Philip Govedare: Sky Paintings

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With each exhibition, we will post interviews with the participating artists along with a photo of said artists in their studios and images of their work. In the future, we will post videos of artist interviews.

Sky Paintings, a solo show of new work by Philip Govedare opening November 7 and continuing through December 19, 2015.
There will be a conversation with the artist followed by a reception on Saturday November 14 from 2-4 pm.

Artist interview #33: Philip Govedare

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1) How is your process different in the studio compared to when you are out in the landscape?

I spend a lot of time in nature doing a variety of things, always looking for my subject matter and observing qualities of light, form etc. I do drawings from observation on site as a way of understanding and internalizing what I am seeing. My paintings are completed entirely in the studio and are a combination of imagination and memory, but also informed by drawing and the time that I spend in the landscape.

2) In a discussion with students about painting clouds, you asked: “You can’t capture it, so how do you capture the essence of what it is?” How have you approached this in your study, not only of clouds, but also of the fleeting nature of light in the landscape?

Light in the landscape is both fugitive and transformative. It is the essence of spirit and vitality, sets a mood, and in my paintings, is created in large part through color relationships. Through an exhaustive process of testing possibilities with moving paint around on canvas with a brush and palette knife, I arrive at a form or quality of light that is “found” rather than reproduced directly from observation. It is an inefficient process of trial and error, but it relies on knowledge and memory, imagination, and to some degree “the happy accident”.

3) What is the importance of observation, memory and imagination in your practice?

Drawing through observation is a process of selection, and a means to simplify and understand an infinitely complex world. What is left out is as important as that which is recorded, and the imagination plays a role in filling in gaps and making it whole. People sometimes ask me where I get my images, or if I copy photographs (I do not). The assumption is that painting is simply a matter of depicting an established or preconceived idea. My images are found through a seemingly endless process of revision and reconfiguration. A painting comes to life when I make a discovery, and encounter a situation that resonates, and is fresh, visually potent, and provocative.

4) You have mentioned: “skies set the emotional tone” would you expand on that thought?

As a species, I think we are biologically programed to respond to different conditions of weather and light. It is part of human evolution to be sensitive to these qualities since climate and weather have implication for basic survival. A brooding winter sky elicits a very different response than a summer sky with benign puffy white clouds. In my work, skies are less about a literal depiction of an observed phenomenon or place, but are a metaphor and a mirror to an interior landscape of individual consciousness. Serenity or tumult, stasis or upheaval, these are expressed through the transformative qualities of light and atmosphere, the suggestion of precipitation, wind and temperature. They embody the full range of the human emotion that includes hope and foreboding, joy and despair, bravado and frailty, and elicit questions of purpose, mortality and the eternal.

5) In your painting, what does it mean for a given work to succeed?

Matisse said that a painting is finished when anything that the artist adds to the painting detracts from it. In a larger sense, for me a painting should be revelatory, and contain a mystery or reveal some hidden truth. It must have a compelling presence that cannot be reduced to a simple formula or explanation. It should feed the imagination, and provoke a sense of wonder by presenting the familiar in a way that is fresh, challenging and somehow exhilarating.

6) How do you understand form in relation to expression?

I think that painting is all about paying attention, noticing things, and becoming sensitized to the world around us. There is the cliché that learning to paint is learning to see, and I have no doubt that I see the world differently as a consequence of painting. How things are constructed through the manner in which paint is handled (edges, brush work and surface quality, opacity and transparency) lends itself to expression. A particular technique adapts to the demand for expression, and finds a way to translate an experience in the most direct, subtle and complex terms. Ultimately, there is no formula for expression. The mystery of painting is that it is a deeply subjective enterprise, intuitive for both the artist and the spectator.