Hernan Bas

Illustrated Answers with neo-romantic painter

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If Oscar Wilde were a 21st century visual artist we have a feeling that his work would look somewhat like Hernan Bas’ paintings. It’s no surprise, then, that Bas cites Wilde and Joris-Karl Huysmans as inspirations for his oeuvre, which consists of intricate and colorful romantic paintings that constantly explore nostalgia, the opulent social lives of the bourgeoisie, and, perhaps most evidently, queerness. The Detroit-based artist has gained worldwide recognition, with exhibitions in the Brooklyn Museum, the Saatchi Gallery in London, the Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in Paris, and more recently his fourth solo show, ‘Bright Young Things,’ at the Lehmann Maupin gallery in New York City, on view until April 23, 2016. In this exclusive interview, the splashy neo-romantic painter shares illustrated answers with us.

 

 

NeueJournal: What was your favorite thing to do as a child?

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Hernan Bas: I played a great deal outside as a very young child. We lived in the middle of nowhere in upstate Florida where wandering the woods was a big thrill.

 

 

NJ: If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

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HB: If I could, I would like to write about art. Aside from that, and as cliche as it may sound, I am really into interior design.

 

NJ: What does your most idealized self look like?

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HB: If we are talking strictly looks, I’d say I wish I had the same body I had when I was 20. Aside from that, and if we’re going a bit deeper, I wish I was a little less flaky–I can forget to reply to an email for days on end!

 

NJ: If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

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HB: Crispy bok choy.

 

NJ: What’s your biggest vice?

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HB: Television, it plays in the background of my studio, and I can’t fall asleep without it on. BudLight is on the list too.

 

NJ: What is a talent you possess that a lot of people don’t know about?

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HB: I have a green thumb. I love plants, but really I put all my eggs in that painting basket.

 

NJ: What is the first thing you see when you wake up?

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HB: The sun peeking through a curtain, or Jose Diaz Balart on MSNBC if I left the TV on.

 

NJ: What is your most prized possession?

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Artwork: Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong

Portrait Photography: Harris Mizrahi for NeueJournal

 

Takashi Curates

KAZUNORI HAMANA, YUJI UEDA, OTANI WORKSHOP

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A few days before Japanese artists Otani Workshop, Yuji Ueda, and Kazunori Hamana flew into New York to discuss their group show at the Blum & Poe gallery in New York (running through April 9, 2016) curated by Takashi Murakami, the ground floor of NeueHouse Madison Square turned into a gallery of its own, with enormous pieces by each ceramicist displayed next to each other. The work, although stylistically different, is a testament to the organic nature of the Japanese ceramic work, as all three artists have an appreciation for the raw materiality of clay and the way that it can be maleated artistically. Ahead of their conversation at NeueHouse with Murakami and Tim Blum, we sat down with the ceramicists, where they talked to us about the importance and the beauty of the natural world.

 

NJ: How did the collaboration between all of you come about and what has working together been like?

 

Takashi Murakami: I first chose Otani Workshop around four or five years ago, when he was working with Yoshitomo Nara. I went to a gallery and bought some of his ceramics since I thought his pieces were very gripping, and at the time I was opening a ceramic gallery, which is why I invited him to be a part of it. He introduced me to this guy, Yuji Ueda, whom I knew was a very good ceramic artist, but I didn’t like his pieces because they confused me and were very abstract. However he was very highly recommended to me, and he is the best. Western people have a good reaction to Japanese art, and Ueda’s art falls under that.

 

One day I went to his show and he served me Japanese tea from his grandfather’s tea farm, which was very nice and very sweet. When I drank the tea everything changed. The combination of the taste of the tea and his work’s abstraction…I hated his piece, but hate is kind of the opposite of love.

 

About three years ago I saw Mr. Hamana’s work in a blog, and then a friend of mine, a Turkish guy who was a gallerist in Tokyo, chose a very unique piece by Mr. Hamana, so I called him to ask who the artist was. I ended up buying the piece and then invited him to my gallery, which he was very interested in. In the ‘80s he was in the sneaker business in Japan, importing Nike Air Jordan’s and other popular shoes, which made him a very successful businessman. But he got very tired of this business and went back to the countryside, where he started making ceramics. His career is very interesting and his pieces are very good.

 

What I like is that these three guys are outsiders in the Japanese ceramic scene, so it was great to have them all in my gallery. Mr. Tim Blum, from Blum & Poe, came to my gallery and chose the three of them to make a show in Los Angeles first, and then here.

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NJ: What do you admire the most about each other’s work?

 

Kazunori Hamana: I think what we can each do is probably limited because we are all working with clay. In a sense, our works are all similar, because even though the style might be different, they are organic and focused on the material. If you attempt to change something in the material, it will become artificial, and we are all interested in its nature.

 

NJ: How do you think the influence of Japan makes your work different than that of other artists?

 

Otani Workshop: I can only see things from the Japanese point of view because I’m Japanese, but from my perspective American ceramic artists’ work, concept, color, and shape seem very strong and distinct. So perhaps my own work seems a little bit ambiguous in comparison, and that might be Japanese in nature.

 

NeueJournal_In Conversation: Takashi Murakami

Photography by Samantha Nandez

 

NJ: What do you consider your greatest achievement?

 

OW: I actually went to art school at the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts in Naha, but my hometown is close to a traditional ceramic production area, which is why I sort of, by default, started getting involved in ceramics. I always wanted to somehow make art involved in what I am doing, so in that sense the fact that Takashi found me and now I’m able to show in New York is an accomplishment.

 

KH: As Takashi explained, I have had so many different jobs and careers, and I’ve also lived in so many different locations, so I have a background that has allowed me to establish a very solid foundation for what I’m doing right now. I wouldn’t call myself a ceramicist, in the sense that I wouldn’t make a plate when someone asked me to make a plate, but I’m actually facing more of a larger question – almost as large as “What is life?” or “What does it mean to live?” I feel that right now I’m finally standing at the starting point of the quest to start exploring that, so that is an accomplishment.

 

Yuji Ueda: My family is involved in tea farming, like Takashi explained. Since Takashi’s bar and coffee shop is handling our tea, they are introducing tea and soil, which is a parallel to my work, which deals with clay and soil. So both tea and my work are being introduced to wider audiences of people, and for me that is an accomplishment.

 

NJ: If you were able to work with any artist, alive or dead, who would it be?

 

OW: Cy Twombly, because I have a lot of great respect for him.

 

KH: I agree that Cy Twombly would be amazing to work with, but he’d probably be very difficult (laughs).

 

YU: Without Takashi getting involved and meeting us it would have been difficult to come to the attention of a wider audience, so it was a great thing that we met Takashi.

 

NeueJournal_In Conversation: Takashi Murakami

Photography by Samantha Nandez

 

NJ: Which historical figure do you most identify with?

 

KH: Maybe The Monk Iku, because of his thought process of gradually getting closer to a zen state.

 

YU: The town I am from is famous for their Shigaraki ceramics, but it’s also the hometown for Koga Ninjas, who were aristocracy in the 9th century.

 

NJ: What do you want your work to say to the viewer?

 

OW: This is difficult, but maybe in the appearance and the texture of the piece itself I want people to feel the presence of something.

 

KH: A bottle, for example, has a utilitarian purpose of holding something in it, but when I’m making something that looks like a vase I’m not thinking of making a vase to hold flowers. Of course, you can put a flower in it and use it as a vase, but it is not made specifically for that purpose. Not everything has to be categorized, and although this is fine, I feel like in this present society we over-categorize. I’m constantly asking the questions, “What is necessary? What is unnecessary? Is what you consider unnecessary really unnecessary?” The intention of my work is to partly digest this and then present it in my own way.

 

NJ: What do you think is the most important thing a person can achieve in their life?

 

KH: For me it would be to be myself, and live like myself. If each person can shine in their own way I think that’s very interesting. I believe achieving happiness is important – not just to oneself, but to the people around you. Of course, when things are tough, things are tough, but there is a sense of satisfaction in succeeding through that. Doing your best is the best thing to do.

 

NJ: What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?

 

OW: I can’t pinpoint a specific thing, but nature that includes us as human beings.

 

YU: I was born and grew up between mountains in a hilly part of Japan, so when I first saw the ocean it was an amazing experience.

 

KH: The sky.

 

Portrait Photography: Manolo Campion for NeueJournal 

Oliver Jeffers

Humor & lots of thoughts about seagulls

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Oliver Jeffers is funny; and that’s an understatement. The artist’s work has an immediate recognizability to it, with illustrations that live somewhere between tongue-in-cheek and incredibly charming. With an amalgamation of work, ranging from best-selling picture books, including The Incredible Book Eating Boy and The Day Crayons Quit, to various paintings that have been exhibited in the likes of the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Brooklyn Museum, Jeffers’ work caters to multiple audiences, all while retaining a characteristic playfulness. The Belfast-bred, Brooklyn-based artist gave us an illustrated insight into his colorful brain, which features humor and lots of thoughts about seagulls.

 

NJ: What is the first thing you think about when you wake up?

 

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NJ: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

 

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NJ: What is your most prized possession?

 

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NJ: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be and what would you be doing?

 

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NJ: What is your biggest fear?

 

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NJ: If you were a superhero what would your power be?

 

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NJ: What is your favorite hobby?

 

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Artwork: Oliver Jeffers for NeueJournal

Portrait Photography: Tyler Nevitt for NeueJournal

Sarah Meyohas

Stock Performance & Financial Gambles

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Buying art and buying stocks are not very different – both are financial gambles that rely on a combination of knowledge, taste, and gut instinct. However, Sarah Meyohas’ newest performance piece at 303 Gallery, Stock Performance Project, takes the relationship a step further by creating art based off of the financial market gamble. The 24-year-old Meyohas also manages the eponymous uptown apartment gallery, garnering inspiration for the project from her curriculum at Yale University, where she was studying finance before taking a decisive plunge to focus on being an artist. Meyohas sat down with us to discuss the genesis of her work, performing before an audience, and realizing she was an artist with the help of Alexander McQueen.

 

Ella Marder: How long had you been thinking about this project?

 

Sarah Meyohas: It’s been almost two years since I started trading stocks with the purpose of moving them. The first time, I remember, I was sitting in my room. I had found this stock called Golden Enterprises and I thought, “Okay! I’m about to put on a really big order.” And then the price jumped. From there, I did it a bunch of times, and that’s where the concept came up. At first I thought “I can move a stock and I can move a price pretty significantly if I pick something that has a low enough volume.” But then, “How do you turn that into a representation that has some teeth to it?” For a while I kept trying to build my ideas into the paintings, but that was not working, and then I realized my words, myself, and the gallery would all be part of it. I’m not a performance artist. I’m just a conceptual artist, but the performance is one of the ingredients of this work.

 

EM: And it wasn’t your first performance…

 

SM: It was in a way. January 8th was the first time that I performed it in front of 150 people.

 

EM: How did it feel?

 

SM: It felt great.

 

EM: Did you get an adrenaline rush, or stage fright?

 

SM: I was nervous that people wouldn’t understand what I was doing and where I was going, but I wasn’t nervous in delivering it.

 

EM: And so you feel like moving forward now, you actually like this performative aspect?

 

SM: The thing is, if you perform you’re in character, and I think I already kind of am a character. I’ve embraced that over the years, so it’s always just going to be me.

 

EM: Do you like the idea of being a renaissance woman?

 

SM: I do. The only thing that doesn’t appeal to me about that is if you do too many things at once, you’re never really good at one thing. So I  tend to focus on the same thing. The last three projects all had to do with conceptions of value and different systems. I think I try to implant value so that you can’t untangle it. My project BitchCoin is  a cryptic currency backed by photographs that only have value because they’re printed, which is another analogy to money being printed.

 

EM: Do you think learning from this performance is informing how you’re thinking about your next project?

 

SM: I think I’m starting to find a way of working that just feels right for me and is truthful, which doesn’t always fit so well into the art world. I think a next piece will have to do with land art and ownership of  land.  What if you sold a piece of land and on it there were two huge two-way mirrored dark rooms you would walk into and see whatever the artwork was. There’s an experiential beautiful artwork, but there’s also the land, which might have its own value. Right now oil is down, so what if I got a cheap piece of land that might have oil under it, and then I put a piece of artwork on the land? The piece of artwork would stay there for as long as the artwork is more valuable than the possibility of what’s under it.

 

EM: When did you realize you were an artist?

 

SM: I remember in high school watching an old Alexander McQueen fashion show where the model struts down the runway wearing a circular white dress, and then these robot arms try to see where she is before they start spraying her with yellow and black paint as she turns. It was accompanied by really emotional classical music, and I was enamored by it. For a long time I wanted to go into fashion, but it was that part of fashion that appealed to me – then I decided the fashion industry was not for me, and finance was the natural thing.

 

But then in the spring of junior year I made a firm decision. It was a pretty tough decision to make, especially because I had received offers in the finance sector, so I thought: “Okay I’m going to say no to this for something I have very little experience in.” It was a gut instinct. I had started getting encouragement from people other than my art professors, so that also helped me think I wasn’t crazy. You don’t become an artist unless you absolutely need to, because it’s not easy  at all.

 

EM: I love what you’re doing uptown, turning your family apartment into a sort of exhibition space.

 

SM: The last show, The Birds & The Bees, was shocking to me. The crowd was a different crowd, not the young artists that I usually show to. Roberto Longo came, Stanley Whitney came, Thierry de Duve came. Amazing people came. I’m not even sure of what Meyohas is just yet. It’s not a gallery, it’s a project space.

 

EM: You’ve had four shows there so far, how does it work: you curate, and invite other curators?

 

SM: Really just people I know. I’m curating two women artists for the next exhibition; one is from Chile, Constanza Alarcon, the other from Iran, Shahrzad Changalvaee. It’ll be based on a set of poems written by a Chilean author who got killed when Pinochet took power, somehow those poems made their way to Iran and were turned into songs over there.

 

EM: Are you the last child in the family? Because you are somebody who’s 24 and incredibly accomplished – you seem like a very old soul, the way you talk, and how you go about giving opportunities to other artists with the project space. It’s a very generous gesture that you’re putting out in the world.

 

SM: Ha ha ha! Old soul! I’m not doing it for myself. I don’t need to do it, but I love it.  I like to help my friends. I don’t even know if it’s really helping them. I like to be part of a group. I like to have my crew. I also lose money doing it, because I have to put up all the stuff and I show work that’s not very commercial. But we have freedom. Galleries are forced to be very commercial, whereas we don’t go on the schedule of an institution or have to plan a million years in advance. These shows can happen much more spontaneously.

 

EM: So this idea of the collective, the collaboration, the conversation is very important to you.

 

SM: Yeah, and especially when it’s so hard for an artist in New York to find a place. We all graduated from school, and it was like…”I have a big living room”.

 

EM: If you had one dream of something you would like to see happen, what would it be?

 

SM: The dream is Peggy Guggenheim meets George Soros meets Miuccia Prada.

 

Portrait Photography: Tyler Nevitt for NeueJournal

Karen Kilimnik

Elements of the Spiritual & Occult

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Karen Kilimnik‘s multimedia and multidisciplinary repertoire, although eclectic, has recurring motifs of pop and consumer cultures, with portraits of Paris Hilton, Hugh Grant, and Leonardo DiCaprio encompassing some of her best-known work. But Kilimnik has delved into other facets of art, including immersive installations that use elements of the spiritual and occult, while always maintaining the sharp wit that has made her stand out in the art world. We emailed the artist and passionate environmental advocate to discuss the happiness of food, finding spirituality in walking, and abolishing GMOs once and for all.

 

NeueJournal: Do you find that the work you create is part of an ongoing conversation, or do you feel that each exhibition stands independently from your past work?

 

Karen Kilimnik: I don’t know. Probably more the ongoing kind, but both.

 

NJ: Do you engage in spiritual practices daily?

 

KK: I try to go for a walk every day and look at the trees and the sky and the birds – does that count? I have to say, I’m not into religion at all – although I totally love the paintings, sculptures, music, and architecture of Rococo and Baroque churches! A big thank you to the church for that! And I have always loved anything to do with witchcraft and druids and ancient Egypt, too. I also love to go to ballet class and listen to my favorite ballet music. I love Pugni, Minkus, Drigo and lots of others composers.

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hunt for the dinner feast – in the forest with garlands & bow decor 2016 Water soluble oil color and glitter on canvas 16 x 20 inches (40.6 x 50.8 cm) Signed, titled, and dated verso KK 4226 © Karen Kilimnik, courtesy 303 Gallery, New York

 

NJ: What do you think is the most imperative environmental issue that we have to attend to at large?

 

KK: So glad you asked. GMOS! We must ban them, because labeling is not enough. Have you seen how they want to label them in the U.S.?! With barcodes that you need a cell phone for! Plus the U.S. labels don’t include whether the animals were fed GMOs, and they don’t list exactly which ingredients are GMO, as they do in Europe, Japan, and other countries; it just says ‘may be produced with genetic engineering.’

 

There is no such thing as coexistence between GMOs and organic farming, because GMOs spread and contaminate everything else. The glyphosate is now in our rainwater, soil, and air. We must ban glyphosate and chemical farming and stop the monoculture GMO agribusiness. Who eats fields of soybean and corn?! Also organic raw milk (unpasteurized, non homogenized) should be available everywhere – in fact, all milk should be raw, otherwise it’s bad for your health.

 

GMOs are solely for the profit of the chemical companies and nothing else. We must stop all subsidies to GMOs commodity crops and instead subsidize organic farming and keep corporation out of the organic standards board.

 

NJ: What can people do to become more educated about environmental issues?

 

KK: Look up and join the Cornucopia Institute – keeping organics organic! Also read Cows Save the Planet; Grass, Soil, Hope; Altered Genes, Twisted Truth with a foreword by Jane Goodall; and Prince Charles’ book, Harmony – he’s against GMOs too. Read about the Savory Institute and how global warming can be reversed in a few years by rebuilding the soil through organic farming and grazing. Also human population control.

 

There is one organization I really like working with to keep small farms in Poland from the takeover of corporate chemical and GMO farming: ICPPC – International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside.

 

NJ: If you were a supernatural being, what would you be?

 

KK: I guess I would be a fairy.

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the goddesses Artemis & Ceres return to their niches to sleep after a hard day’s work 2016 Water soluble oil color and glitter on canvas 16 x 20 inches (40.6 x 50.8 cm) Signed, titled, and dated verso KK 4232 © Karen Kilimnik, courtesy 303 Gallery, New York

 

NJ: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

 

KK: Probably unwanted noise, though given more time I could think of others.

 

NJ: When and where are you at your happiest?

 

KK: I am generally very happy, especially around food.

 

 

Featured Artwork: “going off to the Battle” tapestry – off to a glittering start 2015 Water soluble oil color and glitter on canvas 16 1/4 x 20 inches (41.3 x 50.8 cm) Signed, titled and dated verso KK 4163 by Karen Kilimnik courtesy of 303 Gallery

 

Homepage Artwork: Neptune’s grotto theater 2015 Water soluble oil color on canvas 14 1/8 x 18 inches (35.9 x 45.7 cm) Signed, titled and dated verso KK 4170 by Karen Kilimnik courtesy of 303 Gallery