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ZOE MAGAZINE (Italia) Primavera edicione 2008

interview by MariaChiara di Trapani with Gwen, February 08


click article to read pdf in italian


1- In your paintings there are many symbols from different civilizations (african, Indian etc...) Which values do you share with those cultures?

In a certain aspect I feel far away from the values rooted in ancient cultures in my external life as I'm running around playing the roles of mother, graphic designer, painter in contemporary society and in a modern city (San Francisco), but I've found that listening to music from India, Afria, Tibet, the Balkhans, etc. while making art resonates something in me that is very tied to the earth...it is about the death/life cycle. The music reminds me of the mystery and timelessness of our spirit existence, so perhaps this is a value I share...a sense that there is a spirit world and metaphysical world unseen that is powerful. In the creative process I believe we tap into it, just as I believe in our dream life we tap into it whether we want to or not. I have had symbols from dreams become fuel for art, which I feel is the collective unconscious, or unseen world, making itself known.

2- Is the music a recurring theme of inspiration in your work? Which are the rhythms and sounds present in Your artworks?

Music has been inspirational in my design work and in the paintings. In designing CD packaging I was fortunate to have a fantastic client, Lee Townsend, a producer in Berkeley, who exposed me to some really special jazz and world music artists, some of whom embody a distinctive fusion of styles, mixing very old forms with very new jazz in masterful compositions/improvisations. One artist that influenced my use of these symbols in the package design, and who's music was inspirational was Shweta Jhaveri, who sings north Indian classical vocal music in the form "khayal." Her lyrics and form is hindi sung in ragas (melodic structures of a specific form...slow improvised notes woven with fast intricate vocal patterns) and this "ancient" form is fused with new jazz sounds from master artists like Will Bernard, Jenny Scheinman, Bill Douglas and Jim Kassis improvising behind her. In the package I used some very old symbols within a modern design. I was inspired and then began painting fragments of these symbols in large square paintings and expanses of color and texture.

3- Which " mark" would you use to describe Your contemporary time?

A while back, I found a certain symbol that was an Indian wood block design carving used for fabric printing and I believe it is probably 50 + years old, since they are discarded after that time period, and I used it in Shweta Jhaveri's package. Soon after, I started using a portion of the stamp with some alteration as a sort of iconic mark. The reason this is descriptive of my contemporary time is that it seems to show some fusion of an image that looks a bit like an african symbol, or Indian symbol or music notation mixed with a design that looks like a circuit board detail. It looks as if it holds some mysterious truth about these worlds coming together. That being said, what I like about using marks or fragments of them (or marks or shapes I make up) is that they are enigmatic. They seem to hold some meaning though they really don't have meaning. It makes you think and engages you. I am intrigued with the many conflicts in our world where technology and modern civilization have complete clashes with really ancient thinking. In some cases the ancient thinking is what is sublime and to be protected and modern advancement is getting us in trouble and is ignorant. In other scenarios the ancient based ideas seem ignorant and the modern thinking is relevant. We are left perplexed and full of questions.

4- Art means research, it's an empirical travel looking for what is known and unknown, what is real and illusory, what is perfect and faulty, the nuance and particular. What does it leave... this travel in your chest, inside you?

The journey the creative process leaves with me is that the process is what is important. It is about surrender and in some ways like being a midwife who guides a baby out, or like being the mother who is allowing the baby to come out...or it also could be compared to surrendering to a relationship that has its ups and downs. For a midwife and mother, the baby will come out no matter what you do, so surrendering to the process is the important part. In a relationship there is always both ecstatic joy and then sometimes horrible disappointment but you keep going, surrendering, if you want to see the relationship live. For me making art is both terrifying and exhilarating as the process is full of both struggle and joy.

5- Who is the painter that influenced most Your artistic development?

There are many painters who I'm inspired by and maybe influenced by but I would mention two. The famous Catalan painter Antoni Tapies, who was prominent in the 50's, whose large earthy, quiet but dramatic paintings really made an impact on me when I saw his work in La Fundacion Antoni Tapies in Barcelona. He paints in what was called "matter painting" with heavily built up surfaces and he created ambiguous paintings suggesting spiritual content. He included graphic elements or signs in his paintings and his emphasis was on the surface and experimentation with materials. I was really taken with the paintings when I saw them in real life as I had loved the photos I had seen for years in art books.

Also, I love the paintings of Caio Fonseca. He paints listening to classical music, and I'm inspired by his minimal and pleasing colors and the way he breaks up the space with whimsical shapes and lines and curves...always with a hint of a grid behind for structure. I licensed one of his paintings for a cd cover for the group "Oregon" playing with the Moscow Symphony orchestra...a blend of classical and jazz. Looking at his catalogues of paintings at that time was one of the reasons I decided to start painting.