Interview with Anne-Louise Ewen
TWOFOLD LA Blog Los Angeles, CA | August 2013
TF: What drove you to becoming a fine artist?
ALE: I can’t say that I was ever “driven to become” anything—
I just always was making art.
There have certainly been many defining times for me when making art was a consolation and a talisman to me (like middle school and high school) so I continued to choose “art making” then, perhaps, instead of taking seriously some other pursuit.
Perhaps the deal was sealed when I moved to Paris when I was 18 years old, and the people I met WELCOMED me as an artist (as a valid life pursuit) instead of with suspicion and scorn (“What are you really going to do with your life?”)— and that was validated everywhere in Paris: I couldn’t help noticing that even the practical things, like bridges and subway signs, were made of art, made to be beautiful.
TF: Who is your main source of inspiration and why? Your muse?
ALE: Processing. It gives you a place to go and something to build on. Apart from that… sometimes it makes me smile when I remember what Artist Edward Pramuk (who oversaw my painting independent study in college) would ask his drawing students when he’d present a kind of far out idea: ”Can we do that in art?” — Prodding you to ask yourself ”Are we allowed to push boundaries/experiment or whatever in art?” — and to look within yourself to see if you were the kind of person that needed to look to an authority figure for that answer.
TF: Do you have any rituals before starting a piece of art or continuing to work on an art piece(s)?
ALE: Sometimes I’ll vacuum my studio to feel like I’m resetting with a fresh start. Generally I don’t listen to music when I’m painting because it is important to me to 1) try to work from a place that is as authentically me as possible — and music is a kind of possession in the way that it influences thoughts and moods and 2) I try to stay as focused as possible in ONE “mood” for the duration of a work— and if I’m listening to random music- it changes things too drastically for me from song to song.
TF: Your work has been commissioned for many established clients. What has been your absolute favorite pieces of work you’ve done that was commissioned and why?
ALE: I think it is a fun laugh that reproductions of my Good Luck Painting sit in the “high roller suites” of the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. (The writing on it says “This painting is good luck. Simply sit beneath it and make a nice wish.” — and I painted it YEARS before I was asked to work on this casino project.) For that same project, Daniel Fine Art Services, the consultants, asked me to create some originals that were similarly colorful, bold, fun and light. I loved that they trusted me to run with that.
TF: Your works all seem to stem from a desire to explore things from a very personal perspective. Is this a conscious decision? Is it a form of self-expression?
ALE: Exploring things from a personal perspective IS very important to me— but maybe not in the way that one would think. My style has occasionally been called eclectic — or even narrative— and I don’t see it that way. I’ll try to explain.
For me, there is the same current running through my most recent abstract paintings (The Lucite Project, AKA “The Exquisite Realization of Health”) as through the charcoal drawing I made of a duck decoy when I was about 8 years old. I was taking art lessons that summer from a local artist in Donaldsonville, Louisiana (where I’m from). She introduced me to materials and drawing fundamentals that a lot of people don’t get until high school or college: Two point perspective, shading, kneaded rubber erasers (I thought those were super fun) and actually drawing what we see in life. One night I pulled out my sketchbook and charcoal; I set up some dramatic lighting conditions and sat down to draw a plain carved wooden duck decoy that decorated our home— and there was something different about the experience. There was a flow. a relaxed alertness. a tuned-in-ness. an interaction between me, hands, eyes, object and the moment. And it occurred to me “This is different. This is art-making.” I think maybe I was experiencing what some people call “thinking in medium”.
So— Yes— While it’s hard not to notice that there’s a lot of personally relevant imagery in my work (cats, greyhounds and baseball, for example)— to me the subject matter is more of an occasion to continue this exploration of thinking in medium and working through that ecstatic state to create things that I think are worth having around. The wide variety of media and treatment of subject matter comes from my attempts to be true to the moment.
One thing I love so much about these new “Lucite Project” abstract works is that people say they STRIKE them. People tell me that the paintings emanate something that they feel. I think these people may be getting dialed in to a similar experience of what I have when “art-making” is happening. It seems like their abstractness makes them more accessible in that way— as if the subject matter is actually a distraction…
TF: It's so exciting to hear you are a judge alongside Alexandra Von Furstenberg for the Just Imagine Awards for Lucitelux. How has being a judge for the awards been so far? Do share with us any interesting experiences.
ALE: One of the best things about being a judge is how it has reinvigorated my appetite for painting on Lucite. It had been a few years since my “Patina” Series on Lucite— and I wanted to take some of the techniques I developed back then and put them to use to use in a way that incorporates how my vision has evolved (and continues to evolve). I am grateful to Lucite International for tapping me on the shoulder and awakening this motivation in me.
TF: In your wildest dreams, how do you see your work impact the art world and the world at large?
ALE: Every so often, people tell me that my work makes them want to create. That is perhaps the highest compliment to me.
A few years ago I had an epiphany while I was driving through downtown Los Angeles on my way to work at Frank Gehry's amazing Walt Disney Concert Hall (where I was employed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic for a few years doing graphic design & photography). As I took in the view of the building while stopped at a traffic light a block or so away-- I uncharacteristically thought "What a ridiculous building. Just look at that over the box office. I mean-- what is the function of THAT?" -- but then it was quickly followed by the thought "Its function is to inspire… and furthermore, that function is a valid and important function."
To clarify-- I'm not for didactic art. and I take issue with "Visual Art" that gets too wrapped up in concepts to accomplish being something effectively "Visual"-- but for me, the philosophy that came out of that epiphany reminds me of the answer when I ask myself, "Why paint?".
There is enough "stuff" in the world. I haven't devoted so much of my life to making art just to make bling to feed someone's materialism addiction. So why clutter the world with more stuff?
If I can bring things into existence that viscerally enrich peoples lives to be more "inspired" (Inspired lives embrace the unknown and the known, are more harmonious, insightful, happy, peaceful, joyful, brave, creative and personally relevant) -- while at the same time juicing that experience for my own inspired benefits -- then the things I am making are not just more clutter- but contribute good to the world. I've noticed for a long time that the paintings "work" on me-- but in this stage of my life I am learning that they also "work" on other people. Finding meaningful outlets for and amplifiers of my work occupies my thoughts a lot these days.