- Where are you from and where do you reside?
- I grew up in Portsmouth, NH and live and work in New York City.
- When did you begin your current practice of wood monoprints? (or is in monotypes? I always forget)
- I started the wood block prints in 2012 after noticing and admiring the wood texture making cameo appearances in art throughout history. It always seemed to me that, even in Renaissance painting for example, that the grain itself always gets an especially lovely treatment from the artist. It is an excuse, almost, to draw an abstract pattern. You see this especially in trompe l’oeil painting and those early Braque and Picasso still life paintings, which seem to come from a part of that. That it was an unexpected way to depict nature in art resonated with me, and I realized I had never seen a print for which the grain was the subject. This project represents a way to enter concepts like drawing, nature and ecology together.
They are monoprints because in each of this series the fundamental wood block is the same, while the white line element changes. Monotypes, on the other hand, have no repeating matrix between them. That these are monoprints reflect the desire to continue using this special piece of wood to honor its composition and natural ‘drawing.’
- What led you to this process and how did you know it was the right one to pursue?
- Growing up, my family was involved in American arts and crafts by way of glassblowing, and the artisan nature of that practice has deeply informed the way I approach making work. When working with craft, be it painting, glass, or print, the question is how to arrive at something that satisfies the desire for discovery. I think the art comes out of making that discovery visible by physically demonstrating an idea. Abstract work becomes possible when the idea might be difficult to explain with language or perhaps is not language-based at all. I am most interested in work that creates and encourages this kind of abstract discussion by posing many questions. ‘I don’t know’ can sometimes be a more interesting answer.
- Are there any aspects of your process that are left to chance?
- Chance is a generative element in my work, in that things that I can’t control as a given often becomes part of the parameters of the work, then the rest of the piece becomes carefully orchestrated around those things. This can be a certain size or color of paper that needs to be accounted for in the work, or a certain color palette that is determined by what inks I might happen to have in the studio. To me it looks like, ‘what can I do to this odd thing in order to make the oddity a central part of the work?’ It’s this line of reasoning that allows me to become specific. There are often accidents that end up working this way too. Something wrong happens, but it’s exciting - an entire work can become about an accident.
I am most interested in work that creates and encourages this kind of abstract discussion by posing many questions. 'I don’t know' can sometimes be a more interesting answer.
— Evan Bellantone
- How do you choose your materials?
- Materials come to me. I think it’s because I grew up in New England and I have a yankee’s hoarding instinct for things that are useful. I am always looking at things as if they were one step away from becoming an artwork or holding up a window sash.
- Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
- There was a David Hockney show in Boston I saw in high school that really explained to me how radical softness can be. It helped me to question the intention behind an artist’s work. It helped me to ask, ‘how does this satisfy something for this person?’
- Where do you find your day-to-day inspiration?
- I find inspiration from unexpected joy. I think that if I am surprised by a positive feeling that other people might appreciate it too, if they haven’t already. This comes from my surroundings, and as a visual artist often reflects textures and compositions from nature and the city. Sometimes I witness people interacting in touching or amusing ways and I want to make work about that too. I like to imagine how to demonstrate that, maybe in a performance, but I usually just take note of it on my phone or notebook. In another life I’m a performance artist!
- What tangible objects or intangible moments are you most interested in representing through your works?
- In my print-based work, I am interested in representing a series of moments that is solidified and captured at the moment the impression is made in the press. I want the work to hold some of the movement and energy that went into it. A little like landing a dance move, there can be a trance-like concentration that gets released when it’s done.
- How has working at Jungle Press influenced your work/practice? Does one inform the other?
- Working in a printshop has been the greatest gift because of the chance to observe and work with artists who have mastered their craft. It’s a delicate relationship because someone is opening up their practice to you, and as a printer, it is your responsibility to protect that. You are working at the service of their work and there is a tremendous feeling of joy in helping an artist to realize something new. That feeling of possibility is something I carry with me into my work. On a practical level though, there is deep spirit of invention in the printshop and it is a great opportunity to explore techniques.
- What’s next for you?
- I’ve started on some messy work. I’m looking to see what happens when the landing isn’t just right, or what happens when you completely lose control and then try and get back from that. Or just stay lost. I would like to see what happens when these things come together.