Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In Conversation with Julian Schnabel

Untitled (Self-Portrait) copyright 2005 Julian Schnabel
I was one of the lucky ones who had a ticket to attend this evening's "Meet the Artist" event with American artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel.  Curator David Moos led the conversation with the artist who spoke with great eloquence and wit about the inspiration and creative process behind his paintings and films. 

David Moos and Julian Schnabel at the AGO
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2010
What I learned from Mr. Schnabel is that process of making art is more important to him than the end result. He referred to a painting by Cezanne that he saw that afternoon at the AGO in which the joy of its creation was evident on the canvas. In the practice of "making things", Schnabel said that it gives him "a feeling of what it means to be human" and that is the quality of the moment and the journey of making that thing that is important. He does not make drawings before beginning a painting; he simply begins by bonding with the subject, working to respect their vulnerability in creating a representation of their being on canvas. He knows when a painting is done because "everything just lines up". 

On the wall of the exhibition itself, there is this quote from Schnabel about process:  
"And whether it's the screen in a movie or whether it's the rectangle that is the perimeter of a painting, it's an arena where this battle takes place, between everything that you know and don't know. And I think that I apply the same system to both paintings and films. I don't know what it is going to look like when I'm done. I know how to start. I know how to lean towards the divine light. But I figure it out as I'm going along, and the process of doing, that's the thing."

For Schnabel, art is a means of transcending death. He said "in the act of making a representation of life, you are denying death". 

Schnabel credits his parents with giving him the belief that he could do anything and it was with that conviction that he made the seemless transition from being a painter to being a painter AND a filmmaker.  

This is an artist with a profound level of talent and creativity. Seeing his monumental works in person and hearing him speak left an inedible mark on me. I realized it is a gift to be able to paint and "make things" and I will endeavour to savour more moments of the process in my studio. 

If you cannot make it to this exhibition, the AGO has many podcasts and other features on its site to learn more about Julian Schnabel's work as a painter and director. Check out this link

Julian Schnabel at the Art Gallery of Ontario
Art and Film
September 1, 2010 to January 2, 2011
317 Dundas Street West
Toronto, Ontario Canada