Interview with Young-Space

I recently had the pleasure of having an interview with Kate Mothes of Young-Space.com, a new blog and platform focusing on emerging artists. Please check out Young-Space, Kate is doing a fantastic job promoting and sharing a variety of interesting work. To see images of the work published with the interview click here.

And now for the interview: 

Love these mysterious, atmospheric landscapes by Florida-based artist Logan Marconi, who has a show opening up on the 20th of July at the Dougherty Arts Center in Austin, TX! We chat about the sacredness of landscape, experience and truth, and breaking one's own rules in painting. More at the links below!

+ + +

Hi! Can you introduce yourself? Where are you from originally, and where are you based now?

My name is Logan Marconi, I'm a painter based in Gainesville, Florida. I've been here since 2010 but I'm originally from a small town in northern Indiana called Peru. 

What has your art education been like, whether formally or informally?

My arts education has been mostly formal. I received my BFA from Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis and my MFA at the University of Florida. Outside of academia, there have been two experiences that helped shape my practice. The first was attending a week long studio seminar like program at the studio of Enrique Martinez Celaya in 2011. That was a profound experience due to the intensity of a week full of critiques, discussion, and writing. My time there further distilled a strong discipline of work and being self critical. The second experience was becoming the studio assistant for a local painter in Gainesville, named Arnold Mesches. Arnold, whose career spans over 50 years, made art until his early 90's and worked everyday. Just being around such an artist that possessed a deep knowledge of painting was truly a blessing for me. Between numerous conversations and observations, I learned a great deal about my craft as a painter and what it meant to be a successful artist. 

What first interested you in making art, especially making it?

As a child drawing was something that constantly took up my time. It seemed normal to me to draw for hours on end, just being lost in my imagination. Very early on I had told my parents I wanted to be an artist, though I really had no idea what that meant. In high school I had a great teacher that pushed me to get a BFA. Only later in college did I realized the intimate link between making and meaning. Over the years it’s that quality of art that has kept me interested, the way in which art, specifically painting, allows me to make sense of the world and myself. I’m also broadly interested in how artistic practices connect to the values of a beliefs of the artist, which ultimately seems to account the resulting process and how the meaning of the work unfolds. 

I'm interested in how your paintings focus on landscape, but with a mysterious twist, though not necessarily "dark." Part of this comes from your pairing of brilliant, saturated hues with neutrals and darker tones. Can you elaborate a bit on your subject matter?

My subject matter is rooted in an idea of landscape being a sacred place, particularly as this pertains to a sense of spirituality. I'm interested in the association of a spiritual presence to certain places, ideas of rituals to commune with such places, and the given significance to things like trees and bodies of water. 

I find within certain landscapes a kind of resonance that feels more sacred, more silent, or more still. 

My use of landscape imagery connects to the biblical use of garden imagery, particularly to Eden in Genesis. I'm interested in the fractured sense of existence that came from banishment from Eden and how that has to be reconciled. To me, the sacrality of rituals, specific locations, or even natural things seems to temporarily mend that fractured existence. Mircea Eliade, writing in The Sacred and Profane, spoke of the need for the religious individual to continuously seek out the sacred, either in ritual, specific locations or natural things, so that the individual may find their correct orientation to the world.

There are a few reasons my paintings are dark in terms of tone and value. First, I enjoy darker paintings, like James Whistler's Nocturne Series or the American Tonalist paintings by George Inness. Secondly, the darker aspects of the painting come from using glazing as part of my process. Glazing is using thin layers of transparent paint to build up dark areas so they are deep or luminous. Lastly, I connect with the sense of light and shadow described in the book In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki. In the book Tanizaki discusses Japanese aesthetics, specifically how darkness is a beautiful and necessary component because it is far more subtle and resonate than harsh light. Due to the interest in creating drama with light and dark, the light play in certain spaces can feel more transcendent. While my paintings are formally dark, they are also about light and space. It's more about how light comes into the space of the painting and illuminates what is there. I use light as a metaphor for Spirit as well.

Your statement describes your interest in exploring ideas surrounding existence and uncertainty, both physically and spiritually. What draws you to those issues?

I've always been more interested in questions of existence and meaning, especially how I might have a sense of truth. Many times I feel like I’m missing something or just don’t understand. This sense of uncertainty comes from confronting the limits of my reason and faith. I find art to be the best way for me to confront my limits. It’s the way I make sense of the world and my sense of a felt reality behind the physical one I experience. My aim is to examine and hopefully clarify my beliefs. 

What is your process like?

My practice can be characterized as a contemplative in nature. I don't normally known prior to beginning a work what the outcome will be, I only have a sense of the direction. I make small sketches, which are more visual notations, that often give me a direction in the beginning but the process typically involves numerous revisions or complete changes if the painting doesn't feel right. This comes from the gap between intention and realization, specifically how my own limitations to communicate often lead to something that does not suffice, nor does it bare the full gravity of feeling. I'm always looking for the painting to hold my attention for some time, it needs to be mysterious or feel silent if it's going to survive the process. Otherwise I will sacrifice the painting to make a better one. A close inspection of many of the surfaces reveals the evidence of changes. Working in this way keeps me at the edge of my comprehension.

Depending on size, I've made paintings that took an hour to paintings that have taken up to a year to make. If a painting happens too quickly or easily I'm often skeptical of it. In those cases, I'll set it aside to think about. I'm usually working on ten or more paintings at a time. By letting work sit I can better digest the development of each painting which allows me to see connections between works, revolve issues, and keep working when a painting is too wet. I have to factor in drying times between sessions since I work in oil. 

Doing research before a body of work isn’t normally a part of my process. Ideas being investigated in a body of work lead to further investigations in new works. Writing and reading constantly about the work also helps guide what I do in the studio. In the past, when my subjects were spiritual sanctuaries, I did visual research where I would visit specific locations to spend time drawing and experiencing the site. Visiting was an effort to enter into a contemplative space, however, I know approach my studio as a contemplative space instead of going to such a space.  

What is your studio or workspace like?

I try to keep my studio as clean and sparse as possible. Too many objects or things lying around causes distractions for me. Plus, maintaining a sparse and clean studio helps foster a level of intentionality towards my practice. I only keep what is necessary in my studio to aid the process. 

Do you have any routines or rituals that help get you into the best mode to create?

I work best early morning until the afternoon. Keeping a consistent schedule helps me paint better. When I arrive I might begin by mixing paint, sweeping the floor, and looking at the previous day’s work. Music is essential as well. I have to have the right music and think a lot about what my paintings would sound like if they were music. So it's important to have the right kind of atmosphere and mood. For instance, I listen to a lot of Scandinavian bands that range from dark folk to metal. The music from this region generally feels solemn or personifies nature, particularly winter. Some of the more influential ones would be Tenhi and Kauan, or Wardruna. Just listening to this kind of music helps put me in right state. 

What is the best advice you've ever received so far? Any that you're glad you chose to ignore?

There are a couple of things that come to mind about advice. Firstly, I can remember Arnold Mesches telling me to paint with greater feeling. Secondly, as a graduate student I remember a studio visit where I was having some difficulty and my professor, Julia Morrisroe, asked me what rules I was placing in front of my paintings that kept me from making the paintings I needed or wanted to make. Both of those moments proved highly beneficial for me when I find myself in a difficult situation in the studio. In essence, they were both telling me to "let go" so I could get to the real painting. 

In regards to advice I chose to ignore, I would say filtering out the advice that didn't seem to line up with my vision for my practice. I'm pretty much a traditional studio painter, and by that I mean I rarely make work that is not a painting. Until recently, my practice hasn't taken me to a moment where making something other than a painting would be necessary. When it was suggested to me to make installations I ignored the advice because it had no relevance to my work. My feeling was the comment was directed at being more relevant or contemporary. 

What do you need or value most as an artist?

What I need and value most is studio time, integrity and good painting. My paintings can take a lot of effort to make because of my process of painting and repainting, so I need a good amount of time to work and reflect on the work. Integrity has more to do with staying true to my vision as an artist but also finding integrity in other artist's work. I greatly appreciate when I feel an artist making themselves vulnerable in their work, as if they are reaching for something beyond themselves. I also value good painting when I see it. I love looking at paintings and trying to figure out how they were painted. This has helped me a great deal with my own work, particularly with my sense of color since that is probably the most difficult thing for me. 

What do you feel is the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art, either creatively or professionally?

For me, the most challenging part of pursuing art professionally is getting my work seen and getting some financial return. The biggest hurdle is living in Gainesville where there isn’t a highly developed art market or network to support artists. It’s been a great place to paint because I can focus, but taking my work to a larger audience proves to be difficult. However, it’s something I’m working on. It’s like running long distance, trying to sprint to the end isn’t the best practice, rather I trying to have a steady and solid pace to reach my goal. 

What are you working on right now?

Currently I'm working on finishing some paintings for a show opening July 20th at the Dougherty Arts Center in Austin, Texas. The exhibition is called "The Sanguine Heart" and focuses on preserving faith even when feeling uncertain such matters. For instance, I've been working with images of palm fronds as these are symbolically understood as victory or the power of spirit over flesh. So many of the pieces utilize the palms strung up as if being preserved, sometimes the fronds hang over fire or tied to trees giving a ceremonious feel.  

Anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my work and a bit about my practice. Please keep doing the work you are doing, it's important to have advocates for artists. 

The Haunting Exhibition Statement

Drawing upon various influences from Romanticism’s landscape painting to theology and contemplative silence, Logan Marconi’s oil paintings explore themes of existence and spirituality by revealing a haunting, numinous world. His most recent body of work focuses on death, faith, and ritual as mysterious forces that shape existence. More emotive than descriptive, Logan’s paintings bring to mind forgotten ceremonial grounds and seem to unearth a supernatural presence. His process is one of inquiry and reflection, resulting in a constant working out- an excavation- of what haunting presence he feels. For him, it is not enough to represent the world as it appears physically; instead, he strives to truthfully represent the world as it is felt. As a result, the paintings undergo numerous revisions so what is finally left bares some truthful resonance.

Words From Years Ago

I have been spending time writing about my new body of work entitled The Haunting for an upcoming exhbition at the end of September. So I felt it important to put down some thoughts and insights I've had over the last six months. I write as a form of studio practice to help me articulate what it is I am doing and why. These writings often come in bits and pieces only later to be formed into a whole because I can never say with certainty what a body of work really is until I have spent much time with it. Having said that, I occassionally have moments where the present connects to some past writing. Today I found one such piece and, with a little editing to make it more clear, have decided to post it since it is fitting for this new work yet still connects to the over arching practice. I will be posting more writings in the near future that specifically address themes and ideas about The Haunting. 

There is something about how the act of painting reflects one’s disposition.  In one way, composing and rendering an image is to come closer to that image while in another it opens up contemplation. For me, it is not enough to accurately render or represent, instead the image should truthfully represent. Because of this I often find myself desiring an environment that reflects my disposition so that what is painted becomes a link between the interior and exterior worlds. Through painting I reconstruct my reality as I feel it to be rather than how I perceive it to be.  This relationship of disposition to painting is actively manifested as each painting undergoes a series of re-workings until resolution comes in a solemn or silent state. As a result, what is left is something which truthfully suggests an unseen world, one which is felt.

Painting and the World

 

    Roger Lipsey wrote in An Art of Our Own: The Spiritual in Twentieth Century Art, that “If art matters at all, it will shed light on something more than itself.” Lipsey’s words ring true for what I consider to be the foundation and main goal of my practice, which is fundamentally the cultivation of a spiritual practice through painting. I believe painting is a process of inquiry and reflection and that a critical and disciplined practice does, or at least attempts to, move beyond being aesthetically pleasing. Additionally, I think art is most powerful when it lays bare the disposition of the artist and shows the poetic nature of the mind making sense of the world- in other words, finding its radiance. Such radiance highlights the undercurrent of our sentient lives, the search for meaning, by re-presenting images of the known world in such a way as to suggest a felt yet unseen dimension. World renowned mythologist, Joseph Campbell, when lecturing on the Imagery of Rebirth Yoga spoke of this kind of radiance, calling it…

    …the revealing power, the power that is said to be in art. When, through the forms we experience the radiance…But when in art, the radiance is experienced and the fascination of the art object is that of discovering your own true radiance. Because there is only one true radiance, and that is the radiance of full consciousness. Then you have the awakening and the opening of the lead, so to say, to full realization. (Lecture 1.2.4 Imagery of Rebirth Yoga- The Seventh Cakra: Transcending Maya) 

    This radiance of consciousness is a kind of transformative experienced in relation to the artwork. The artwork is a pointer, an opener of worlds, allowing each viewer the opportunity and possibility to move towards those worlds. This radiance is experienced on a premise of faith that the artwork functions this way and is not merely decorative. By re-presenting images of the known world, art places in front of us a new way to encounter ourselves thus providing a kind of experience not readily accessible in the world. The artwork, then, is a vehicle which encapsulates the ineffability of both existence and essence. Art’s broader relationship to the world, at least for me, is one which deepens the quality of our mental lives. 

    With my exhibition Light of the World, I have tried to deepen my understanding of this special relationship through painting. It is the way I examine my place in the world and where I return to seek out a truthful resonance in the face of uncertainty that permeates existence. If the goal of my artistic practice is to cultivate a spiritual practice, then the act of painting is a way to locate myself in relation to this felt radiance. And in doing so, a rootedness in being has room to develop.

The Role of Sacred Spaces/ Quaker Meeting House

I wrote this up for my upcoming exhibition The Meeting and thought I should post this to give some insight into the things I have been working with and thinking about. Enjoy.

 

 “If art matters at all, it will shed light on something more than itself.” (Roger Lipsey, An Art of Our Own: The Spiritual in Twentieth Century Art).

Sacred spaces are spaces of conviction. These spaces command something of the occupant and are an affirmation of belief in the form of architecture. There is a presentness I feel when inside such spaces that rouses a particular kind of silence in me that does not arise in other places. To inhabit these spaces is to move from awe to reflection to contemplation. Such spaces act as calibrating agents for the individual by withdrawing inward and taking time to be still, leaving all distractions and busyness outside. Over time, one develops patience and openness by inhabiting sacred spaces and learns to listen to the silence of both the physical space and that of the inner space. When this happens an active silence emerges as a meditative practice has begun. It is the experience of place that is taken into the studio to cultivate this particular silence. The studio, by extension, becomes a sacred space itself as it carves out a place to cultivate silence from daily, secular life. To continuously return to the studio is to be intentional about the role of such a space and the activity within as contrasted to daily life. It is a site of inquiry and reflection, of confrontation with one’s reason and faith, and of nurture. Inside the studio, one examines one’s life, bringing into view the mysteries which inflame the mind. In this way, it both clarifies and keeps present those allusive occurrences of the sacred which were felt in the sacred space. It’s about learning to see with “eyes of fire”, that is, to see into a sacred domain, the things that are felt but unseen. The most important aspect to the space is the presence of the mind within it.

Quaker Meeting House

Two years ago I became interested in the silent worship practices of those in the Quaker community. It is a practice which brings into focus the “Inner Light” in each individual through contemplative silence. The goal is to cultivate an inner spiritual knowledge while developing a relationship with the "Inner Light", or “Spirit”. If architecture is the physical representation of ideas and beliefs, then the Quaker Meeting House is a place of both austerity and humbleness. Its purpose is to elevate one’s thoughts by causing introspection in a space void of distraction. The space is sparse and poised, offering no more than what is necessary to encourage reverence. White plaster walls and ceilings contrast the lower portion of the space which is covered in medium dark wood. A sense of security is felt when sitting on the wood benches while the mind feels at ease due to seeing primarily white. This physical separation between wood and plaster creates a corresponding separation of body and mind. With the correct afternoon light the space comes alive from a gradual increase of illumination on the walls. This glow diminishes any noticeable separation between walls and ceiling, creating the acute sensation of being consumed in emptiness but also that of being enveloped in light. In this way, the Meeting House is a reminder of how one’s mind should be: quiet, poised, and devoid of unnecessary thoughts to allow the light to come into the mind and fill it. Thus, the use of contemplative silence as a way to cultivate this “Inner Light” is transformative by the relationship of interior building and interior mind.

Statement

Borrowing from the Quaker practice of silent worship, my paintings endeavor to unearth a sense of the sacred in the world. Architectural remnants act as anchor points to locations hovering between presence and absence. Layers of glazing produce luminosity and diaphanous atmospheres, inspiring stillness and contemplation. Each painting is worked and reworked, allowing images to disappear and emerge, until they reach a state of silence- a half step suspended between a pilgrimage and a conclusion. In this way, the work is more liminal than it is concrete and beckons towards that which is just on the precipice of comprehension.