PULSE PRIZE WINNER 2011 | NEW YORK
Could you give us a bit of background about yourself and how it felt to win the PULSE Prize in 2011?
I have been working at the crossroads of painting, sculpture, film and sound for about 30 years. Depending on the idea, a work can take on a visual form or a sonic one. Sometimes a work is firmly both.
How would you describe the body of work that awarded you the Prize? How has your practice developed over the last 8 years?
This work was a part of a project that was originally called “Drum painting”. It came from the idea that a stretched canvas over a frame produces a tone when it is struck with - brushes, a drum stick, even a glance. This way of working evolved over time and I began replacing the canvas and stretchers with painted animal skins on boxes that were tuned and played with a pneumatic system like one in a player piano or orchestrion. A version of this premiered at MoMA PS1 in 2005’s Greater New York exhibition. The body of work then abandoned the reference to painting altogether settling in for a time in a found object zone. In this case the ready made, (a pile of discarded paint cans and studio rubbish) was then prepared to make sounds reminiscent of a drum kit you could easily find yourself dancing to. Imagine a junkyard band without musicians that plays by itself and appears, at first glance, to be nothing more than a pile of junk in the corner of a room. Much of this work was made in collaboration with my friend Roberto Lange who took on the roll of composer and engineered original sequences for the kinetic sound sculptures and scored the animated films I was making during the same time.
Tell us about the role of music in your paintings and public installations and what artists have influenced you the most throughout your career?
When I first moved to New York I was hanging in the wings of music places like Smalls and the Village Vanguard. Many of my closest friends were either Jazz Musicians or Hip Hop heads. I rode between the cars and loved both spheres of influence. I started collecting records and tapes from all over and delved into a wide range of recorded material. I was doing a lot of heavy listening while I made paintings and sculptures in the studio which led to me also making beat experiments and recordings of my own. Mostly these were about rhythm, percussive breaks, bass-lines, samples, drum machine sketches, scratching, that kind of thing.
Do you feel that the access to the Internet and various social media channels has affected that way that you create art and how your art is viewed by others?
I’d say Instagram is good and bad. It can be fantastic for connecting people operating in the spheres of your interests, but for me it gets distracting and a little unnerving if its in too heavy rotation. I need long breaks from it but it is useful.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Know that what you make as an artist has great value in that it affects culture and communicates in ways other modes of expression do not. Don’t give in to fear or doubt and trust your wildest dreams. Pursue what you love with passion and conviction and you’ll travel the universe at the speed of thought.
What’s coming up next for you?
The Brooklyn studio is in peak productivity. I’ve been sought out to produce work for some wonderful commissions. Recently a major “Flow” work was acquired by The Four Seasons Lanai, Hawaii. The DJ and music production software company, Serato, commissioned me to produce a limited edition vinyl record to be released in September. Private collectors keep believing in the big ideas and that all goes back into new work. The studio is presently focused on taking ideas I’m experimenting with in sound and re-imagining them as works on wood panels and paper, all of which I’d call “paintings”.
There are also ongoing modes of working that I return to when there is more to say with the “Motion Paintings”, “Recollections”, kinetic sound sculptures and recorded works. The future looks very bright. The Margulies Warehouse in Miami has generously presented my work along side giants in the collection. The Mattress Factory Museum in Pittsburgh presented a new quintet of paintings for their 40th anniversary exhibition. Joshua Liner Gallery has been instrumental with the recent Four Seasons commission, back room sales and group exhibitions. A growing interest from galleries and collectors in the things I am making now is positioning the studio to grow and do more ambitious projects. Today the studio is buzzing with activity and I am grateful to be making work that I’m genuinely excited about and happy to be sharing it with collectors, curators and fellow artists who make an appointment to visit the studio or discover my work through a gallery, museum, or at davidellisstudio.com
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