1xRUN Thru Interview
The Form Appears by John Wentz
1xRun: Tell us a little bit about The Form Appears original painting, is it still for sale?
John Wentz: On this piece I really wanted to explore color & texture and shy away a bit from formal constraints. What I’m really excited about is that the print quality really shows these attributes well. When I first saw the proof, I was completely blown away. This piece is a part of a series I started working on in July of 2012. I spent a lot of time looking at war photos on the internet. After awhile, I became interested in this cycle of self destruction that we, as human beings, perpetuate. It kind of made me think of that scene in Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” where the ape discovers that the bone could be used as a weapon. It’s as if as soon as we created tools we started harming each other and, ultimately, ourselves. I just began to wonder if it is something that is part and parcel to being human…part of who we are & it cannot be undone. Simultaneously, I am fascinated by the trappings we create for ourselves that seem to distract from this. That’s part of what the amusement park scenes represent. It works as a metaphor.
The title is half of my favorite Charles Bukowski quote, “As the spirit wanes the form appears.” There is a companion piece to this painting titled, “As The Spirit Wanes.” It’s always been my favorite quote from Bukowski because there’s so many ways it can be interpreted, which is what I feel makes it very personal and powerful. It was really the impetus for all of the paintings I did in this series.
The painting is still available and can be found at the Christopher Hill Gallery in Healdsburg, California. Other pieces from the series can be viewed at Modern Eden Gallery. In addition, I will have the companion piece “As The Spirit Wanes” along with some small studies of “The Form Appears” available as here on 1xRUN.
1xRUN: What materials were used to create this original painting?
John Wentz: I guess I’ll start at the beginning. I stretch all of my own canvas since I don’t use standard rectangles and sizes. My favorite part of the process is composing the image and it all starts with the rectangle for me. So I use pre-gessoed canvas that I purchase by the roll. Because of this, I have to make my own stretcher bars. I’ve been using poplar because it’s usually not bowed, very sturdy and not too heavy.
I draw in the main components of the image in graphite and may even do a little modeling of the form just so I know where my main shadow shapes are and if they’ll support the composition. I use a variety of different oil paints with regards to brand. I start with my transparent colors and work towards opaque. For this painting, I used a variety of different Umbers: Raw Umber, Turkey Umber, a little Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna and Asphaltum. Then a few Cadmium colors. Then there is the medium. I used turp mixed with linseed and black oil with a touch of damar varnish.
For this entire series, I tried to use a brush as little as possible. I am very interested in mark making and wanted to break my habits of using the same marks over and over. So I used whatever else I had: palette knife, brayer, rulers, paint scrapers, q-tips…you name it. I probably used a brush for about 20% of this painting. Finally, I think, there is the varnishing stage. I’ve been using Gamvar by Gamblin. I dig it.
1xRun: When was this piece drawn and created?
John Wentz: I think it was around March of 2013. It’s hard to say because I was working on a lot of paintings at the same time.
1xRun: Tell us how the idea and execution came about?
John Wentz: I am mostly using found photos in this entire series. Each painting is a minimum of two collaged images, but often more. Here and there I use my own images when needed. I found the picture of this child wearing a gasmask in a crowd among a group of adults who were not. It’s really haunting and kind of disturbing. I isolated her and a sort of narrative began to form in my head.
The feeling of the image changed entirely once she was by herself. After that I just knew the kind of feeling I wanted. I took the figure and began to do a bunch of sketching and coming up with studies. In the sketching stage, I’m concerned mostly with the composition. With the studies, I try to explore color and mark-making/texture. I’ve been getting a lot of ideas for texture and composition from taking photographs. I shoot a lot of photos with my iPhone and use them as inspiration for the paintings. Also, all of the layering and collaging I do with my phone, too. I hardly touch the laptop anymore.
1xRun: How long did this piece take from start to finish?
John Wentz: I was working on a lot of pieces at the same time, it’s tough to say. Maybe 25-30 hours.
1xRun: Any struggles or obstacles you dealt with in finishing this piece?
John Wentz: Always…haha. I’ve really become interested in the variety of textures possible with paint. There was a lot of experimenting, which can be frustrating. I’d have an idea of what I wanted the paint to do, but I wouldn’t know how to achieve it. I’m sure it’s all in my head and probably isn’t noticeable. I’ve also become more interested in abstract art which, has really informed some of these new pieces. Trying to figure out how to break things down, concentrate on shapes, what to simplify and how. Not to overdo it, things like that. There was a lot of sitting and staring when I was working on this one.
1xRun: What is unique about this piece compared to some of your other work?
John Wentz: First, I’d say it is the use of environment. I used to eliminate a lot of environment and have figures in blank space. I’m slowly adding in elements. Secondly, the use of color. It’s been fun and challenging to invent color schemes as opposed to painting the “realistic” colors from nature.
1xRun: Why should people buy this print?
John Wentz: Always the tough one! I’m excited to do another print RUN because it coincides with my belief that everyone should be able to purchase and enjoy art. I understand that a lot of people cannot afford original artwork. I can’t myself! Prints offer the opportunity to a broad audience and it really helps to support the artist and in turn the art community.
1xRun: Describe this piece in one gut reaction word.
John Wentz: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
1xRun: We know you’ve been busy as of late, can you bring us up to speed on what you’ve been up to since your last release Concatenation?
John Wentz: So much has been going on! It’s amazing to me what can happen in a year. First, I made the move to painting full time. It’s something I’d thought about for awhile & just finally did it. So now I get to paint 7 days a week & I couldn’t be happier. With that, I’ve been working a lot for shows. I had my 3rd solo exhibition in San Francisco at Modern Eden Gallery in April. I’ve also been doing shows with 111 Minna Gallery & Wonderland SF and am working for upcoming exhibitions for fall. I just started working with The Christopher Hill Gallery, which I’m very excited about because a few of my favorite artists are showing there. Since the last release, I’ve been really eager to do another, so I’m really excited to be working with 1xRUN again for The Form Appears.
1xRun: In your recent exhibitions “SYNTHESIS” and “SPECTRA” your work has notably featured each character in a gas mask, can you elaborate on their importance and why they keep popping up?
John Wentz: I have definitely been using them more in (my latest series) SPECTRA more than I did with SYNTHESIS. I think SYNTHESIS served as a springboard for this current group of paintings. For SPECTRA they are really important because the series focuses on just one aspect of what it means to be human…our penchant for self-destruction. I felt that the gasmask served the function of what masks traditionally have done and that’s to represent another face, another identity. In this case, it’s the identity of war. Humans are such complex creatures. We can create tools, which can get us into space and observe and understand so much of the known universe, yet we still cannot overcome this penchant for conflict. So the gasmask is the “mask of war” so to speak. The identity we assume for this purpose.
I feel like it works as a potent universal symbol for both war and fear. What’s interesting to me about it is that while it is frightening and a harbinger of conflict, it is also a positive image because it is used to save lives. What I also find interesting is that it protects one from something that they ostensibly cannot see. I also find it really interesting how it strips one of their identity. I think you can look at this in many ways. Within the context of war and the military, it coincides with one of the military’s main tenets and that is to strip one of one’s personal identity. You are a part of the whole, not an individual. For me, this also makes the figures more archetypal in the picture.
1xRun: Can you elaborate on the diversity of your color palettes and how you go about setting color palettes on your work?
John Wentz: Man, this could get long winded. I really love all of the components of drawing and painting that artists can utilize by limiting, exaggerating, etc. Color is this really great piece of “vocabulary” that I really want to get better at. You can limit color to just one or two colors or use a wide array and each will have a different feeling. Within that you can really desaturate and push the limits of brightness and each can work to enhance your image. So I was trying to work within that mindset.
I often do a few, if not a lot, of small color studies for a piece. I can then look for the “feeling” of the piece that I have in mind. Usually, I start with one color and expand from there. You kind of know what the feeling is going to be like if you start with a red versus a blue…totally different. Then I’ll start adding one or two more. I like this idea of working within a gamut.
1xRun: Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
John Wentz: Absolutely!! My current playlist includes: Meshuggah, High on Fire, Behemoth, Ramones, Dr. Octagon, Gang Starr, Tom Waits, The Misfits and The Dead Weather. Also, as of late I have had albums from Black Cobra and Case on heavy rotation.
1xRun: Any big plans for the summer and fall?
John Wentz: For the summer I’m just going to be painting every day. I have shows planned with Wonderland SF, 111 Minna Gallery and Varnish Fine Art for late summer and fall.