ARTICLE WYATT ALLGEIER & WILLS BAKER
WELCOME BACK FOR THE SECOND INSTALLMENT OF VMAN.COM'S EXCLUSIVE SERIES THESPACE (PART ONE HERE). IN THIS INSTALLMENT WE TRAVEL WITH DIRECTOR BEN CLOTTEN AND CURATOR WILLS BAKER TO THE BROOKLYN STUDIO OF PAINTER GRAHAM WILSON. FIND YOUR INNER-TRANQUILITY AND FLOAT WITH US AROUND GRAHAM'S INTIMATE STUDIO SPACE. THEN BE SURE TO SCROLL DOWN FOR A GRIPPING INTERVIEW BETWEEN WILLS BAKER AND GRAHAM WILSON COVERING THE PAINS OF WRITING, TRANSFORMATIONS IN PROCESS, DOSTOYEVSKY, AND HOPE.
Graham Wilson is an artist living and working in Red Hook, Brooklyn. He met Wills Baker an independent curator and Creative Associate for White Cube when they both worked together at Hauser&Wirth in 2013.
It was just over a year ago that I met Graham standing outside Hauser&Wirth,18th street. He was smoking a cigarette and I was curious as to just who this renegade southerner was. We became fast friends and that Fall I curated him into his first show (Amor Fati), my first exhibition as well - we have since come up together but we agree more than anything that there is far more to be acknowledged than what we have seen and heard. Kazimir Malevich remarked that in “every real form is a world” - it is my hope that soon people will see into Graham’s the way I did. It is a rare thing to find someone who you truly believe in but for Graham and me this has always been an all in. -Wills Baker
Wills Baker: You told me once you had written a bunch of stories and a few short novels. What happened to Graham Wilson the writer?
Graham Wilson: I wrote three horrible books. I was a defeated featist at the time.
WB: What were these stories about?
GW: Just life, not much about anything. I wanted to be a writer at first but I didn’t know how fucking hard it was, and then I always wanted to be an artist as well but I knew how hard that would be, so I had always steered clear of that path. I suppose also out of respect for artists who are much better than I am. The Masters, you know.
WB: You never told me there was an always wanting to be an artist?
GW: Well it’s not really a thing that you know. It’s a metaphysical thing. It’s not something that you pinpoint as a young person. You go with the flow and then things work themselves out. With writing I found it harder to go as far to that place as I wanted, because you always have to edit that “place.”
WB: How did you feel about the editing process? I look at editing as imposed rules of what is correct language and what is incorrect language, but also looking at the history of painting could only exist under a certain set of rules. I know you’re someone who doesn’t like the notion of rules, but today do you think that rules, in that sense, should be thought about or respected? Or do you think that it’s a no rules game?
GW: Well, I mean, I didn’t go to school, but they should teach a class in art school called dogmatism because that is inevitably developed as an artist. Any kind of artist will develop their own set of rules pertinent to artists and historical movements they respect. That becomes very inherent in the work and then from that point it’s basically a fight to rid those inhibitions in order to make tangible work. That’s really the whole thing – getting past those inhibitions. I mean everybody could have probably been a great artist had they gotten past certain inhibitions. And then there’s the other side where you just really don’t give a fuck at all, which is not me in the least. There are principles that are there and should always be there.
WB: In my first studio visit we discussed how art could provide a guide or sense of salvation in some way, but through the course of our relationship I witnessed the very potent madness and danger, rage and doubt and self-loathing that the action can induce. Can you describe that transition?
GW: The transition was due to the fact that you start to feel very arrogant about making a painting once you’ve made paintings long enough. Now my work is so circular and vacillating. It’s become more of a revolving door. Which is funny that it came out that way, because I kind of deleted the problem that I was faced with.
I left the door - the door stays open. So it’s easy to find.
WB: So it’s limitless then? It could lead to anywhere?
GW: It still constitutes the same ideology that everything comes from the action or through the labor.
WB: Well the action allows the thing to move?
GW: It allows it to be made. But it isn’t the center of focus in an aesthetic sense. It’s not a gestural painting; it’s not an action painting per se.
WB: Rembrandt said: “Choose only one master - nature!” I tend to think absolutes are dangerous, do you think this one is?
GW: Is it dangerous? Well, how do you choose nature now when there isn’t any left?
WB: So we’ve completely lost sight of nature?
GW: I think we’ve lost sight that it’s necessary. It’s all forgotten. I mean, we’re taught through media and propaganda and all these things that are imbedded into you from the second that you’re born that we’re supposed to control everything. It’s that mentality that’s brought us to where we are now: we’re in such control that we’re ridding everything else in order to stay in control. That was something I didn’t want to have in my work, I wanted to be nature in the sense that I let things take their toll or path and carry on or change or evolve or what have you. We don’t even know it but we would turn the sky off if we could, we’d make it never a rainy day, we’re so controlling.
WB: What is your interest in Dostoyevsky?
GW: Henry Miller was extremely adamant about Dostoyevsky being the most influential person ever. So I came to it that way. It was White Knights, Notes from the Underground and then Crime and Punishment that finally got me to The Double, which for me was everything.
WB: Why The Double?
GW: I always felt very kindred to Dostoyevsky’s characters and his characters were always stuck in an existential space. They knew everything around them was wrong and that there must exist some alternative. There was hopelessness in these characters that took with me. The conception of the double paintings really came from a hopelessness facing the disappointments of seeing all the shameful art-making going on around me at the time. It’s when I started to think about the good and evil qualities of painting - just how Dostoyevsky was looking at this duality in The Double, then I think something happened.
WB: So did this open the floodgates to pure reaction and emotion, namely rage?
GW: It was something that was always there. When I destroyed paintings in the past it was less conscious, but then this moment came when it wasn’t about anything else but my internal accountability. I believe that you are always your worst enemy, so I had to fight back against myself. Then it became more about the knowledge of perpetual action, of consciousness. We work together now, the paint and I- which creates a form, we create something together, an object that stands on its own. By developing that process it allowed us -the paint and I- to work together; I would do some things, it would do some things on its own sometimes, thank god because I can’t do it all.
WB: So are we optimistic or hopeless in our current solidarity?
GW: I think my paintings are invitations to somewhere else. Everything is hopeful for me. I think that when you accept or allow change – be hopeful- I think that the work will always be hopeful and make you think. And whenever you think, that’s a hopeful thing, when you go to a different state and you’re out of the ordinary - you go to another place, a place away from here.
SERIES PRODUCER WYATT ALLGEIER CREATIVE SERVICES WILLS BAKER DIRECTOR BEN CLOTTEN MUSIC OLE BROLIN VIDEO PRODUCTION WHITE FILM SPECIAL THANKS GRAHAM WILSON