappy with something, if it doesn’t feel ‘right’, whether it is merely a single line or mark, a certain colour or a whole painting then that feels like a failure that needs to be reworked or sometimes on a really bad day destroyed. Having said that can the artist judge their own successes and failures, sometimes it is hard to know.
JrF: given that most artwork becomes a collaboration between the work itself and where it is experienced (physical or online) what is your approach to placing your work ? SL: I do show my work online, including my portfolio website, it is a good way of letting people know you are out there making things, but my paintings are made in and meant for the physical world. The paintings are mostly very subtle with fine detail and texture which can’t properly be seen or felt online, it is one dimensional experience. In the physical world there is a definite sense of collaboration: a sense of changing light and scale can be appreciated. There is the relative scale between the painting and the viewer, a little painting that can be held in the hand and the relative scale between the painting and it’s environment. JrF: what is the connection, regardless of the role of chance, between your first interest in art and your current explorations ? SL: Drawing is the connection. I began drawing as a young child and went through a lot of paper, pencils and felt tips! It wasn’t really an interest in art, I don’t think I knew what ‘art’ was. It was about drawing what I could see or what I could imagine. I drew a lot, probably more than I do now in fact. I wish I could recapture that sense of fearless exploration and experimentation. Having said that drawing still underpins my work and is part of the finished paintings.
JrF: do you remember your first experience of ‘art’ and how it felt ? SL: I actually don’t think I consciously appreciated ‘art’ until I went back to college as a mature student to do a Foundation and then an art degree. All my experiences before that had been practical and technical, learning different techniques, improving old-fashioned skills. Even when I was a school doing my O levels and studying Van Gogh it was all about how he made the paintings not why. Doing the degree was very much about the ‘why’ as well as the ‘how’. I particularly remember looking at a small charcoal portrait by Frank Auerbach in the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester and it’s powerful emotional impact. JrF: in a world that both values (culturally) and often undervalues (as a sustainable career) art how, would you describe the benefit to your daily life of being an artist ? SL: Being a full time self employed artist brings great freedoms but also lots of insecurities. It is a bit of a leap into the unknown as a life choice. It can make you feel on the edges of life/society, a bit of an outside observer, but I think I like that. The freedom is a massive benefit - the freedom of being your own boss. Being able to choose how you use your time is a hugely undervalued asset, it is in a way a richness or ‘luxury’ that has to be balanced with all the financial insecurities that being an artist more often than not brings.
william h page specimens of chromatic wood type and borders (1874)
aside from their design qualities there is the unintentional cubist poetry of the word choices
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Published on Jun 26, 2016
Published on Jun 26, 2016
arts zine featuring interviews with & work by: petra szeman susan laughton coles phillips edward wadsworth helen saunders pudlo pudlat suz...