Sunday, February 6, 2011

Richard Baker Interview

Here is an excerpt from an interview of Richard Baker (shows at Tibor de Nagy) with John Yau. It was published in the Brooklyn Rail (great publication!) last February. Pretty much sums up my feelings exactly and I'm guessing could mean a lot to other painters right now. See the complete interview here...

Baker: Well, I never set out to be a still-life painter. It’s not something I chose to be. Matter of fact, I found myself early on feeling shocked and nearly embarrassed that, wait a second, I’m a still-life painter—how’d that happen? So if I was going to embrace that genre, which I did, I effectively had to elbow out the edges of it. Take the things that are banished from it and try and have them re-enter the picture.

Yau: And there is the formal element because within your paintings is the constant examination of the relationship of things to the picture plane. You are painting flat things—books, photographs, and reproductions, for example—that are “placed” on a severely tilted plane. The surface of this plane—a table—is tilted in a very precarious way….you feel like the world is slipping away just as you’re trying to grasp it. Seeing is not fixed, but fluid. In your paintings I feel that the world is at once fulsome and material and it’s sliding off the picture plane.

Baker: We are bodies that apprehend these things through our senses, through touch, smell, sight, even through hearing, and as a painter, I mean I could be a photographer, and I’d eliminate that sort of experience. The porcelain—I mean somebody made this thing in the world. And then, as a painter, I apply colored mud and make another representation. I have to be concerned with the sheen of light, the matte surface, the density of the object. I have to try to represent all of it with this oily colored mud and that’s part of being a living, breathing, feeling being.

Yau: So in your painting of broken glasses, you seem to be acknowledging that chaos is always there, that things do fall apart, and that nothing is perfect. And I think that that becomes another element of meaning in the work.

Baker: Are you saying that it’s acknowledging that this too shall pass, that it doesn’t last forever?

Yau: Yeah.

Baker: It’s like a memory.

Yau: Norman Bryson said that one of the things that makes still-life different from all other paintings is that it banished narrative, but what you’re saying is that that’s not true, that a lot of still-life does embody the narrative in that you can connect the dots.


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