We sat down with new gallery artist Hal Schwarze to discuss his background, inspiration, creative process and more!
1. What is your background? How does it inform your art?
That's a loaded question! As an artist, my background goes back to early childhood. Isn't that where all of our lives are molded and shaped in the directions they go?
In any event, I am the youngest of five in a New Jersey family that relocated to Florida way back in 1967. I grew up surfing and skateboarding and building forts in the woods and running around the neighborhood with the other kids in what was then the wild East. It was a wonderful mix of both physical and psychological freedom. It was during this time, reading comic books and then taking art in high school, that I formed my conscious desire to create images and narratives.
2. What ideas do you return to regularly in your art?
The idea that I most regularly return to in my art would definitely be seeking the meaning within the human condition. Once again, in early childhood, all of the graphic novel dramas revolved around the battle between Good and Evil. But if you take that and filter it into everyday life, there are small battles of Good and Evil on a daily basis. As an adult, politics and religion, sociological and economic factors, and personal relationships all intermingle, seeking meaning in some poetic way. I have a favorite quote: "Artists express what others repress." You may not literally see that in one of my abstract compositions, but the way this translates to me is the balance of dark and light forms within a composition, merging onto one another.
3. Who or what are your main influences? What inspires you?
A vast pool of experience – peoples, places and things – influences me as an artist. When I had just exited the Portfolio Center in Atlanta way back in the day, I picked up a series of Time Life books on artists at a yard sale. In one of these, Theodore Gericault’s “The Raft of the Medusa” was broken down and analyzed. There was a close-up of a drop of water on human flesh. The close-up image showed a teardrop comprised of one stroke each of yellow, green and red, side by side. And like magic, when viewed from a distance, it looked exactly like a drop of water on human flesh! Such a simple little thing just blew my mind in the beginning of my career.
4. What process, materials, techniques, etc., do you use to create your artwork?
My process for the most part is the loose gestural application of underpainting – starting with the random, wild, ecstatic laying down of colors in a haphazard way, and then building that foundation up. You could call it a stream-of-consciousness action painting. I wait for the area to start talking back to me; I sit and listen; and then I begin the arduous journey of making order out of chaos. In this process, I delve into the inner realms of the subconscious and excavate memories and responses. Mainly I really enjoy the wild freedom of spontaneous poetry. And, on a personal level, my entire life has been about trying to create order out of chaos!
5. What does your studio look like?
My current studio is a 500 square foot, plywood floor loft in a bottled water warehouse.
6. What is an artist tool you can’t live without?
I could definitely not live without faith. The moment-to-moment stripping away and dealing with self-doubt requires a lot of faith and gumption.
7. What memorable responses have you had to your work?
I had recently participated in an outdoor art festival and befriended an artist next to me over the course of the weekend. She was drawn to one of my pieces but couldn't afford it. So, I offered it to her at an extreme discount. After this happened, she hugged me and gently cried and I learned more about her story. It was one of the most touching responses I've had in my life as an artist. It wasn't about the money - it was about the human connection.
8. What are you currently working on?
I am currently halfway through a short period of contemplation before starting a new series. This is very important to do from time to time. At times we can spin our wheels and pour out a lot of paint and not really get to where we envision because we're not slowing down to take the time to think about what we're doing. That's the other side of the coin of spontaneity.
9. Why do you make art?
I make art because it is who I am. In psychological terms, once again, everything can be traced to childhood. The household I grew up in was fraught with drama, pains and struggles, and there were dark times. By living outdoors, surfing and skateboarding, and losing myself in comic books, I found a world to escape into. Images and narratives and stories and dramas could be more easily dealt with in a two-dimensional plane. My father was a construction worker who built things with his hands. I was enamored by artists building stories with their hands and minds. My art does not resemble these works, but they shaped and formed my visionary acumen.
10. Anything else you'd like to mention?
Thank you very much for the opportunity to show at Michael Murphy Gallery!