December 1, 2012

Erik den Breejen: Text and music

I just got a note from Erik den Breejen, who has a solo booth with DNA gallery at the Untitled Fair in Miami. He included a link to an interesting interview with Jon Lutz at at Daily Operation in which he talks about how he began using text in his paintings and his relationship to music. Here are a few excerpts.

I had been interested in using text for a very long time, but whenever I’d use it, it would come off like labeling, and wouldn’t integrate into the picture.  About seven years ago, I started making drawings using a block for each word, with the letters occupying the negative space.  I like that you call it an essential element, because I see the word block as a kind of cell that makes up the body of the painting.  And of course, the origin of these words is song lyrics, which I’ve now started forming into images that have to do with the music in various ways.... 

  Erik den Breejen, Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 36 inches. Image courtesy Freight & Volume

I was making drawings of Kiss when I was five or six, then fantastical drum sets and stage setups in middle school.  I started transcribing lyrics around then too, copying album covers, making images derived from lyrics.  I think a lot of artists around my age have early work along these lines.  Art school kind of taught me that these things weren’t serious art; that I should learn to respect things I didn’t understand, like Rothko, for instance.  So I did.  And for some time now I’ve been trying to merge the two....

I often wonder how my paintings relate to fan art and how I feel about that.  I got especially close to that when I did the Dylan portrait because it was such a recognizable image.   I think art world context can help “legitimate” something as serious art, and there’s always the whole high/low thing, but for me, I am concerned with the history of painting and in dealing with space and color in a serious way.  In the Neil painting, I’m trying to create atmosphere or space through shifts of color, rather than surface, which is kept relatively even.  In others, the more thickly painted, opaque text sits on top of a very washy background to create space.  I’m fascinated by the phenomenology of different material combinations like that.  Once I’ve figured out the text I’m using, it becomes very much about all the painting decisions, and that’s what carries the process and keeps it interesting, because it can be pretty labor intensive....

Erik den Breejen, Neil Young(Thrasher), 2012.

Related posts:
Making our post-neo-faux-expressionist-pre-figurative-proto-conceptual heads spin
Jon Lutz and Jim Lee talk in the studio

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