Robertson Arès: Define the term “abstract” in reference to art
Sydney Blum: Beyond rational. Beyond what is expected. Challenging the known.
GRA: Talk to us about the use of colour and shape.
SB: I love colour! I can't live without it as it is life for me. I feel it vibrate, it has a palpable sound, a physical presence that shifts and stirs me. Everything feels three dimensional to me. An object become space. The space becomes an object. Everything is in reference to everything else; it gains definition only by being in relationship. It is not just an external form because external implies internal. Can a shape exist on its own? No.
GRA: How long have you defined yourself as an artist?
SB: Since graduate school in psychology. I have always made things but never considered myself an artist. In fact, felt I wasn't “cool” enough to be what I considered an artist to be. When I found myself in a doctoral program in Ed Psych and bored with the subject and my colleagues I took my “art” work over to the fine art department at the same school for them to have a look. They let me in to their graduate program on the spot without me ever having taking an art class before. I decided that maybe I was an artist after all. The story didn't end there and today I am not sure what being an artist means. I have never formally studied art. This has been both a gift and a lack: I can easily look inward for ideas, methods, and think freely, but don't have the knowledge of the dominant view of art history that is often taught. I am very disciplined and work daily. Art making is about finding one's voice. Whatever uniqueness, trueness one can bring to the world through their art is what may speak to others. This depth, genuineness is needed now more than ever.
GRA: Where does your inspiration come from?
SB: Life itself. That ubiquitous and ephemeral life force. The vibrational presence or absence in nature, in colour, in form. Air moving over water, the spring-time thaw that heaves the soil, the breeze travelling through the leaves from tree to tree, heat rising and creating distortions, mirages of movement, changes in light as a cloud passes over. The gift of being human is the ability to create. Life wants to grow. Humans need to expand and question. Yearn to understand their place in time and space and the ontological relationship to higher realms of being. When the need to create is stifled the world becomes dull and lifeless. Joyless, without depth. Tight. Breathless. Inhuman.
GRA: What place do galleries still have in the world of the internet, social media etc. in the career of an artist?
SB: A difficult question. Galleries offer a physical space for art. Much three dimensional work does not translate accurately in photo and video. The relationship of the body to the work is distorted at best and it's impact very much changed from being in the physical presence of a piece of art. Painting too is a different media on a computer screen.The visceral feel of the paint is lost, the proportions of the work relative to the body can't be defined or felt. I do think the internet, social media inspire another form of art work that is very interesting. However, it speaks another language, another vernacular and vocabulary. Galleries provide the business end of the relationship with artists—enticing collectors, selling, curating, vision, enthusiasm. Galleries are my link to the Art World and Art Market, from which I keep my distance as I have found they are a dangerous pair for me. Distorting my thinking, my values, my priorities. I cannot create if I think about them.
GRA: What is the most difficult part of the creative process?
SB: The end of a particular piece. My work process is exhausting and at the very end there is this frenzy of not-knowing that has to resolve. Will the piece work?, will it hold the space?, will it create an intensity?, will it resolve as well as remain open and leave one thinking and interested?