How can you share the experience of a concert with someone who wasn’t there? You can tell them about it, maybe play a recording — or, if you’re Cindi Lewis, you can paint it.
You might remember Lewis from her 2013 solo exhibit at The Art League, “Onstage,” or maybe from one of your Art League classes. Her ongoing series on performing musicians is about evoking non-visual sensory details in a visual medium, a “fundamentally nonverbal experience.” Last week’s Q&A was about a pastel you can almost taste and smell; today’s is about an oil painting you can hear.
Focused received the Jane McElvany Coonce Award for Contemporary Realism. We asked the artist to tell us more in this Q&A.
What does the theme of the show, “Contemporary Realism,” mean to you?
Cindi Lewis: I don’t have a formal, art-history definition of “Contemporary Realism.” To me, the term recognizes that, even in an era of abstract and conceptual art, there remains room — and an important role — for representational and realistic art. Contemporary realist artists may combine techniques and materials that have been used for centuries with others of more recent origin; what makes them “contemporary” (at least in my view) is their close and generally non-idealized focus on subject matter depicting the modern world and how we live in it.
Why are you a painter? Why oil and watercolor?
The short answer is that I simply enjoy painting. I can articulate certain things about drawing and painting that I find satisfying — the fresh beginning posed by a blank canvas and palette of fresh paint; the moment when an image starts to emerge and take on a life of its own; the opportunity to lose oneself in a process that is both stimulating and calming; the satisfaction of overcoming the inevitable challenges and difficulties to create something new and unique — but I can’t fully put the experience or the attraction into words, perhaps because it’s a fundamentally nonverbal experience.
As to oil and watercolor — I’ve tried my hand at a number of media and have enjoyed all of them but I like mixing colors, the feel of working with a brush, and the ability (even in a painting that takes a long time to complete) to begin seeing results relatively quickly compared to some other media.
What’s your goal with your series on performing musicians?
Hearing music performed live is a very different experience from listening to a recording. My objective is to capture the visual aspect of that experience — the energy and interactions of the musicians, the lighting, the equipment, the venues and audience, etc. — in a way that I hope also suggests the performances as fully experienced by all the senses.
How has the series progressed or changed over time?
The images have become more complicated in that a number of the compositions have expanded the focus beyond an individual musician to include other musicians, listeners, and/or details of the performance venues; the handling of the lighting and value contrasts has become a more important element; and the paintings have become more consistent in terms of size, scale, and paint surface.
What are you working on now?
In addition to continuing to work on music paintings, I’ve been to several recent workshops that have revived my fondness for plein air landscape painting. Earlier this year, I also began taking etching classes and am enjoying learning that challenging medium.
“Contemporary Realism” is on view through October 6, 2014.