This interview with Elisabeth Condon by JC Rodriguez was originally published on the Provk Magazine website with a very handsome layout.
What experiences would you say were important in forming who you are as an artist today?
Suburbia, décor, religion, and nightclubs.
My father was a Marine jet pilot in his former years, so I grew up familiar with flight in small planes as well as jetliners. The immediacy and urgency in flying reminds me of sumi-e brush painting techniques as both require quick reflexes and focused attention. My mother’s obsessive decorating is also integral to my aesthetic formation as I paint my own versions of her wallpaper samples, once loathed and now embraced.
The short-lived nightclub Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco, which I visited as a teenager, proved that mirrored walls, glitter, and fantasy make anything possible. Nightclubs in the pre-digital age offered an immersive, alternative culture in contrast with my family’s restrictive religious beliefs. The flowers and wallpaper patterns I am painting now balance these influences to make a new kind of space, that is both field and object.
If you could collaborate with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I’d like to make prints with Helen Frankenthaler and Judy Pfaff, paint outside with Charles Burchfield, practice sumi-e with Chen Jialing and create a mural with Huang Gongwang, Joyce Kozloff and Valerie Jaudon.
Where is your favorite place to go see art in the world?
There are a few so far: the National Palace in London with Nicholas Poussin’s Triumph of Pan, the Prado, where Velasquez’ Las Meninasresides, and the National Palace Museum in Taipei that houses the greatest collection of scroll painting in the world. I’m heading to Mexico City and anticipate greatness from the Museo de Antropologia. Of course the Met, with its Asian and American Wings. I love all museums, actually, large and small.
Tell us about your process, do you like to plan out the piece or are you more spontaneous with your work?
I’m completely spontaneous. I start with pours of paint, so that painting becomes like taking a trip, with contingencies and unexpected outcomes. Pouring feels necessary and urgent, even when it is a controlled accident, as in the small flower paintings. Pouring dictates subsequent steps suggested by the shapes they create and their interaction of materials such as ink and acrylic. It takes time to envision what the pours suggest, so I work in bursts on multiple works at one time when space allows, inching along as each painting develops individually from the group.
I work on paper before linen, which establishes and builds upon the language I want to develop. To develop the work for Effulgence, I spent six months practicing sumi-e and two weeks on a printmaking residency with Graphicstudio at the University of South Florida. The paintings combine the performative spontaneity of sumi-e in pouring with the constructed process of etching in pattern. Sumi-e and printmaking are as opposite as you can get, so I am excited to integrate these processes in a language that is mine.
When you are working on a piece, do you listen to anything? If so,what music/podcast/radio are you listening to?
Pandora is the go-to, currently for the Bonobo station and yoga music. I listen to art podcasts such as Sound + Vision, Fresh Art International, Hyperallergic and Magic Praxis, and interview podcasts such as On Being or podcasts about cults such as Heavens Gate, Cults, Oh No (Ross and Carrie). I listen to podcasts by the New Yorker, China World, and Bioneers. As the paintings develop I work in silence.
What do you want the viewer to think about when looking at your work?
I don’t want to direct the viewer’s thoughts as much as to transfix, challenge and entice them through a world they can enter.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Persist. Simple and effective. Vulnerability plays its role in that, as do time and commitment.