Saturday, 31 March 2018

Laurie Lipton - Meet the Artist

The Internet is a magical phenomenon. It takes you to places you couldn’t possibly go to in one lifetime, and to people you would never meet otherwise in the normal course of your days. Like me, sitting in Chennai, and connecting with one of the greatest artists living, across the globe, in Hollywood.

 I had always considered myself an artist. Until I saw Laurie Lipton’s work, and realised just how presumptuous I had been, and just how much more I needed to learn. I had come upon her work on an online gallery, quite by chance. And since then, every encounter with her works, online of course, has left me amazed, awestruck even, with her astounding mastery of her craft.

Laurie’s work is grand, momentous, and monumental. Like the grand old masters long gone. Like them, her themes are of her times, reflecting the ethos and culture around. With one significant difference. She uses no colour. 

If you, like me, considered drawing to be just a preliminary step to painting,  be prepared to be jolted out of your complacency, in more ways than one, when you see Laurie’s work over the years. More than 50 years, to be precise.

Born in the era of the black and white TV, Laurie began drawing at the age of four, and has been drawing ever since. Because in drawing Laurie found the most natural way to express herself and to deal with any issues growing up, as she still does. Whether it was sadness at the death of her parents, or the over-consumption she saw around herself, or the present awareness of the shocking hold of technology on our everyday lives, whatever Laurie feels finds its way, in mind-boggling detail, on the paper in front of her. 

Drawn in large scales, Laurie's drawings take a long time to create, sometimes even six months, working every day, ten hours a day. And, yes, they do take a long time to look at, too. Unlike most modern art, as she says most of which seems to be done quickly, and taking just as little time to see.

A large part of Laurie's work, most so of the recent times, seem to be a statement of our times. 

What happens when we allow our lives to be inundated by technology? Laurie Lipton gives us a glimpse of such a world where all there is, is technology. Surrounding us, inside of us. A world with no trees, no flowing rivers, no fresh flowers, and no happy children...just a lot of metal, wires, chips, disentanglements, dreariness, and death. An ugly world...but very beautifully depicted. 

From an artist who loves her craft, and shows us unflinchingly, abashedly, where we are headed, these works show us a stark world, literally and figuratively without colours. They are impossibly realistic, transforming an abstraction into photorealistc imagery. And to think she uses no photo references at all! 

As a student of art, I am constantly inspired by this artist's phenomenal output, her total dedication, her honest and straight-forward, and yes, sometimes, even rattling expression of her truth.

The following is a written interview with Laurie Lipton.

1.      Describe your typical working day.
Get up, draw, go to sleep.

2.      Why did you choose to be an artist?
I didn’t. I just drew since the age of 4. I didn’t call myself an “artist” until I was 26 and had to fill out a Landing Card on a plane that asked: “Occupation?"

3.      What is your goal as an artist?
To keep drawing and getting better till I drop dead.

4.      What inspires you to paint/create everyday?
Desire, obsession, a vision, a need, self-torture.

5.      How do you choose your subjects?
I think in images. While I’m working on a piece, 10 images pop into my head. It never stops.

6.      How do you think your art serves others or yourself?
I have no idea how my art serves others. I hope it inspires them and/or makes them think. As for me: it’s my purpose in  life.

7.      Do you paint for yourself or with any particular person/audience in mind?
I just do it.

8.      Are you happy being an artist?
I feel blessed.

9.      When do you have the most fun?
When the work is very challenging and very very BIG.

10.   How has being an artist changed you?
I don’t know… I’ve never not been an artist.

11.   If you weren’t paid for it, would you still paint/create?
I wasn’t paid for it for many years. I waitressed & worked in a box office in my 20’s. I drew throughout my teenage years & my childhood for no remuneration whatsoever.

12.   What advice would you give to the aspiring artists?
Just work… a lot. Make art. And don’t listen to other people’s advice.

13.   What have been the important turning points or influences in your artistic journey?
Each drawing leads to the next. There have been no “major" turning points, only a slow, gradual unfolding of the journey through work. My major influences have been other art, books, film, TV, the 21st Century, people.

14.   Which are your favourite mediums/colours?
Pencil & paper, black & white.

15.   What is art for you?


Go, be obsessed. 

(This article is preliminary an essay for a book of essays titled 'Your Art Is Not My Art'. Details soon.)

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