When I have a creative block, I take walks. I like to see what shapes stick out – so many legs rushing by at once, it can seem abstract. I don’t need to see great art to get stirred up. Music does that for me more easily.
I try not to bring in anything I don’t love looking at. It’s about restaint … There is something about an unfinished quality that leaves within you that sense of possibility.
It’s not until the very last phase that you know how good the works are going to be.
One of the most important elements of Caio-ness I wanted to keep was that left to right reading, where one form draws you… this movement in what is otherwise a fairly still art, that sense of pulling the eye. It involves a sense of time. To me that’s esoteric and magical and playful, and if a painting doesn’t have that, to me it’s just canvas and paint. If it does have that, then it rises above its materials.
Most days, I practice piano in the mornings and I spend the rest of the day painting.
My 20s were spent in a room, alone, mixing paints and figuring it all out.
Painting is something that requires a lot of time – it’s not just one good idea out of art school.
I’ve been playing piano my whole life but I’d never tried to understand how compositions are made really. Try to imagine if you’d loved paintings your whole life but had never painted one. My aspiration now is just to understand. I don’t have professional pretensions. I’ve learned so much. So many things I’ve been doing in the visual, two-dimensional painting world parallel many of the inner working of music – how intervals resolve into each other, harmonic rhythm, tonal things – there’s a whole vocabulary that overlaps. Sometimes people see pianos in my works – that I never think.
I’m not such an artist type that I can’t handle the real world. I read the financial pages, because most people don’t talk about art.
My uniform is sweatpants, so crusted over with dried paint that they’re as hard as a table. I wear T-shirts that are also covered in paint, and Crocs.
My forms are not abstractions of things in the real world. They’re also not symbols. I would say that my job is to invent these forms and to put them together in a way that keeps your interest, to give the forms a quirky identity so you can engage with them, so you realize there’s an inner intelligence or logic.
I had a visit from an artist friend who basically said, “Your paintings are wonderful. Now stop.” It did resonate with me. It hit on the percolating need for change that was already there. I got a little push. I did a group of the paintings early on that were among the best. It was sort of beginner’s luck with these.
Most people draw from the mind, not the eye. They draw the idea of a table or a face, not what’s in front of them. We don’t actually see the line of the jaw as a line and we don’t see an eye as a perfectly outlined almond shape.
If you come every day or every month to my studio, you won’t see that much change, but if you come once a year, you’ll see big new categories opened up.
I’ve been playing piano my whole life, but I’d never tried to understand how compositions are made, really. Try to imagine if you’d loved paintings your whole life but had never painted one. My aspiration now is just to understand.
For me becoming a painter was an Everest, in terms of what I thought a painter was. There are many roads to becoming an artist. For me it wasn’t art school. I didn’t have that go to art school and then get a gallery. It’s more like, how deep is your inner library to cull from. It’s certainly not about technical prowess, just about depth of investigation. It takes time. I had 15 years of painting under my belt before my first New York show. I was glad to have that. It’s a good thing to spend your twenties getting your craft.
I’m not particularly interested in painting, per se. I’m interested in a painting that has that mysterious life to it. Anything that doesn’t partake of that magic is halfway dead – it returns to its physical elements, it’s just paint and canvas.
I think I was very lucky to have grown up with an artist’s studio in the house. It was a kind of life that was possible. Yeah, it made it kind of harder because the standards were higher, but there was no pressure.
All my siblings became artists. One’s a novelist, my brother is a painter, my sister was a costume designer.
My forms are not abstractions of things in the real world. They’re also not symbols. I would say that my job is to invent these forms and to put them together in a way that keeps your interest, to give the forms a quirky identity so you can engage with them, so you realize there’s an inner intelligence or logic. If you stop asking what they mean, or what they remind you of, and just look at them for 29 seconds, you find that they want to explain themselves and show you how much every tiniest detail is related to the whole.
So many paintings have hidden meanings or need wall texts, but my work is not in that category.
The world of painting has nothing to do with the art world.
I underwent a whole process of slowly letting go of idiosyncrasies and habits and embellishments and everything extraneous to the essentials that I’m unwilling to let go of. I never dreamed that I would be making black-and-white paintings with so little embellishment. But it’s been liberating in many ways to let go of that and yet see what I did want to retain.
This morning I got up early and I was glazing the paintings and they just looked so beautiful. I had a private moment of “yeah, I’m behind this.” Which is all that matters as an artist, to believe in what you’re doing. It sounds like an obvious thing but it takes a lot of work.
People see so many things in the paintings. Although I never think of them, it charms me a little bit that people actually project actual scenarios on to the paintings. Hopefully that means that they have a little bit of life to them. Figuring out the rhythm, the structural element has been the key thing in this work, more than the color element. It really was the variety of different widths that lead to a certain movement, a rhythm. Otherwise I’d fall into anything that was too stripy or almost like bar codes, and it thwarted the natural flow of the painting.