Wednesday, September 18

interview: patrick lundberg (artist)

No title, 2012, gesso, acrylic and varnish on pins, 13 parts, dimensions variable (each ball 15mm diameter)

Zane recently interviewed New Zealand artist Patrick Lundberg for an article in Critic Magazine. Before the interview, Lundberg was named the University of Otago’s Frances Hodgkins Fellow for 2014. He will receive the equivalent of a lecturer’s salary for the year and a space on campus to pursue his work. Below is the transcript of Zane's interview with Lundberg.

How do you feel about receiving this Fellowship? 

Quite overwhelmed, really. It’s obviously very prestigious and I’m very grateful to receive it and have the time that it affords me to make art next year. And also the opportunity to live somewhere else for a year is very nice.

You have previously expressed surprise at being the recipient – is this not something you apply for?

Yeah, I did apply for it but I assumed that a lot of people were applying so there’s still an element of surprise in being told that you’ve received it. Also, there was a long period of time between applying and hearing.

Obviously you now join ranks with New Zealand artists as varied and established as Ralph Hotere, Rohan Wealleans and Kushana Bush, to name a few. Do you perhaps see this as symbolic of your art truly finding its stride in New Zealand?

I don’t know what it means, really. So no, I couldn’t say that definitively.

Do you hope for your work to change in any way over the next year? Do you have a direction you envisage pursuing?

With the Fellowship I will be planning to follow on with a strand of work that I’ve been pursuing over the past few years, but I do hope that given the amount of time that’s afforded for me to work in the studio, the work will change in unforeseen ways.

The last time that I was afforded a bit more time to pursue my practice, I noticed that kind of [unforeseen change] occurring more often, and in a bit more of a noticeable way than when I’m working and pursuing art at the same time. With extra time and space I get to attend to it a little bit more and force things through and try new things.

You talk of your recent work as games – how are they games and how do they work?

They’re not quite games – they’re like games and instruments in that they’re a set of things to be performed in some way, and that is what distinguishes them from other kinds of painting; they have the potential to implicate the viewer much more actively and I like to think that the viewer can play the painting, so to speak, or perform it as you do an instrument or a game. But they don’t have the rules of a game and nor do they have the depth or history of an established form of musical instrument. The boundaries are very different; they’re sort of being worked out as I make them.

And who are your influences? For example, it could be said that your work relates to Killeen whereby collectors and gallerists become curators of each piece…

Yeah, Killeen is definitely a legitimate interest. I’m also very interested in someone like Fred Sandback, although I have a slightly different relationship to him because his sculptures exist with a given set of instructions to be performed by an institution. In relationship to a site there’s some level of contingency in those sculptures, but I think I’m interested in intensifying the level of contingency in the work and changing that relationship between the work and its iteration by another agent, be that an institution or an individual. So the things that I make, rather than existing as an instruction or a [musical] score, they exist as a set of physical parameters that you can play with. More like the Killeens, but I’m interested in that history throughout American modernism, Sol LeWitt and people like that as well, where the works are sort of instructional.

Yeah, and the pinheads themselves that you use - are they relatively standard gallery pins? 

Oh no, they’re much larger! They’re a big wooden ball – the diameter is about 15mm so they have more of a presence on the wall. I’ve also started to sculpt things that sort of sit on those pinheads too.

I was meaning to ask about that! Will you continue to expand the overall shapes of pins, as you did recently at Ivan Anthony Gallery?

Yeah, definitely, and I’m interested in working between the wall and the floor also. I’ve been working on some stuff that plays with that relationship a bit at the moment.

Well, I remember seeing your suspended wooden pictographs at Wellington’s City Gallery a few years back and it was quite intriguing – is there a reason you have gone away from this area of work?

I am still making that sort of work; it’s just that what I’m presenting is a different strain at the moment. There is still that sort of stuff going on in the background in my studio but I just found that there’s plenty of work started on a whim and if it feels good in relation to everything else you’re doing, then it becomes a little bit more consuming. [The pins have] become very intellectually engaging for me, and that’s why – publicly, at least – I’ve been following that strain of work a bit more evidently than other things. Also, I felt like I had shown that sort of work for a little while and if there was something else going on in the studio it was good to give that an airing.

And does the same go for the hanging painted laces?

Yeah, but with them I reached what I felt to be some sort of limit. I don’t think it’s a necessary limit but it’s one that I haven’t been able to overcome, where I tried to make them more complex, wider laces and I found those resolutions quite unsatisfying in relation to the more simple ones. But I also felt that with the more simple ones, maybe I had made the best ones I was able to make, so I sort of stopped making them for a while until I felt that I could force a different kind of resolution. I don’t like to just crank things out as a template for making work.

Your pins often feature letters, small patterns of incredibly thin paint, or feel mottled. What inspires the painting on each pin?

All sorts of things that are quite arbitrary, and I’m not sure I can logically talk about that at this time. I mean, I have a general sense that I’m interested in widening the vocabulary of them, which feels like a natural inclination in most art making, so I’m always looking for different kinds of colour ideas in things. The ways of articulating the surface for me, it’s just a different way of articulating the fact that the thing is a volume or a ball that sits on the wall, rather than a flat thing like a dot. So to give it that feeling of a solid or a volume, and obviously with the different colours, it’s about making dynamic relationships between the balls, so that each one is an individual thing within a whole, so that it’s not just an even field of yellow or an even field of red. And those different intensities of colour and patterning, to my mind, they can then influence how you can arrange the things on the wall. So I said that there are no rules, but there are these subtle things that are like different musical notes; they have different intensities and go better with some notes than others.

So would you say that your work is at once painting, sculpture and installation? 

Yeah, it’s a little bit of all of that. But I think it primarily derives from an early 20th Century painting tradition, and from Constructivism through American Minimalism.

And is it difficult to think in such a range of spatial and material issues?

I’m sure it is, but I take it so slowly that I don’t notice it too much. I work very slowly, so nothing presents itself as too hard or obstructive.

Can you describe to me in your own opinion the overall aesthetic and overall concepts of your work?

Oh, that’s a tough one. I don’t know if there are any totalizing concepts. As we’ve discussed, there are different strains in the practice and each of those play out different interests, but I think it’s self-generating, so concerns maybe come after something is born in the studio which makes it hard for me to think in terms of totalizing concepts. And also I find that way of thinking obstructs new things from occurring. I feel like it’s important to think of concepts from work to work and from strain to strain. In terms of aesthetics, people do talk about them in certain ways but I’m not sure that I want to talk about it myself.

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