Alex McKenzie's abstract paintings convey a carnivalesque sense of place. The work lures you in with its color and shape, and then you find yourself frozen in place, mesmerized by their electricity. The paintings move and bend to match your imagination's possibilities for them.
We asked Alex a few questions about his process, and his answers will melt your face off with their thoughtfulness on craft.
Paper Darts: Where do you do your work?
Alex Mckenzie: I am fortunate enough to have an upstairs to my garage that has served as my primary studio space lately. It’s quiet and lonely. I miss the communal atmosphere that is present at art schools and some of the residency programs in which I have participated, but I think that’s something you have to accept as an artist (especially a painter)—being alone. That said, I wouldn’t characterize my practice as a particularly solitary/melancholy one. I am not solely a painter and I do a lot of work that falls outside a traditional studio practice. Some of it is socially collaborative, some of it is performative, and a lot of it occurs in public.
Paper Darts: What in life motivates your work, to inspire or upset you?
Alex Mckenzie: My work is mostly motivated by a curiosity in the structures and constructions that give purpose to our lives and allows us to form a sense of reality. Every work or series of works I create operate like an experiment. There is an outer structure (rules, processes, etc.) and an unknown interior space where the results occur. The practice is centered around experience, and in that sense I consider the process of production as more important than the actual product.
In regards to my paintings, they are ultimately a commentary on doubt and conviction. A typical painting has an established end, a point of resolution where the form of the painting enters a static state so that some sort of content can be communicated to the audience. In that sense the painting has become immobile, not that the image will communicate the same way to every viewer (interpretation is always present) but the work has become representative of some sort of belief. My paintings begin with a different premise. They are begun knowing that reaching a point of finality is impossible and are continually worked so that the resulting image is constantly changing. Visually they reference architectural forms, and the metaphor of constant construction is one I refer to often.
Paper Darts: What other artists inspire you?
Alex Mckenzie: I look at a lot of different work. I wouldn’t call myself devoted to one artist or group of artist so ill provide you with a few names (new and old) that I have been influenced by, most of whom have significantly varied practices.
Mel Chin, Jim Lee, Philip Guston, Allan Kaprow, Lee Walton, Tucker Nichols, and John Cage.
Paper Darts: What are you reading right now?
Alex Mckenzie: I have been reading art theory books lately; different collections of essays by artists and art critics/writers. Sometimes I would rather be reading fiction, but I think it is important to pay attention to these sorts of things. One that I have really enjoyed is Failure: Documents of Contemporary Art, edited by Lisa Le Feuvre. It is a collection of essays that chronicle and describe the appearance of failure as a theme in many artists’ practices for the last twenty or thirty years. The content of this book reflects many of the ideas that are present in my current practice.
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