Joseph Kucinski is one of my favorite artists. His paintings www.josephkucinski.com are hanging all over my house and I’ve written about them. I also loved writing the introduction to Joseph’s first book, “The Illuminated Mess.” Funny, because we’ve never met in person. Anyway, I love chatting with him because he’s talented, cool and down to earth. Read on and see what I mean …
MICHAEL: Hey Joseph! You know, I think you're the most abstract expressionist artist I know. And I know MANY artists. What is it about this genre for you?
JOSEPH: The abstract expressionist genre had a real immediacy and life that drew me into it. The movement introduced working fast, large and aggressive. I really took to that style of painting. I've always enjoyed when it felt like a release, a time to lose inhibition and rely on instinct and accident. De Kooning, Still, Motherwell ... they have a long reach that continues to have legs. I think the genre has to evolve, but there is still a lot of inspiration there for me and a lot of my contemporaries as well.
MICHAEL: When you're actually painting, is the process more intellectual or emotional ... or spiritual? What's actually driving you to paint?
JOSEPH: For me, painting is a meditation; a clearing of the mind in order to bring out some of the more unconscious hidden emotions. I find working large and in a physical manner really helps. The movement calms down the voices and allows a sublimation to happen. You could say I'm driven by my anxieties and the attempt to dispel them.
MICHAEL: Isn't your work also influenced by jazz? Old or new school? Do you listen to it while you paint? What is it about jazz for you or are you over it now?
JOSEPH: I'm actually listening to the Miles Davis Quintet as we speak, so it's still very present in my practice. What I gain the most from jazz is the movement and energy of it. It's great to paint to, almost as if you creating a dance. I don't think as much about translating it visually as I used to, but it has become more ingrained. Like abstract expressionism, jazz is also an unforgettable inspiration for me and has helped me move forward with my work and find my own voice.
MICHAEL: Maybe it's also the improvisation in jazz which is also present in abstraction. I don't know. How did you become an artist? Were you born an artist?
JOSEPH: Yes, absolutely. The improvisational aspect is the closest correlation to painting, going with the energy of the moment with trust in the outcome. It may sound like a cliché, but I've always been an artist. I think we all start as artists and slowly lose the urge to create, but with some of us, it sticks a little stronger. It has always been my way of interpreting the world and when it came time to enter "adult" life, it was a career decision that I feel was already made.
MICHAEL: Do you recall your first experiences with art? Do you come from an artistic family?
JOSEPH: I vaguely remember coloring. I think I was abstract at that point too. My mom remembers the only color that I would use was black. I think that I'm still the same way. My parents were very artistic. My dad was excellent at drawing and my mom did some amazing paintings. They didn't take it on in a career sense, they just did it for a hobby, but having that around was a great introduction to making art fun.
MICHAEL: I think your work is more textural than abstract per se, even though texture isn't always apparent. I'm looking at four of your works here at home right now and they all seem energetically busy and slightly organic.
JOSEPH: I think you’re right about that, I don't think of my work as abstract really. A lot of the forms and patterns are inspired by nature. For example, my latest series is based on aerial photographs. I like to walk a fine line with abstraction where you give the viewer just enough information that they can take away their own meaning yet it doesn't force feed subject.
MICHAEL: What do you think about today's art world and how it functions? Galleries, the art market, etc ... What needs changing to make things more hospitable for artists?
JOSEPH: I think the art world is a strange beast. I don't know that I would change it. It's unregulated. It's a wild west with no specific rules. It runs counter to many other industries. I think that there is a place for every artist working today. We just need to find it and if you want to run with the big boys, the Gagosians, then you play their game until you surpass it. Artists like Damien Hirst have beaten the game. What's next when you get to that point? I'm not sure, but the ladder is endless and there are so many possibilities. I think just laughing while you’re playing is essential.
MICHAEL: What's your work routine? Do you have to paint every day? Morning or night? Also, how do you determine whether you'll paint on wood or canvas?
JOSEPH: I paint every day. I’m fortunate enough to do this full time. I find my most creative times are in the morning, so I usually get to the studio around 8:00 am and leave around 6:30 pm. They say habit is the housekeeper of inspiration, so I tend to stick to these hours 6 days a week. I have been using primarily ink for the past 2 years and really like the effects on canvas so I haven’t been using wood at all. I think I may experiment in the future, but for now I’m staying with canvas.
MICHAEL: I notice that you've been working on very large canvases. I LOVE huge art. Why have you been working so large?
JOSEPH: I love huge art too. It really allows you to get physical during the process of painting. It becomes like some sort of primal dance and more of a meditation for me. You can lose yourself in the movement, and that movement becomes reflected in the image. I also really like when you stand in front of a really large piece and it takes in your whole periphery, you have to enter the picture in a way. Some of my best experiences with art have been with large scale work. Anselm Keifer and Cy Twombly, they have sucked me into quite a few of their paintings.
MICHAEL: You live in Portland, Oregon. What's it like there? Don't you want to be in NYC or London where all of the art action is?
JOSEPH: I love Portland. It’s a fantastic place to make work. The weather and atmosphere are perfect for making artwork and the natural landscape of the Pacific Northwest has been a huge inspiration. I like the foggy darkness. I've found a way to make that a positive. The art scene is really vibrant here and some really top notch work being made right now. I do long for the international scene that other places have, but I go to NYC multiple times a year and try to keep in touch with the larger art world. I think it's a fine balance and you need solitude and immersion if you can get it.
MICHAEL: There's seems to be this decentralization going on in the art world, but it's converging in the virtual art world online. What do you think?
JOSEPH: I agree. With the advent of new media, the avenues for creativity have become so diverse as well as the physical world interests. We no longer have just painting, sculpture etc. The virtual art world is connecting things so fast we have access to everything that’s bring created and vice versa with our own work. I think it's a very exciting time to be an artist. It's always scary when things are going into uncharted territories, but I think that we have more tools to create work these days and innumerable ways to connect it with the world. Bring it on.
MICHAEL: Finally Joseph, What are your hopes and plans for your own life and work?
JOSEPH: I envision a consistent studio practice, much like I have now. I would like to see my work reach more people internationally and a reputation of engaging and fresh work. In general, I see myself as a craftsman and I am so excited to develop my craft over the years and continue to develop. My best paintings are ahead of me. I love that. I will be painting until the day I die. Art is life. Life is art.
MICHAEL: Thanks Joseph. I’ll continue collecting your work.
Check out Joseph’s work by visiting his website at www.josephkucinski.com