Interview with Stefano Bosis in collaboration with coeur et art

Esther Harrison
July 31, 2019 2:49 PM

Stefano Bosis is one of those individuals who was always destined to become an artist, I would even go so far to argue he could only survive to work as an artist.

Born in Milan, Bosis who lives and works in Berlin holds a University degree not in art but in Digital Communication and Programming, forced into it by his worried father, as his son had spent an alarming amount of his time as a teenager hanging out at the Atelier of the then-emerging Egyptian artist Gamal Meleka who had worked for a few years in Milan to develop his own individual style. For five years Bosis notoriously persistent would take in everything he saw like a sponge, learning especially about colours from Meleka. He picked up the techniques of drawing while spending some considerable time living with street artists on Barcelona's Ramblas, learning from the artists who would draw tourist portraits on the asphalt.

Images by Martin Peterdamm

Words by Esther Harrison

In collaboration with coeur et art

New York

Needless to say, the duration he worked in the Programming Industry after University was unsurprisingly limited. One day at work, it so happened that Bosis threw the Computer he worked on out of the window. “I felt like living in a box.”

It marked an obviously final point to his career in Video Animation and he threw himself instead into art, his true passion. Ten years later, Bosi's works have been exhibited in solo and group shows all over Europe. Bosis who is stimulated mostly by the Greek and Indian mythology is a ferocious reader and enjoys also “smart little essays on time” like “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery. He loves philosophy and is a big fan of the contemporary philosopher Armen Avanessian who opened his mind to reflections about our time in general and the perception of our presence in this speculative time in particular. We have met up with him in his Berlin studio to experience his latest works in which he is working on the topic of paradises, but also to catch the first glimpse on a very special book he is working on!

Stefano, first of all, which of these elements (space, air, fire, water, earth) would you choose in relation to your practice and yourself, and why?

Air, definitely air.

I spend most of the time in my studio that is on the top floor of a 5-floor building in Kreuzberg, Berlin. From the window of the studio, I see the roofs of Berlin and I love the feeling to be up there, it looks like problems and difficulties are left down in the streets.

So yes, the air element is the element I would choose. Air connect what you can see, the land, with what we can just perceive, space.

The same way I see myself and my practice as a painter, between spirituality and matter, creating reality from what is not real.

What motivated you to become an artist besides your love for colours and drawing?

The real world inspires me, which unfortunately is also made of suffering.

70% of the population is starving and the other 30% is on a diet, for example. All that I see, all that I read, led me to an empathic state that led me to an experience, a journey inside me, which made me decide to use my energy and my time to become an artist. Because art can scream against indifference, help change and elevate souls.

Do you consider yourself spiritual and how does this feed into your work?

Oh Yes, I consider myself spiritual.

Spirituality is the way to be connected, to receive, like a radio that gets signals from everything that surrounds us. If you have long antennas you get more inputs.

In my work, spirituality is the base everything starts of, where ideas come from and ultimately find their place in the painting.

I consider art a metaphysical act because you create something that wasn´t there before, and every act of creation creates a consequence of energy. Spirituality helps to understand and guide this energy.

The first humans in the stone age, in the past, used paintings and sculptures to attract, to create the events, they wanted to become reality.

I learned from a tribe in North Columbia when I was in the jungle, that for the first men drawing animals in caves, art had a metaphysical function and the artist was a shaman.

Bosis was invited for an art residency in Colombia, that he actually never attended, because when he arrived there he decided to explore the city and the surroundings, hiking and talking to the people. After that, he went on a Central America trip on his motorbike, where he followed the path of the Indios, “discovering an ancient world called “The Jungle”. It made me jump into the lost paradise, realizing that we don’t need many objects to live and thrive if we are surrounded by nature.”

Stefano, you are currently working on a book, please tell us about it.  

Yes. This new book is a book that actually nobody can read. It is written in a language that doesn’t exist, based on a code I developed, accompanied by illustrations, suggesting the existence of an irrational space that cannot be explored through science, computers or technology. Proving that art can drive the viewer to a new unknown experience.

The images are so strikingly instant, on point, they seem to trigger a hidden truth we instinctively connect to, like a memory of the future we all carry in us?

Yes, the images have an important role in the book. Some images reveal real things and other images that lead you to discover remote, unexplored territories. All are together at once, in the past present and future time. The most important thing is that you get what you want to see, or better, what you're unconscious decide to recognize.

Where are these images exactly coming from?

Basically, most of them come directly from dreams, the same dreams in which I got the first five characters of the language that it is in the book.

I just remember the images and the story of them after waking up. Other times, they come directly from my imagination when I am in front of the book.

What else are you currently working on and what you are looking forward to this year in terms of upcoming exhibitions?  

I am looking forward to several group exhibitions coming up by the end of the year, such as a group show in Palazzo Ducale near Modena Italy, by the Federico Rui Arte Contemporanea gallery. During the Berlin Art Week,

I am part of the Augmented Dream Exhibition, at Kunstraum Bethanien. In this show, which is curated by its artists, which are beside me Marion Fink, Michel Lamoller, Miguel Rothschild, and Gonzalo Reyes Araos we will reflect about our time as we find ourselves at the brink of an important change where digital creation coexists with a non-digital physical. What will happen and how will we think in the future?

Will we be living in an augmented dream?

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Alexander Yulish was born in New York City in 1975. His father worked in PR and his mother was Barbara Pearlman, a famous artist and fashion illustrator. Yulish grew up near the Chelsea Hotel and spent his childhood surrounded by New York’s artistic elite. He learned to paint watching his mother in her studio as a young child, and went on to study fine art and English at Connecticut College. After graduating, Yulish moved to Los Angeles and worked a variety of jobs, including acting and setting up downtown music venues. Yulish continued painting on the side but only started, in his early thirties, to dedicate himself full time to his art. Since then, Yulish has had exhibitions in galleries around Los Angeles and New York City and has attracted the attention of art world heavy-hitters Eugenio López Alonso (founder of Museo Jumex) and JoAnne Colonna (Brillstein Entertainment partner), among others.

Yulish’s paintings are composed of shapes -- lines, circles, squares -- that hint at familiar subjects. In his earlier work the subjects hinted at were often large, human-like subjects. The Things You Said, for example, features a hand with painted red nails holding a coffee mug. The hand is attached to an arm, which is attached to a multi-colored torso made of various shapes and lines, which belongs to a person reclining on a couch. But the closer you examine the reclining person, and the rest of the painting, the harder it becomes to discern the body parts in any detail. Many of Yulish’s early paintings have this effect -- it’s largely a result of the shapes used in the composition of Yulish’s paintings, a line will form the outline of a torso and the leg of a chair in the background, or a pattern on the floor of the room, depending on how you look at the painting. In this way Yulish’s earlier work presents us with a paradox: in order to see what the subjects of the paintings are, we have to pay close attention to the details, but the closer we look, the less distinct the figures become.

This quality of Yulish’s paintings is probably a result of his studio practice. Yulish makes his art in staggered layers of acrylic paint. He starts with some shapes and lines, as though he were making any old abstract portrait. Then he adds a second layer of shapes, lines and figures, blending the new images with the old. Out of the chaos, figures and subjects begin to appear. Two intersecting lines could become a lamp, or a mirror, or a wall, depending on how Yulish feels and what he sees in his mind’s eye while he is painting. Yulish continues drawing until, emotionally and artistically, he’s ready to move to another part of the painting. As the image comes together, Yulish adjusts minor details in color and shape. Whether a torso will be blue and red or blue and yellow depends on the other parts of the painting. The finished work has to convey what Yulish was feeling

and thinking while he was painting. If some color or figure does not do that, it has to go. This lends a powerful honesty to Yulish’s paintings, they are as truthful as they are visceral.

But all of this is old news for the 43 year-old Yulish, who has been working diligently and excitedly on new work. Yulish’s latest paintings, which were shown at a small private exhibition in Watermill, mark a thematic and stylistic departure from the subject-centric works he made earlier in his career. Yulish still hints at animal and human subjects with the figures in his new paintings, but he does so less often and more carefully. The shapes which form the subjects are more ambiguous in Yulish’s new work -- a squiggly line forms what appears to be a human face, but could just as easily be a clock or some other part of an animal -- but the distinctions between the subjects are clearer and more precise. Because the subjects are more abstract, though, it can be harder to interpret the meanings of Yulish’s new work. The shapes do not form so much as suggest, leaving room for subjectivity and disagreement. Yulish’s artistic development is bringing him closer to Jackson Pollock and further from Picasso, two artists to whom Yulish has been compared.

One last thing about the new paintings, they seem to have a lot of flowers. At least, for me. The flowers in Yulish’s new paintings are the kinds of flowers that could be birds, or people, or arms. Because, in many of Yulish’s new paintings, he has abandoned a subject-background style of painting and image construction, he cannot rely on cryptic settings to convey his emotional and artistic state. Instead, Yulish has to communicate through the subjects themselves, through their details and their arrangement. In many of Yulish’s new paintings, he has obliterated the subject-background distinction by refusing to give prominence to any part or parts of the whole work. There are no guiding principles to help find the subject as there would be in, say, a room where the walls, the floor and the ceiling converge at a point in space. None of the honesty of Yulish’s earlier work is lost in his abandonment of the subject-background distinction because, presumably, he is still following his artistic (and emotional) instinct. The only difference, now, is that the viewer might not receive the message. Or, the viewer might receive the message but decide to project their own meaning, their own emotions and thoughts, onto the work. Either way, Yulish’s honesty remains throughout his new work, challenging our interpretive and artistic sensibilities as viewers in ways that Yulish has never done before. And, most importantly, reminding us that it feels good to be slapped by a new aesthetic quality every once in a while.

“It’s hard,” Durgin-Barnes tells me as I begin recording our conversation, “to balance becoming successful and staying true to yourself as an artist.” His entire life Durgin-Barnes has been fascinated by representational painting. As a kid he would read nature books and wander the wooded hiking paths of Washington state, trying to make drawings that capture the feeling, rather than the details, of being surrounded by nature. When he began working with oil paint he studied, and fell in love with, the “old masters:” Nicolas Poussin, Pierre Paul Prud’hon, Michelangelo. Classical and neo-classical inuences are clear in almost all of Durgin-Barnes’s paintings, which tend to feature incredibly detailed subjects in classically styled and noble compositions. The exact details of the scenes are less important than their arrangement, which conveys the feeling, and the message, of the painting. “I’m obsessed with allegory,” Durgin-Barnes mentions as he tells me about a holy grail conspiracy theory based in the angle of the shadow of an arm in Nicolas Poussin’s Et in Arcadia Ego. The overwhelming allegorical message in Durgin-Barnes’s work seems to be one of deep discomfort with capitalism. Tiny features like the letters “U.S.A.” below the striped U.S. ag on the back of a dancing woman in The Initiation of Pineapple, or the McDonald’s sign stretching high in the air behind smoking buildings and dying soldiers in War, convey an Orwellian attitude toward an omnipresent capitalist order. Even the use of light and shadow to accentuate a burning temple in the background of Mayan on Day of the Zenith, or the brightness of the shattered glass on which wild dancing naked women are reected in Florida Ttripp convey a dark beauty buried beneath these disquieting scenes.

The subjects of Durgin-Barnes’s paintings, the centerpieces, might be seen to convey this message on capitalism just as much as the details do, albeit in a dierent, more spiritual way. The classical style of Durgin-Barnes’s paintings as it is applied to many of their subjects (skillfully and seriously) seems to contribute, or amount, to something downright religious. Taken on their own, crack addicts, piles of trash, biker gangs, dancing naked women, sardines, and iguanas are not religious or spiritual. But by painting these subjects with such skill, and such mastery of classical and neo-classical techniques, Durgin-Barnes is able to impart mystical, immortal signicance to these martyrs of American capitalism.

For Durgin-Barnes, this mystical element comes from rock n’ roll music. Traditional harmonies and melodies (classical and neo-classical painting techniques) applied to (crude? vulgar? grotesque?) nonclassical subject matter. This rock n’ roll sensibility and passion comes across in Epithets of Integrity, Durgin-Barnes’s mistakenly dubbed ‘rst’ solo show at Treason Gallery in Seattle in

September, 2017. The show was a huge success artistically for Durgin-Barnes, opening several new platforms on which to sell his work (artsy.net/artwork/andrew-durgin-barnes/, treasongallery.com/andrewbarnes/) and garnering attention in the elusive world of art. Financially, Epithets of Integrity was lackluster at best. Durgin-Barnes only sold one work from the show, barely enough to cover his cost of living and painting for a month in New York. In an ironic way, Durgin-Barnes is as much a victim of the capitalist society to which he belongs as the drug dependent subjects of his paintings. In order to keep painting, to keep working, he has to sell his work. And after a dicult rst year in New York, he feels a temptation to turn down the amps, to tone back the rock n’ roll attitude so prevalent in his works in Epithets of Integrity. But I hope that for us, as well as for himself, Durgin-Barnes can nd a way to stay true to himself as an artist and to continue working in the capitalist society that seems to ignore him.

Charlie Masson is a painter and print maker who graces all of his inanimate subjects with a worthiness that is more easily found in the whites of the eyes of a human subject. Like many artists, he is fascinated with light. His mastery of paint and ink enable a highly sensitized use of colour and shadow that subtly personifies the most inanimate objects. Envelopes, subway tickets, rubber bands, receipts. These are the things that Masson portrays in Keepsakes, a series of oil on cardboard works. The occasional passport-booth photo with an anonymous female peeks out from underneath envelopes both institutional and personal. Masson draws our attention to the ephemeral nature of objects we use and throw away, and in doing so memorializes them as more than disposable accessories to our lives. There is a palpable sympathy for the underdog, a spotlight shone on the discarded Christmas tree lying by the curb. Masson adorns the banal with beauty, and his nostalgia for subway tickets, receipts and other signs of memorable times gone by, is both passionate and sentimental. A somewhat more somber series of work titled Rear Window appears as a love letter to the architecture that encases our lives. Mostly oil paintings depicting New York at night, Masson uses sparing shapes and a muted palette to emphasize moments of light or shadow. Windows, lampposts and rooftops are all framed as a portrait might be; either from below, close up or diagonally, almost as though Masson wanted to depict the sitter at his best angle possible. In one piece a cluster of skyscrapers sits lurking in the darkness. In another, two bright yellow traffic lights hover in mid air, quietly waiting to be noticed. The background sky is always a muddied brown or hazy blue if dawn is beckoning, reminiscent of a soft interior lighting that would never shine too harshly upon a subject. Where Keepsakes speaks to our inner child and excitedly holds on to past moments, Rear Window is decisively melancholic and asks that we turn our gaze outward to the city that houses our experience, and consider that it too, has lived with us. Just as many painters would painstakingly depict the curve of a nude hip, almost too aware of its inherent value as female body, Masson turns his attention to those famously ‘inanimate’ objects, gracing them with character. Just like dancing candelabra, or talking oysters, Masson’s yellow traffic lights suddenly seem endearing and youthful; his blue rubber band is practical and somber. Masson’s fluency in light and shadow, refined through his printmaking asks that we consider our everyday accessories as much as the curve of a nude hip.

The scale of the paintings is similar to that of an inside joke, but do not let this analogy fool you, these are serious paintings. The most recent iterations of Simorte’s work have been primarily in the 8 x 6 inch format and are materially composed of acrylic on canvas. I defy a viewer to find any compositional element in one of these paintings that could be eliminated. These images are essential in composition without being minimal, much like the work of Richard Tuttle or Forrest Bess. It would be easy to knee-jerk label these paintings as pretty, but the devil is in the details here. The power of Simorte’s particular brand of abstraction is its ability to be read and digested in many different frameworks simultaneously. Perhaps there is a millennial perspective on intellectual ownership at play in the work’s roaming sense of painterly language. If so, I don’t read it as a tongue-in-cheek historical metahumor, there is more at stake. What we have is a studied and sophisticated painting space that has been customized and altered to evoke a sense of place. In mining the visual stimuli found in everyday life, Simorte adopts a well-established approach to moving the medium of painting forward. This is how the work maintains a relationship to the personal without delving too deeply into specific personal narrative. The paintings are accessible, adjacent to universality, poetic snippets of experienced time and space.

Simorte is an inventive and original shape maker. This does not mean that you won’t get your fill of the classics. For instance, in a panting like Shared Space, two circles dominate the composition with a backdrop of The Grid. The serious formal investigation that takes place here wins the day, but one could also enjoy the relationship of the classic geometry to the notion of shared space as suggested in the painting’s title. The bottom circle is truncated by the frame of the painting’s support and the top circle gently clings to the opposite end. This suggests to a viewer that the image could continue beyond the frame and perhaps that the world continues to spin throughout their viewership. Each circle is of the red variety. One is primary and slightly transparent, the other is a deep crimson whose opacity leaps forward in the painting’s space. While all of this is happening in the front of the image, a pencil drawn grid gives us a not-your-

grandfather’s modernist time signature. Strategic coloration applied to the squares within the background as well as irregularity in the vertical grid lines coupled with two gestural marks on each side of the canvas, imply a space that is active and dynamic. This allows the two circles to function as characters and inhabit a space, sharing times of harmony and conflict.

This is the last paragraph of this article, but it will not offer the usual sense of closure dictated by the traditional essay format. It is unseemly to close the dialogue on a body of work that is both growing and open-ended in spirit. Go to jessicasimorte.com or follow her on Instagram, there is much yet to be seen from Simorte. Like many young artists, she uses social media not as a tool for marketing but a viable exhibition platform. She is a budding force whose relative underrepresentation in the art world establishment is likely to change. With so much ugliness to be seen in the world today, choosing to see beauty is radical. To those of you reading this article, I suggest you follow along to see the life affirming beauty that Simorte draws attention to, through paint and not through paint.