Ten questions: Kristen Van Deventer

May 2, 2015 / by Shane Huffman / Regards Gallery



Ten questions from Shane Huffman for Kristen Van Deventer regarding her exhibition En suite.

SH
Kristen, I will start off by saying that I don’t believe that photography is a medium, but rather a domain. Within that domain there are planes. The planes are vast and many that can be thought of as “photographic”, by definition photographic is “relating to photographs”, and I will put forth that, for me, the mediums of photography are located there and that they are Light-Spacetime-Movement. Your paintings are not addressing these, the mediums, but I hold strong to the idea that they take up residence within the domain of photography.

KV
I have to be honest, it surprised me when you brought this up at the opening! The paintings utilize some rudimentary printmaking techniques, repetition, and a reproducibility, but this drive is more emotional rather than a conceptual prompt to talk about “the original and the copy” or “authenticity”. I like the idea of the paintings “taking up residence” but I’m not sure their domain is in that of photography. I don’t think repetition is a metaphor for photography.

SH
By counting, as you did in the “Landscapian Interiors (once) and (twice)”, one presupposes a horizon, an end and therefore this counting takes place in space and not necessarily in time. The “Leda” painting isn’t counted, it’s repeated and not named. Do you see the paintings in the “Leda”, and/or the “Landscapian” as multiples, similar, duplicates, or potentially serial?

KV
The Landscapian Interiors were produced mark by mark. Their doubling was created in a one, two dance. A swirl of color here, the equivalent over there. They are not duplicates but twins made side by side. The Leda paintings are completely different. They were made to be repeated and have the potential to be reproduced over and over.





SH
I think about the futility of trying to make, by hand, the same thing: drawing, painting, photograph or sculpture. Standing in front of these paintings I oscillate back and forth between paintings looking for both similarities and differences. So I would ask you: Are these different in kind or different in degree?

KV
Trying to replicate something is more or less how art began – that and storytelling. You repeat a phrase in order to understand it differently, to give it urgency, importance. This is a technique seen in poetry and music. You copy an image to learn from the act. But the two Landscapian paintings are not exactly copies, there is no first painting or second painting. They happened simultaneously so I think I would say they are different in necessity if that makes sense.

SH
Whatever your answer, my follow up question is Why? Why the one you say, and not the other?

KV
Well, I say in necessity, because the paintings are different, and it is so important to me that the paintings retain their own individuality despite their similarities. And there really is no way for me to make them exactly the same because I am not a robot, and there is something extremely comforting about not being a robot yet. I so often jump around and produce work without a particular style, though I consistently stay in the realm of painting because I do think of it as a necessity. It will always be a thrill to be confronted by something that an artist made with their own hands and their own minds, and for me that is heightened when I look at paintings. It’s like magic with a transparency.

SH
Photographs have generally been thought of as infinitely repeatable and paintings as each being unique, fine, I understand that’s what has been passed on through lazy teaching at academic institutions, but would you not think that these paintings could hold up in an exhibition on the Photographic, with say other non-photography art? Like Tony Cragg’s faces sculptures, or Anne Craven’s paintings, both of whose work I look at in the same discourses of the Photographic.

KV
I think you might be curating an exhibition! There is a big difference between something being “repeatable” and something being “reproduced”. Paintings are very often repeated. Repeated in a different color or a slightly different composition at a different time. They are unique, sure, much more unique than a photograph. But there is something almost more appealing about the “unique” photo or the “unique” sculpture. That something reproducible can be labeled as such. An artist could have a thousand copies stashed away somewhere. Or your partner could have a few mistresses but there is still something really special about saying you’re married and there is something special about owning something “unique”. I think these works would be at home in that conversation but I don’t think that relationship makes the work.





SH
So, why did you use the word motif?

KV
That piece is a pattern repeating itself and I wanted to emphasize this — but the myth of Leda and the Swan is also an important motif in the history of painting and literature — and it’s the sort of image a young girl might naively cling on to as she discovers her sexuality — women and animals, Marie Laurencin…

SH
“Landscapian Interiors”, were you trying to make me laugh?

KV
Well, the word “Landscapian”, is borrowed from a Rosemarie Trockel sculpture titled Landscapian Shroud of My Mother. I think I may have seen this at Donald Young Gallery but I don’t remember exactly. It’s beautiful but such a heavy title. I like how “Landscapian” is a made up word that you instantly understand – similar to how one intuitively reads a circular object over a horizontal line.

SH
It only makes sense to me that all the arts would be, to some degree or another, addressing the Photographic. Photography is the crux of our society, everything we do is done with the thought of it being recorded, repeatable, from our most intimate to banal activities. Does this make sense or am I completely out in left field on this? Do you think about this?

KV
Of course. But it can’t be so simple. I don’t think anyone can say all art is “addressing” the photographic. If I had to make a bold statement, I’d say our use of photography and addiction to images is a symptom. And artists are trained to think visually and “see” these things first and therefore will address this in their work. I don’t know, I feel like everything I do is with the desire for it to not ever be photographed. Not my work necessarily but my private life.
I think about our current relationship to images all of the time. It is exciting but dangerous because part of me thinks it is liberating and the other part thinks showing images to the world should not be taken lightly. It’s hard to tell if we are becoming better or worse at “reading” images. Though, for me, the evidence points to the former.

I don’t make photographs. I take photos from time to time to help me remember, as a form of note taking. It’s less about capturing the thing or the moment, than wanting to remember the feeling or idea of why I felt impelled to remember in the first place. In painting it is different – I’m thinking about ways to have control, ways to remove control, for marks to be mediated or not and what that means. I think about the meaning of processes of applying paint, about color and form and about image making. Image making in the sense of making images where there once was none.

But I am disturbed by photographic images because I don’t trust them. In a way this is where the Leda painting comes in. I was struck by the erotic, raunchy Francois Boucher painting of Leda and the Swan, and also thinking about a photograph from The New York Times that really disturbed me. I will call it a decorative placeholder of sorts, depicting a corpse from the Malaysian Airlines plane that crashed in the Ukraine. The body is underneath clear plastic draped with a single rose. I don’t want to get into it, but the image is reckless in how soft and digestible it appears. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/19/world/europe/malaysia-airlines-plane-ukraine.html?_r=0

SH
Do you know Dieter Roth’s two handed drawings, and do you have any thoughts about them in relation to these paintings of yours? Or more specifically the act. The act of Roth attempting to draw with both hands and mirror the left and right but never exactly, of course and we wouldn’t want them to, and your act of painting the same painting (twice).

KV
I don’t really think about his drawings as much as how he used language in his work. Like Literaturwurst, where he would cut up books he didn’t like and use the pages to make sculptures of sausage.

SH
What are the conceptual foundations in these acts?

KV
These acts are not what make the work do what it does. I think a lot of the action actually has to do with color, the process of their making and two types of interiority that might be labeled expression on the one hand, and an actual room to live in on the other.

Kristen Van Deventer is an artist living in Los Angeles.
Shane Huffman is an artist living in Chicago.