Some of you may know that I co-curate for Anagnorisis, New York based artist community. We present exhibitions at the Lower East Side venue, White Rabbit, on the first Friday of every month. August brings an emerging artist, Alex Passapera. I spoke to him about his work, influence, and views as a young creator in the city:
1. So what brought you to this medium in the first place?
I have always been attracted to technical work rather than flowing strokes from other painting mediums, which is why I like the detail and control of working with Pen and Ink. My artwork seems to take on a more complex and rich feel when texturing with stipple pen marks.
2. What inspires you?
I get a lot of inspiration from music, film and books as do most people I’m sure. Usually I try to take away a certain feeling or idea that appeals to me and let it filter into my sketching.
3. Who are some of your contemporaries, and what about their work do you like?
I am very interested in the low-brow, contemporary work. Tara McPherson, John John Jesse, Shawn Barber, Jeff Soto, Lori Earley.
4. Some of your pieces remind me of Vania Zouravliov, are you familiar with him?
Yes, I am familiar with his work. I remember first reading about him in “The Upset” by R. Klanten while working on this show and thinking he was a more talented version of myself. Pangs of jealousy and rage surfaced, followed by a desperate need to own one of his pieces for myself, they are beautiful.
5. What does your process look like?
Well, about thirty percent of my process is preparation for the inking; the initial pre-sketches and arrangement of the composition. After that the rest of the time I spend hunched over my drafting table, working out the flat blacks and stippling/mark making for hours. I would say the latter phase is zen but that would suggest my mind is blank while working. My work usually grows and evolves at this point while I’m working in the textures of the particular piece. I will add and cover up, which can be problematic at this stage since ink cannot be removed but I can usually work around mistakes and make them an essential part of the work.
6. Its really quite interesting how your work often transforms from people into animals, or animals into other animals. The wolf seems to be a main character? It has a very Native American vibe.. Is there any significant behind that?
The wolf was the icon I started with and for me embodies the type of feeling I am trying to capture. I can see the Native American vibe coming across, and that fits with my theme a bit. The predator is an easy character to use when trying to describe instinct and I feel the wolf is a beautiful example of fierce unbridled wilderness. The transformations in my pieces are very straight-forward symbols for the relations between man and animal. I wanted to do more pieces dedicated to anamorphic characters but time did not permit.
7. Tell us a little more about the body of work ‘Feral’…
Feral is all about our basic needs and my own visual representation of them. I try to pick out similar traits people share with animals in the wild which have been suppressed and construed by social society. Simple but powerful urges such as the need to feed, to mate, and to protect our own. These primal impulses are dumbed down in our culture now, so much so that we hardly even feel a flicker anymore. It ties into such topics as the over saturation of media, food and sex today, so much so that we really don’t need these natural mechanisms anymore. I try to identify a few predominant archetypes and depict my own vision of their hold on the characters in each piece.
8. Do you know what you next body of work is going to be about? Or are the underlying themes in each series?
This show was just came from an idea I had mulling around my head for a while, I’ll probably take the next series in another direction. I am rereading some classic stories like the original “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through The Looking Glass,” and was thinking of creating a series based on the imagery in them.
9. I hear you went to Savannah College of Art & Design… How was that? Has their been a change in your work/process/etc since you moved to New York?
Savannah was great, although being born and raised twenty minutes from New York, the slow lifestyle never really appealed to me. Living in New York was my dream since I was little, and being here for just about two years now I can definitely say it has had an influence on my work. Just from the amount you are exposed to in this city means absorbing and evolving is an inevitable process.
10. What can we look forward to in the coming months? Any other shows or projects planned?
I’ll be looking for more venues for my work. Right now I’m talking to Daniel Quinn, curator and owner of Stand Alone Gallery about doing something in the near future, but nothing is set in stone yet.
Visit Alex Passapera and tell him how much you enjoy his work here.