Opening on September 20th, 2013 is Schneids & Heids at Bendixon Contemporary Art in Copenhagen featuring the work of Ryan Schneider and Daniel Heidkamp. The exhibition is a first for both artists who work independently but within a similar aesthetic vain, utilizing a bright color palette and reference to environment or figurative study. Heidkamp works from observation while Schneider works from memory. Each artist makes worlds inside their paintings that as viewers we are enticed to enter. With both artists, particularly Schneider, something is both comforting and out of sorts. Proportions extend beyond naturalistic human characteristics while the foreground and background are often intertwined one interacting with the other, flatten space. His work combines draftsmanship along with painterly gestures arriving at what feels like a dreamscape or a memory of something that may or may not have ever occurred.
Schneids & Heids guarantees the visitor to the gallery a simulated journey to those who are open to entering this unfamiliar two-dimensional space. Ryan Schneider and Daniel Heidkamp are both based in Brooklyn and while their respective work isn’t necessarily reflective of the Brooklyn cityscape, their artistic energy and contemporary interpretation of space is. The artists transcribed a recent dialogue, which will also be printed in lieu of a traditional press release. I recently sat down with Ryan Schneider in his Bushwick, Brooklyn studio to discuss this upcoming exhibition and his maturing studio practice.
A CONVERSATION: KATY DIAMOND HAMER AND RYAN SCHNEIDER
Katy Diamond Hamer: Can you talk about your relationship to Dan, how you met, if/when you’ve worked together before and how this particular collaborative show came about?
Ryan Schneider: Dan and I met one night about 4 years ago. A mutual friend, Tom Sanford, brought Dan over to my studio for a studio visit. I thought Dan was insane when I first met him. Just a loose canon. He made a joke about a certain Canadian painter- and we sort of just became friends from there. We’ve always just had a natural dialogue about painting. We both really think a lot about the possibilities of oil paint. And we both can talk about it at length pretty much every day and not get bored. So we became friends very naturally. The first time I went to Dan’s studio, I walked in and he had some experimental music playing, it smelled like weed, and there were just paintings everywhere- like stuffed in every corner- covering all of the walls. He just kept pulling them out from all over the place. Finished, unfinished, studies, drawings. He had a giant painting with all of these artist’s signatures on it and he asked me to sign it. I liked that Dan obviously didn’t give a fuck about what people thought about him or his work- he was on his own road. And some of his paintings looked so different from the other ones- like he would try anything to see if it worked. I really respected that- he wasn’t trying to make Dan Heidkamp paintings- he was just painting, and trying to get it right.
We’ve been in a lot of group shows together- too many to count. We were in a great show a couple of years ago in Austin at Champion Contemporary Gallery, with Josh Abelow, Shara Hughes and Ezra Johnson. It was called Wild Beasts. Dan and I went down to Texas for the show. The plan was for him set up shop in the gallery and paint people’s portraits, and those paintings would go in the show as well. He just dug in and really got to work. I got to work drinking margaritas and ended up getting a room at the Austin Motel- which became our home base while we were down there. Shara came down the next day and we all met for the first time. We had to give a little artist talk at the gallery and the three of us just got into this bottle of Tito’s Vodka we found in the gallery. I have no idea what we said. I do remember splashing around with them in the pool at the motel later while a bunch of people sat around watching us. This is where the term “Beast” came from. From then on, if something was awesome, it was “Beast”. That was a wild trip and I think it was the beginning of a conscious relationship between all of our work. After that- Dan really focused on painting portraits and landscapes from life. He was really going for it, and somehow making it look fresh. His work really grew after that.
Our friend, the collector Jens Peter Brask, made this show happen. I just got an email one day from him saying Dan and I were having a show in Copenhagen at Bendixen Contemporary Art, September 2013, if we wanted to. I was excited about the idea of a show of just the two of us. I think we have both been growing as painters over the past couple of years and I knew it would be interesting to see how the work looked together. Dan and I have a lot of similar ideas and a lot of very different ones. But at base level both of us are painters- we work oil paint to make the pictures we want to make. And both of us are unafraid of portraying beauty in some capacity- we don’t care if its corny, it’s just what we do. Finally having a show together seemed natural, and Copenhagen seemed like a great place to do it. It’s an amazing city with tons of art happening.
|Ryan Schneider, “Big Pitcher” 2013, oil on canvas, 60×72″
Image courtesy of the artist
KDH: Your work is going through an evolutionary process. Big strokes are replacing smaller strokes and yet a sense of draftsmanship is still on the forefront. Let’s discuss this evolution a bit.
RS: You are very correct about this. Evolutionary is a great word for it. My goal right now in the studio is to be absolutely open to what the painting wants to do, not try to force what I want to do on the painting. This has lead to something of a sea change in my work. Brushstrokes are bigger, marks are left as is, compositions are much more open. Things are simpler- yet somehow more complex. I’m not trying to hide the process any more- I’m letting it breathe. The subjects just come to me and I don’t question them too much. In my older work- I might have slaved for days on one area of a painting, layer upon layer, trying to get as much information in as possible. And in the end it still wouldn’t be enough. It was a kind of torture for me. But I thought that was what painting had to be- a struggle, a mind fuck. Now, I usually start and finish a piece in one, maybe two days. I let them do what they want to do- I know now that my needs are insignificant and silly, the painting’s needs are what’s important. Its not torture any more. I can sleep at night.
I am presently having the same experience painting as I was when I was 15 and working in my parents basement. Back then I had no idea what I was doing. I had no preconceived notion of what kind of “painter” I was, and what a painting by me was “supposed” to look like. I feel a lot like that now, and its a relief. I can be present while I’m working. I have a good time in the studio. Its no longer a painful experience, because I can let go and give in. I can take my self out of the equation. Before I was the Dutch boy trying to put his finger in every hole in the dam, and now I just let the dam break.
|Ryan Schneider, “The Tiger Has New Stripes”, 2013, oil on canvas, 60×72″
Image courtesy of the artist
KDH: Many of the environments and subjects in your paintings have been influenced by places you’ve traveled to. Do your dreams find their way into the paintings as well?
RS: I have definitely painted things that I saw in dreams before. I can think of a few very specific instances. Right now, I paint a lot of things I see in waking dreams- like when I’m riding my bike and spacing out, an image will just appear in my head, and the next day it becomes a painting. Or I’ll see something out of the corner of my eye- a person in a certain position, or a vase maybe, and I just know that it will be a painting. It’s really instinctual- a light just goes on and it’s like, I’m gonna paint that. I paint things how I see them in my mind, after the fact. I get turned on by looking- but I get more turned on by remembering.
KDH: Since most of your paintings are made from memory or imagination, what part, if any, would you say relates to you and could be considered visually diaristic?
RS: This is definitely another thing that has changed. My older work was extremely diaristic- I really worked my demons out in my paintings. Problems, stress, fears, all of those things were front and center. My work was sort of my way of seeing them clearer and trying to organize them. I don’t do this any more. I try to keep fear and stress out of the studio. Its still very much a part of life of course, but I’m working on it. And I work on it in other ways, not near my paintings. Its like, I used to find my problems so incredibly interesting, and my work was so much about me me me. I find that so boring now. When I’m painting, I’d much rather travel to another place in my self I was previously unaware of. Learn something new, do something transformative. Painting about my self painted me into a corner, and my work suffered for it, as did I.
That being said- my work comes from me, things from my life will always find their way into the paintings. I consider my self an “un-realist”. The images I paint are based in reality- they are people, places, and things, but I want them to supersede that, become something more. Like painting a state of being of my self rather than myself literally. Right now, I find the unknown much more inspiring.
KDH: This year, you’ve participated in several group shows. What would you say regarding the group
show dynamic and the relationships that are formed when your paintings are near other artists work. Have you ever been in a group show with an artist whose work you really don’t like? If yes, no need to name names.
RS: This past year I’ve been fortunate enough to have been included in a lot of great group shows with a lot of artists whom I respect and admire. I am really thankful for this. I think its great to see your work juxtaposed against other artist’s work, and contextualized somehow. “Bathers” at Morgan Lehman Gallery really felt like a generational show to me- painters in New York working with the figure in a sort of modernist spirit. It was the opposite of the extremely popular minimalist painting and sculpture that you see so much of these days, and I found it really refreshing. Shara Hughes and Austin Eddy were both in that show and I am always extremely happy to exhibit my work with them because I see them as a brother and sister to me. Ruby Sky Stiler was also in that show, she is by far my favorite sculptress and I see a relationship in how we treat the figure. Same with Benjamin Degen- I’ve learned many things just by standing in front of his paintings.
I also had the great fortune of showing with a few of my heroes this past year- Tal R, Barnaby Furnas, Katherine Bernhardt, and Erik Parker to name a few (in Chicken or Beef? at The Hole gallery). That was awesome. Over the years I’ve shown with some amazing people who’s work isn’t necessarily like mine but I have the utmost respect and love for it- Van Hanos, Tom Sanford, Chuck Webster, and Kamrooz Aram, among others.
I’ve definitely been in shows with artists whose work I don’t like. Too many to count. But by and large I get to show with amazing people and have great friendships with some of them. There is so much great painting happening in New York at the moment- figurative, non figurative, abstract, whatever. I consider my self super lucky to be here working right now and to know so many incredible artists. Being a New York painter has always been my dream, since I was a kid in Indiana reading about Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollack. So just to be here and to be able to paint every day, I am psyched. There can be a lot of negativity around you as an artist. You deal with a lot of disappointment and it always seems that some dick head is doing better than you. Well- I’ve learned one thing- thinking about those things doesn’t help your painting at all. It doesn’t make you a better painter, it only distracts you, takes energy away from your work.
Right now I try to focus on what matters- and that is to wake up every day, go to the studio, and do my best to make interesting paintings. That’s the only way you get better. You can’t think your way out of it- you have to paint your way into it. So that is what I’m doing. And I try to keep people around me that have a similar attitude. That negativity can find its way into your work, and every one can see it, even when you can’t. You have to keep your eyes on the prize and be thankful that you even get to do this. Things could be a lot different for me- but thankfully, they are the way they are. And I get to be here and do my work. I couldn’t be any more grateful.
Stay tuned for more of Ryan Schneider’s work and if in Copenhagen, be sure to check out Bendixon Contemporary Art.