Nicola Tyson Interview

Tyson– “In art, as in painting and music, it is not a matter of reproducing or inventing forms, but of capturing forces. For this reason, no art is figurative” Gilles Deleuze The Logic of Sensation… …Agreed? ‘Cuz to me, abstract painting anyway, as a distinct investigation, could be been as a set of moves by now, to pulled off satisfactorily, brilliantly, or not, and the risk – the adventure- remains in so-called figurative painting, whatever the concept … basically, as soon as one attempts to represent anything, other than the paint itself, the potential for failure and humiliation is immense. This is interests me…the living dangerously…


Dufresne– Yes I do agree, in living dangerously!  This quote brilliantly takes down the Berlin Wall between abstraction and figuration, again…. You have tapped into my forces, conscious and otherwise, asking me this.  Danger needs a foe, or at least a dance partner, risk is at risk otherwise, and then, what’s the point?  I think if the end of the 2nd millennia culminated with statements such as “The media is the message”, true though it may be, then it is up to the next century, (perhaps it will take a millennia?) to strip the media of its hegemony and give people a look at its nether parts.   This means the “moves” must articulate the stripping, giving form to humanity below.  When I first saw your work I thought someone slipped me the tongue then gave me a good slap in the face, then a good, as y’all say- SHAG! “And it was gooood”, as the old book says.  It wasn’t a sublime experience, nor pure, though it has moments of both, it was bodily, the way one would respond to a person you hated, or loved or were attracted to or ET all! It was REAL.   Like Masaccio or Neel, but wearing the armor of the mod squad methods in fat form, like flesh.  Danger lies in bringing contradictory things to life; there no emotion can have dominance, or theoretical sets for that matter.    As Yves Klein says, “There is no truth, only honesty….”  That’s where failure and humiliation become powerful, no?


Tyson–  When I first encountered a painting of yours, in a group show some years ago, it made me literally weep… not cuz of it’s subject matter -which was a separately intriguing issue-  but it’s intensity of engagement and focus, combined with an impressive fluidity and nonchalance. Hard to pull off!   It was tiny, but had the fizzing EMF field of a stadium gig. Only painting can do this… and you in this instance. But let’s address content first…’cover versions of history’ is how you have identified your approach…. Covers on popular music are often better than the forgotten ‘original’, or are relived for their familiarity in ballads.  Why not in painting?  It kinda makes sense at this point, and sidesteps the issue of male historical authority…so they say they got there first, so what?  

What is your relationship to history?  Cuz there’s a lot of it by now and most of its not ours….as women and as mankind.   Whole landscapes, ecosystems and of course human civilizations have come and gone, and will continue to do so, as long as the sun shines, including us probably.


Dufresne- I budded as an artist loving simultaneously Cindy Sherman, Dara Birnbaum, and George Bellows, Courbet, Turner… move backwards in time skipping too many…let us not forget Judy Garland and Tina Turner of ‘the Ike and Tina Review’.   I loved the languid, melodic lushness of “The Man Who Got Away” and the ‘Film Stills’.  I also loved the reflexive ness of both, the isolation of an idea about a feeling or narrative, but an open, incomplete hole blown open in the human imagination. I also loved the performance in, we observe them playing the part.  The same could be said about Courbet:  Courbet as Fisherman, hunter, artist, revolutionary, perv….  In this way Brecht was right, it is more difficult to retell stories than to make new ones up- one has to inhabit things that exist already and loose oneself, be fully present in the role-, but also always let the audience know what’s happening, that there’s a role being played.  There is to battle for context in the pyre of reference, this is exquisite communication, participatory, communal, irreverent.  History not appropriated but as a thing to be occupied, relived, remixed.. ( this is getting really long- sorry)

-Alas the former Situationist Vaneigem summed it up like so:  “my friends and I wandered into the Palais de Justice in Brussels.  The building is a monstrosity, crushing the poor quarters beneath it and standing guard over the fashionable Avenue Louise—out of which, someday, we will make a breathtakingly beautiful wasteland.  As we drifted through the labyrinth of corridors, staircases, and suit after suite of rooms, we discussed what could be done to make the place habitable; for in time we occupied the enemy’s territory; through the power of our imagination we transformed the thieves’ den into a fantastic funfair, into a sunny pleasure dome, where the most amazing adventures would, for the first time, be really lived.”

This quote is so prophetic it kind of makes my head explode.  In this sense painting can always be re-inhabited, reimagined, occupied. It is not so much that painting is a thieves den, (is all art is theft Picasso?), but that it is an incomplete story, one that is limited by its contingencies and so in my mind it needs to be ‘covered’ to be made present.  There is also an urgency, if one is adventurous, to have a relevant emotional experience with things that occur in contexts irrelevant to owns own experience.    
Your work reshuffles space, the figure, relatedly with similar irreverence, with fantastic power.  From my vantage point you don’t make formal decisions, you are clearly telling us about emotional situations, the figure is reformed from what it is experiencing, its Baroque not Cubist per se.  Would you agree?


The other note…..


Tyson– I watched a long slow sunset recently that was so intellectually exhilarating…all abstract stackings and impressive passages….and I felt such a relief that I didn’t have to judge the decisions that were being made.  What is your relationship to the sky?  You are like Turner, strapped to your mast, ready to experience your very own tornado.  You grew up in Kansas right?  Somewhere over the rainbow….


Dufresne– Over the rainbow, under the bible belt as it were…. Funny, I just read an old essay by tight belted Milton Kramer about Turner’s paintings being tied to the beginning of modernism. In his opinion, and the other proponents, the formal field of the painting was more the focus than the actually sea itself.  Turner strapped himself onto a mast of some female named ship, so that he might return to the studio and purify that experience in mark, color, and epic light resulting thereafter.  But there is a convergence of inner and external experience, not a favoring but the using of materiality.  Resulting in an intersection of the observed and the created like a deluge, destructive, glorious.  Having been raised in such a place as Kansas made me hungry for deluge and destruction, I guess that makes me Christian…. or at least a serious rupture of the normalcy of everything. Fascia membranes are rapped too tightly around flesh and bones, crushing them, repressing imaginations and alienating bodies. Nature was compartmentalized to like 3 corporate farms that were in fact, industrial, practically Koch Bro run, and the storms, which could not then, and can’t still, be tamed.  I loved those storms.    When I paint a monstrous sky its similar to your experience of watching non- juried decisions, and feeling greatly liberated, that what I am painting is urgent and right.  Critical self-consciousness has abdicated for urgency, desire, necessity.  Not always, but most of the time anyway.