Saturday, January 3, 2009

Drawing Systems: Steven Wise's Process Works

About the Artist
Steven Wise lives and works in Arkansas.

Image Info(from top to bottom): P25-Isabot11, Acrylic and pen on illustration board, 14 x 14 inches, 2005; P51-untitled,ink, acrylic, colored pencil on paper, 14 x 14 inches, 2007; P62-Angry Zeus, Collage with gouache on paper, 11 1/2 x 9 inches, 2008; P63-Cloudy, Gouache, ink on paper, 11 1/2 x 9 inches, 2008

Sketch Pages talks to Steven about his process and keeping it real.
It is very interesting how your prescribed process leads the way in your work. Who and what (philosophies) are your influences?
I choose to avoid theories of meaning because I believe art should not be controlled by ideological concerns. I emphasize process as a strategy of making art in order to channel my artistic energy towards making art (the work) as opposed to critiquing art (theory). The artists and thinkers who have most shaped my way of thinking would be Jasper Johns, Richard Tuttle, Marcel Duchamp, and Gerhard Richter.

Can you describe a work process for a suite of alphabet categorized images that you create.
I have created many works on paper and ten large scale paintings that I have called Isabot. The paintings are a suite of paintings that are named by the letter, I, and a sequential number. I01, I02... The Isabots on paper are labeled P## - Isabot #. P indicates any work on paper, and Isabot indicates its relationship to the painted suite. The process of making an Isabot is related to watching my daughter Isabelle draw when she was a toddler. She seemed to produce drawings like a machine, like a robot. She knew how to create two movements. A dot and a straight line. The simplicity of the designs seemed liberating to me. So , I created my own working method that begins by drawing in a sketch pad. I make many small shapes by connecting dots to lines. The shapes are most often 3 or 5 sided shapes. Each smaller shape is connected to several small shapes that create a new form. In some cases, these forms remind of something in the real world, and I allow the form to look more like this shape through revisions. The sketches are redrawn. Colors are created by making a palette of colors usually 4 or 5 that I premix and harmonize according to value and intensity. When I am satisfied with my color choices and new sketches, I begin the painting. Changes to the design and color often occur during the process of painting.

The images in your work are results of controlled conditions. Does working this way, in which your ideas and biases are eliminated, help you see and experience art making more truthfully?
By eliminating non-pictorial concerns such as narrative or ideological messages, I believe that I am able to respond more skillfully to texture, form, shape, and color.

By being a consequence of your drawing process, your images become arbitrary and in and of themselves, almost meaningless. How important is the physical work to you. Do you see pieces as temporary or permanent work to keep?
The paintings are created to last because photographs do not adequately reveal the process of their creation. Art work is meant to be seen in person. For this reason, I see my works as permanent constructions.

Does one image ever become a favorite. If this happens how do you separate from it and stay true to your systems of working?
All of my images have more meaning when they are seen in groups of related works. The work seems to create a dialogue between pictures. For this reason, I don't believe that one work is better than another. My colleagues, collectors, and friends certainly have favorites. Most often their opinions are very different which confirms my belief that a suite of images is my final product as opposed to individual works.

How do (or can) parameters of control end up changing as you keep creating your works until age 56?
Parameters for the paintings change as I complete individual pictures. In some cases, I will change the rules of my process in midstream as long as the rules are consistent with past and future works. I avoid assigning a final letter until the suite of images is complete.

How does it feel to leave your preconceptions of art and your ego aside and work continuously under a system. Do you ever want to rebel against your own art?
My goal is to avoid making decisions based on desires to create meaning related to my personal politics and feelings.

How has your process driven way of working caused you look at images. Does some art just feel to biased form the artist?
Most of the time, I am completely unaffected by political art. I may appreciate the beauty of works that support ideological messages, but I am not convinced that these artists are making art. The last great political painter was Manet. The last great political work of art was Guernica. I think that Chris Burden makes fascinating work. Even though his work is created to stir political emotions, his art work is very process oriented. His work may be the best example of process art that creates social meaning.

What letter are you working with now?
I am making paintings that create a contrast in scale and pattern. The most often used color is yellow, and the most often used shape is a square. I have not yet determined the final rules. I am probably assigning these works the letter Y for yellow.
Contact Steven Wise by email:
Personal website:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Steve Wise is a great artist, wise as his last name, mainly because he has read so much and he always has a philosophical explanation of his works! I just don't support that some of his masterpieces will be soon used in generic viagra banners and ads!