|DAVID SERISIER: MONOCHROME
David Serisier is a well traveled artist who calls Sydney, Australia home. His work is cool, hip and minimal. When I stumbled upon his work online at Liverpool Street Gallery, I HAD to chat with him. He’s as cool as his work.
MICHAEL: Hey David, Your work is VERY cool. It's clean, minimalist and contemporary. I definitely see the influences from past artists, but what's your inspiration and motivation?
DAVID: Hi Michael, I am interested in the possibilities for colour as subject for non-compositional painting. My primary focus over the last number of years has been on readymade colour mined from digital images. The virtual colour formed through a variety of processes is reformed through painting with the intention of expanding context. My influences are varied and include a range of artists, but I am not motivated by style or appearance. For example, Ellsworth Kelly is important for his identification of the already-made-subject, George Brecht for his recognition of the actions and situations of everyday life as a field of perception and readymade subject and Blinky Palermo because he didn't make up his mind etc. Although this sounds pretty theoretical, I am REALLY interested in painting - making paintings -looking at paintings - and pursuing its potential away from convention.
MICHAEL: And so given that, which is the priority, painting or the color itself? I mean, you can create color photographically or through light, etc. Is your main inspiration color-based or painting based?
DAVID: I have always responded to the shift away from painting as an opportunity to expand painting rather than a definition of limitations. Within my practice, phenomena and digital media expand subject as primary sources for readymade subject as well as forming artifacts in their own right. The fact that everyone has a digital camera and is constantly recording life, introduces a strange mix of systematic arbitrariness and personal detail to both image and colour. This meld of individual intent and collective outcome presents possibilities for painting's unique outcomes as well as introducing expanding contextual implications. For example, monochrome painting and the road trip where the paintings appear to be standard monochromes, self-referential and concrete, when in fact they stand as biographical markers comprised of digital colour reformed through painting. So to answer your question, in the words of John Cale in a late 70's song Mercenaries and substituting painting for money, "trying to separate me from painting is like trying to separate me from my life.”
MICHAEL: Not all of your work, that I've seen anyway, is monochromatic. However, you do seem to like minimalism and color blocking. This can make the average viewer think that what you do is easy. What do you think about this?
DAVID: Yes, especially so when they view the work as reproductions. However, when the viewer confronts the work in the flesh they are forced to deal with its physical presence including both scale and matter. The coarseness of the linen, the roughness of a painted edge, the physicality of abutted panels when combined with subtleties of colour contribute to a greater complexity than first imagined. In my last exhibition, The Fluorescent Sun at Liverpool Street Gallery, Sydney earlier this year, I presented a range of work including monochrome, bi-chrome and grid paintings. Although the colour was pre-formed, the fact that it was originally sourced from my photographs of Dan Flavin's light installations in Marfa, Texas resulted in a range of oddly synthetic and yet airy colours that provided a challenge to reform through painting. The challenge was to achieve an appropriate density of colour and matter and through that promote a viewing experience. If the viewer chose to locate the experience beyond the show title they were free to read the exhibition notes and so expand the context of the experience to include the source of the colour and my personal experience.
MICHAEL: For some reason, I associate your kind of work and aesthetic with wide, open landscapes in the desert or on the prairie. Do you have the same kind of inspiration? If you live in the big city of Sydney, then maybe not. What inspires your work?
DAVID: Even though I live in Sydney, I have been lucky enough to travel regularly and widely. As you correctly noted, I am particularly drawn to vast open spaces. There is nothing I like better than a road trip into the desert or along the coast. I find the desert drive blends multiple experiences into singular memories in an oddly filmic way that conjures, on occasions, a weird sense of deja vu where you are not sure that it is a memory of a previous trip, a movie or the current experience. After one trip across the States when I returned to Sydney, I found that none of the canvas proportions I had previously planned felt right. It was only when I placed two double squares on top of each other to form a square that it felt right. The new format had the stability of the square and yet conveyed the expansiveness experienced through the car window in the desert.
MICHAEL: I think your work would look AMAZING if you worked really LARGE ... Canvases that art at least 80" by 80". What do you think?
DAVID: I agree that a large scaled format suits my painting. For my last exhibition, The Fluorescent Sun, I completed 7 paintings each 84 inches square. I really enjoyed the physical presence of the work both in my studio and in the exhibition space. However, to complicate matters further, I also produced a number of smaller works ranging up from 14 inches square to 60 inches square. Each canvas size presented certain problems or opportunities in relation to personal or architectural scale. A particularly important experience of painting and scale for me occurred in late 1989 or early 1990 when I was viewing an exhibition summing up the eighties at the Whitney Museum in New York. One work in the exhibition was a large dirty brown painting by Milton Resnick. I think it must have been about 7 or 8 feet square or near square and when I approached it, just as it filled my peripheral vision, the surface activated leaving me oddly discombobulated. The play between colour, surface and scale was truly amazing and for me has always stood as one of those almost unachievable outcomes for monochrome or near monochrome painting.
MICHAEL: Something just occurred to me. We live in a crazy world and I think one of the reasons why I like your work so much - and monochrome painting in general - is because it's very “Zen,” soothing and contemplative (I could do my yoga in front of them). Is that how you describe yourself?
DAVID: When I read your question, I immediately thought about the meditative qualities of painting resulting from a mixture of emptying and focusing the mind. Then I started to think about my studio and the extraction fans working overtime and the physical effort necessary to paint large paintings and then I am not so sure. As you said, life is hectic and complicated and it is very difficult to get a truly free moment. That moment for me is after all the work is done and the fans are off and I am sitting in the studio and looking at a painting. If it is really good, it’s as if I didn't make it.
MICHAEL: I feel the same way about writing. Does the average Australian appreciate contemporary art? What's the art world like there? Also, what do you think about the art world in general and how it functions today?
DAVID: Due to the small size of the Australian population and the high cost of living, Australian art does not generally attract the same price structures that are achieved within the major international art markets. However, this has not dampened the development of a vibrant visual culture drawing on Indigenous, European, and Asian heritage. Unfortunately, the global financial crisis has and is taking its toll on Australian commercial galleries. While the larger well-backed galleries are better prepared to ride out periods of difficulty, it is proving harder for smaller galleries. In contrast to this contraction, there are more artist-run spaces more active than ever before. Generally, I don't think a lot about the art world as I see it as business - I'll qualify that - really big business. As such, it’s about money, branding, marketing and consumption. If you have a product and market it well, you can have great success no matter what avenue you choose. Of course, if you choose the right product, it can be a lot easier.
MICHAEL: Most artists don't live lives of great wealth and extravagance. Was your decision to pursue art as a career a tough one?
DAVID: From an early age, I thought I would be an artist. I had no idea how and what that would entail as I grew up in a country town with no art galleries. It wasn't until after university when I was working for a multi-national Japanese trading house that I realized money was not enough. I resigned the position and over a number of years, travelled and worked in different jobs before going to art school at the ripe old age of 26. To support myself, I have always worked and this has given me the freedom to make the work I have wanted to make. If I have made any money from art it has been a bonus. I have no regrets.
MICHAEL: Finally David, what does art do for you and what do you want your contribution to the world to be?
DAVID: I am not sure how to answer these last questions as I don't think about art in general, nor have I considered my contribution per se. I still get excited about seeing a great work of art whether as an old friend or a new discovery. I watch movies constantly and am obsessed about particular directors (at the moment Polanski). It’s the same with music. Although my interests could be described as Catholic in the universal sense of the word, I find I like to pursue themes. In regards to painting, I have an obsession with abstraction and Aboriginal Bark painting, but who can go past Velasquez or Goya. I guess my art represents my time as a maker and consumer. As far as my contribution goes I'll "Plead the Fifth.”
MICHAEL: Good enough. Thanks David. Great chat.
Check out David and his work at Liverpool Street Gallery.