In light of The Smithsonian Associate’s upcoming seminar/workshop The Era of Modernism Begins: From Abstraction to Collage, I got in touch with art historian Aneta Georgievska-Shine and artist Peter Karp, who will be leading the all-day event, to discuss their backgrounds and their relative program activities.
An interview with Art Historian Aneta Georgievska-Shine
Q: Ms. Georgievska-Shine, You are leading a class this November that addresses the Modernist movement of the early 20th century. What can participants expect from this class?
Participants can expect to get a sense of the important developments in the visual arts that happened in different European cities in the first decade of the twentieth century. 2012 is the centennial of a particularly significant year in this regard, so it is an appropriate time to reflect on and appreciate these events.
Q: The Modernist movement happened almost simultaneously in a variety of cities across Europe. What were the common sources of inspiration?
One cannot provide a definitive answer, but there was a sense of crisis and a feeling that the world was going through rather dramatic changes. Why did artists strive to completely break from tradition and replace it with something new? What were people looking for? These are some of the questions we shall be addressing.
Q: What were the movements that led to the birth of Modernism?
The second half of the 19th century was crucial in general, with Impressionism and the various forms of Post-Impressionism, particularly Symbolism.
Q: You are fascinated with the Moderns, from music to painting to their contribution to other arts. What is it about this era that fascinates you?
The radical departure from convention definitely fascinates me – the rejection of the tradition of Western painting, which had always been oriented toward an ideal. Modernists believed that art was not about beauty, but about capturing the essence of the world. Suddenly they were using different materials like newspaper and throwing conventional academic, representational standards out the window… destroying all hierarchies and preconceptions.
Q: Does the movement continue to influence art – even today?
Modernists had a lasting impact in that they opened the field for a variety of possible expressions. In some ways, the “anything goes” ethos of contemporary art is a direct result of their radical embrace of the new.
Q: You use the term “musical painting.” Can you explain?
It’s a mode of painting that tried to be as abstract as music was abstract, starting around 1910. Artists who aimed to create this kind of painting focused on its fundamental instruments: light, line, and color. Kandinski was one of the crucial figures, Kupka was another.
Q: How did you get into art history?
By loving art.
Q: Are you an artist?
I cannot deny that; loving art usually means that one also tries to make art (at least at some point in one’s life).
Q: Who is your favorite Modernist?
Oh, that’s a hard one. There are so many good artists who were working at the same time, so I really cannot have a favorite. That’s the beauty of Modernism.
An Interview with renowned local artist Peter Karp
Q: Mr. Karp, What can participants expect for the workshop portion?
An opportunity to experiment and explore new ways of artistic expression. Hopefully, participants will bring their own expectations and discover their creative talents.
Q: What tips would you give to someone who has never collaged?
Don’t wait for inspiration, start somewhere. Keep it simple, one good idea goes a long way. Don’t be afraid to “steal”.
Q: Your work is evocative of early 20th century Modernism, such as Cubism and Dada. Why does this style intrigue you?
Dada has probably had the greatest influence on contemporary art of any avant-garde movement so I think it is virtually impossible to ignore. But it’s also in my blood. Having grown up in Berlin during and after WWII, it was natural to embrace its challenge of traditional values and revolutionary approach to making art.
Q: Your use of black and white is distinctive and intriguing. Why do you largely stay within the grayscale?
Gray is of interest to me because it signals ambiguity, and ambiguity is conducive to conversation. And much of my work is about inviting speculation and conversation.
Q: Many of your works blend exquisite (and sometimes contradictory) human forms, geometric shapes, and nature scenes. What’s the significance?
The significance emerges, hopefully, in the mind of the viewer as he/she looks at my work. Some of my pieces have an underlying narrative, others don’t. And the logic, if there is any, is the logic of dreams.
Q: What’s your favorite piece?
The title is “Luscious Invention”, borrowed from a Steely Dan tune. It is a very quiet, dreamlike construction, now in the possession of a dear friend who bought it from the wall of my house. I still miss it, but get to see it when we have dinner at their house.
Q: Do you have a specific process that you go through while creating your work?
I call it “systematic coincidence”. I rarely begin with a pre-conceived notion of the final product, but often with an image or object of interest to me. It’s a process of creating/juxtaposing images and objects, without the filter of reason. I often work on several projects at the same time, with carry-over of ideas from one project to the other.
Q: Have you always worked with collage?
Actually, not at all. My first art classes at the Corcoran were in portrait drawing and painting, which I still enjoy. My interest in collage and assemblage began in 2005 when I was invited to contribute ten portraits of soldiers who had died in Iraq and Afghanistan, called “Faces of the Fallen”. Photography also plays an important role in my work.
Q: What’s the most difficult thing about being an artist?
Getting started, and knowing when a piece is finished.
Q: Do you have a golden rule for art?
It’s never good enough.
For more information on Peter Karp’s work, contact Studio Gallery.
The Era of Modernism Begins: From Abstraction to Collage takes place Saturday, November 17 from 10am – 4pm. Don’t miss out on creating your own personal collage!