Gideon Rubin

Posted: December 25th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: interviews | Tags: , | No Comments »

I’d like to think the figures in my paintings remind the viewer of certain people or evoke memories rather than portray specific identities.”

Gideon Rubin mainly paints with oil on canvas. He confesses he had always produced portraits. But at some point, the way he did radically changed. Nowadays he is famous for his specific portraits without a face – as if somehow erased – which allows the viewer to picture some features, or not, in an open way. His work stands between abstract and figurative painting and it deals with the notion of identity. The background is usually neutral and the color palette shows light tones such as sand, grey-blue, eggshell, tones that are considered as ‘natural’. You can also see the brush strokes on the canvas. Once you have seen a Gideon Rubin’s painting, you immediately recognise his unique touch the next time you are confronted with a new one.

He is also an avid collector, purchasing objects, vintage magazines and photographs in flea markets, antics shops, even eBay… He owns an impressive collection of old pictures featuring anonymous people. These pictures depict memories that are not his but he uses them in order to initiate a larger interpretation with a lot of different stories. It is amazing to see how easy it is for the audience to project stories or memories just by looking at portraits where a few details are missing. How relevant this is now, at a time when our faces are masked. Once the features like the eyes, the nose and the mouth are removed, the character can be anybody.

Growing up, art was no stranger to him as his grandfather was famous Israeli painter Reuven Rubin who produced a lot of landscapes in the fashion of Cézanne. He previously studied in Paris at the renowned Ecole des Beaux-Arts and he was among the few ones in the family to have survived the Holocaust by escaping to Israel. In addition to this, Gideon’s mother worked as a curator in the Reuven Museum located in Tel Aviv.

Childhood is a recurring pattern in your work as you often start with photographs of children from the era of the late 19th century. It shows through the attitude of the characters in your paintings: they stand quite staid, which is quite unusual today. Does the childhood era represent memories in your opinion?

I guess it represents memories or perhaps some longing to an analog world that almost doesn’t exist anymore. As I stated previously, you pick and collect old portraits photographs.

How much your personal history influenced this practice and your work ultimately?

I mostly use anonymous images. People I don’t know, it creates a certain distance that gives room to free the narrative, I find this a much richer experience. But of course everything is personal… so I can imagine this obsession had quite a bit to do with the loss of families and family albums all those years ago.

Among the numerous portraits, there is one that drew my attention a long time ago: it is a gouache on a magazine depicting an Asian woman, her features are actually quite visible, which rarely happens in your work. I noticed another one on your instagram account, it is the portrait of your daughter Ellie. I was wondering why you chose to keep the features for both of them.

I have some paintings with features. I don’t see a difference anyway.

Could you review your work in a critical way?

Hmmm…. sometimes. 

You sometimes make reference to Old Masters like Goya or contemporary artists such as Balthus and Richard Prince. I wonder what artists would you pick to be featured in your own hall of fame or museum of choice. In other words, what/who inspires you?

It’s a very long list of painters, poets, writers, musicians, filmmakers, visual history etc.. its a list too long to mention but it does update it self constantly. We live in an image based society, it could be just random. Latest editions – pianist Glenn Gould and Hertha Thiele (a German actress from the Weimar cinema).

What is a typical day of work?

Drop the girls at school and then studio until dinner time. Kind of boring but perfect.

Do you have a special routine when working?

Espresso in the morning is a must. And every other day – a run or tai chi before I start my day. Music all the time.

You work with oil painting which has been used for hundreds of years and stands as the greatest media because of its durability and the way it enlights colors. But it also implies a slow drying-time. How long does it take to make a painting?

I am prolific painter and generally work fast anything between about a day and a couple of weeks. Also work with gouache on cardboard for quick small paintings.

What are your current projects?

My solo show in Paris ‘A Stranger’s Hand’ at Galerie Karsten Greve ends in two weeksIn 2021 I have two solo shows opening early February at Fox Jensen galleries in Sydney and Auckland and one at Ryan Lee Gallery in New York in October.. and a few group shows planned for LondonSeoul, Tel Aviv…

Born 1973 in Tel Aviv.

Lives and works in London.

Yuko Nasu

Posted: January 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: interviews | Tags: , , | No Comments »

To draw someone we do not know, who might be someone special is my interest
Yuko Nasu


Imaginary Portrait Series, 2006, oil on paper, 18 pieces (50 x 40 cm each). Courtesy of Yuko Nasu

Born in Hiroshima, Japan.
Lives and works in London.

She studied visual design at Kyoto City University of Art until 1997. She used to work as a graphic designer but soon realised that she wanted to do more physical work than being in front of a computer all day long.
She eventually relocated to London in 2005 to study fine art at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.
Yuko Nasu makes portraits. It includes mostly oil painting but sometimes it can also be water colour.
She uses wild brushstrokes and unique colour combinations work to create a camouflage that reveals its subject. Her technique and its effects may remind Edward Munch’s The Scream where the brushstrokes are sweeping and becoming broader. The features of the face are almost removed, what is left is a trace of a mouth or an eye. We cannot say the works look ‘unfinished‘ though, it is rather that Yuko sees only the essential. We are not quite sure if some erasing is in process.
She had her first UK solo show Imaginary Portraits at Zizi Gallery in 2007. Last year she gained some media attention with a portrait of Kate Moss (KM2), although she stated to be ‘unfamiliar with the cultural references or celebrities in contemporary British media stories‘.
She was exhibiting at Art Projects during the last London Art Fair (13-17 January 2010).


Imaginary Portrait Series, KM2, 2009, oil on paper, 50 x 40 cm. Courtesy of Yuko Nasu

I was in London some time ago and I met Yuko on this occasion. The following discussion took place at her studio.

Tell me about yourself
I graduated in visual design at University. I was making posters, advertisements etc. Then I got a job at a TV game company in Japan, I was a 3D, computer graphic designer. I worked there during five years, but I was really bored, working with computers and digital things you know. I was thinking, ‘I would like to do something different, and use my hands to produce something more organic‘. So I quitted the company and I decided to come to the UK. I applied to Saint Martins College. I managed to get in and I studied for one year. Then I took a one-year class at Chelsea College of Art and Design as an international postgraduate. I finished in 2007 and I became an independent artist.

When did you start being interested in painting?
I already liked painting when I was a kid but I was not really serious about it, it was just for fun. I really started to think about painting when I was working for the TV game company. From that time I got interested in arts in general.

What inspires you?
It depends. Basically all that is energetic: it can be music for instance.

How long does it take for you to make one painting?
Sometimes it takes me a month or even more. But I can also make one painting in about fifteen minutes or less. I would say it depends on if I’m lucky or not!

Do you sometimes get back to your work to modify something -a detail?
Once it is done, I do not get back to it. Otherwise I could ruin the painting.


Imaginary Portrait Series, Y, 2007, oil on paper, 50 x 40 cm. Courtesy of Yuko Nasu

What is a typical day of work?
I have a part time job, three days a week, so I am able to dedicate to my work on the evening sometimes. I have a studio so I spend basically the whole day painting when I am not working. I would come in the morning and I would stay until 8:00 PM. Then I go back home. But there is no rule.

What are your projects?
I just exhibited at London Art Fair. Right now I would like to experiment something different, I have been painting the same way for quite some time. I think it is time for a change. For the past year I have been painting in a different way, more abstract. It does not have a title yet.

How important is art in your life?
We cannot live without art, can we? (laughs).
More seriously I am happy when I am painting.

Could you review your work in a critical way?
That is a difficult question… Looking at my work in an objective way is something I am not sure to be able of doing. Maybe I would say my work is getting more sophisticated. And at the same time it is loosing some primitive expression I suppose. As I am becoming better at painting, I have to be cautious not to loose the primitive energy. Otherwise my work could become boring.


1108b, 2009, oil on paper. Courtesy of Yuko Nasu

What is your dream?
I would like to retire in Hawaii when I turn sixty or seventy! Why not?
More seriously, my current dream would be to become a successful artist.

Did you fulfill your childhood dreams?
Growing up I wanted to be a lawyer. I found myself being fascinated with people working in politics or business, all the executive people you know. But I doubt I will fulfill that dream and I like this idea somehow. I prefer to be a painter, working with colours and canvases.

What do you see for yourself in ten years?
I have no idea. I cannot tell exactly what I will be doing in ten years. I wish I could stay in London or at least in Europe. Japanese and European cultures are totally different. There are so many ways of thinking here. But I think I will eventually go back to Japan someday.

What epitaph on your grave?
Rest In Peace? (laughs). We do not have this tradition in Japan. There are no inscription on the grave. We keep ashes in graves, in the past we buried dead bodies but nowadays we do not. I do not want to have my grave and I want my ashes to be thrown in the air or in the ocean. I wanna be nothing after death. It might be a sad thing to my parents because keeping ashes and having a grave is a traditional way for any family in Japan.



Shelf at Yuko’s studio. Picture by the author.

Simon Henwood

Posted: September 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: no blah blah: one artist | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

I paint my subjects as they are, as they choose to pose. There is no self-awareness; it is a very raw display of their own selves.’
Simon Henwood


Untitled, from the Cricklewood series

The launching of his retrospective book earlier that year is an occasion to focus on Simon Henwood, multi-disciplinary artist.
He lived in New York City between 1988 and 1992, where he released 11 books for adults and children, such as The Clock Shop, The King Who Sneezed and A Piece of Luck.
He launched Purr Magazine in 1993, which was the first magazine to attempt to combine art, comics, music and literature together. It featured artists’ painting and photography, as well as Henwood’s art. Each issue was accompanied by 10inch vinyl recordings. The magazine was distributed all over the world and become a small cult phenomena before stopping in 1995.
Soon after, he started a publishing company named Purr Books. He then involved himself with animation and started working on an animated series for British TV.
Alice was his second magazine venture. It focused on the representation of childhood in art and the media. It is very rare nowadays to find one issue of the magazine.
Simon Henwood has worked through a wide range of artistic media including painting, 3D animation, magazine production and film. He directed several music videos, for Apollo 440, Devendra Banhart, and Roisin Murphy, who is sexually assaulted in a funny way by a giant lobster in the Movie Star video.

Simon Henwood was born in Portsmouth, England in 1965. He lives in London.


Charlotte Mullins, Henwood: Paintings and Films 1998-2008, Stephane Simoens Editions, 2009


Ruby Blue

Wes Lang

Posted: June 1st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: no blah blah: one artist | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

In 2007 two pieces Wes Lang was supposed to exhibit in the group show “Mail Order Monsters” at Deitch Projects, NY, were pulled off because Jeffrey Deitch said (after the show opened) that they were not appropriate. The show, curated by Kathy Grayson, was supposed to explore “new trends in fucked-up figuration“, according to the gallery website. The original press release reads “Wes Lang’s monsters come from the cultural detritus of a very fucked-up America. He takes images pushed under the cultural carpet and forces them back into view to be countenanced. He often takes on Native American art, black Americana, the Civil War era, or pornography in his exploration of the deleted scenes of American history.”


What Is and What Never Should Be…, 2007, mixed media. Courtesy of the artist

The banned pieces of work included a pickaninny doll and a drawing. The term pickaninny (also picaninny or piccaninny) was used in the first place to caricature the children of African American slaves or African American citizens later. The pickaninny imagery included bulging eyes, messy hair, red lips and wide mouths. Although the term has largely fallen out of use and is now considered offensive and racist, it is still part of the American lexicon.


Walt Whitman’s 138th Dream…, 2008, mixed media on antique paper. Courtesy of ZieherSmith, NY

Wes Lang uses a lot of reference material in his work. He admits constantly buying books and looking at porn sites for pictures. He selects some images and draws them. There are a lot of skulls and naked girls involved, which are part of the biker’s traditional imagery. Text is also very important, he usually puts some song lyrics in his drawings. As Kate Wolf wrote in Dossier, “Lang’s work often contorts slogans of the late sixties and early seventies: bumper sticker-worthy irreverences, borrowed from recognizable political phrases from the 60s, are transformed into a grab-bag of advertising, drug culture, pornography, rock and roll lyrics and self-expression (“If it Feels Good Do it”). Lang couples these slogans with familiar imagery, much of it being reinterpretations of classic icons: a yellow happy face, Harley Davidson insignia, grim reaper, pot leaf, etc.”


The Well-Known Man (unframed), 2005, pencil on paper, engraved deer bone and unique frame.

Courtesy of ZieherSmith, NY

Wes Lang in conversation with David Coggins for Interview Magazine, December 2008
David Coggins: Have you turned to painting because you feel that you’ve gone as far as you could go with drawing?
Wes Lang: I go back and forth. Some of my drawings are pretty raw. There’s still an attention to detail in somehing that looks simple, but in fact is often harder than sitting there meticulously rendering something. I don’t think about it too much if something strikes me, I just do it.

DC: There’s a clear attraction to American history in your work. What interests you about America, and how does that come out in your work?
WL: I like to take American history and then completely ignore it. I come at it visually, taking images and telling my own story. It comes out of criticism and great love. There are problems (with America), and we all know that, but I’m attracted to the dark side of things. I did a bunch of blackface stuff a couple of years ago. That was a little touchy. I wasn’t doing it to piss people off. I was doing a work about Abraham Lincoln, and I came across these of little mammies. The images were striking and simple, and I was attracted to them.

DC: So you’re attracted to loaded imagery?
WL: I’m covered in it, personally. (indicates his tattoos of women, skulls, crosses, and Indians) I’ve always been a collector of weird imagery, even when I was little. There was no question what I wanted to do with myself, since I was very small.

DC: Do you think you’re challenging the audience when you raw a figure in blackface? Do you trust that they’ll know where you’re coming from?
WL: I’m taking it out of its context and putting it into my context and hoping that people can understand that I’m not glorifying this stuff.

DC: How do feel about being in the art world? Is it something that you enjoy or suffer through?
WL: I don’t hate it by any means. I get to do exactly what I want to do everyday day. I just try not to spend to much time in it. You have to be a part of it. You can’t just say “I’m the fucking shit”, and forget it. I definitely carry myself with an attitude though. I’m into bikes and that kind of shit. It helps me sometimes and hinders me other times. But I just want to work with people I trust.

DC: Do you have an official tattoo count?
WL: Just one, it’s easier that way.


The Taste of Life’s Sweet Wine…, 2008, mixed media on antique paper. Courtesy of ZieherSmith, NY

Born in 1972.
Lives and works in Brooklyn.
Began exhibiting in the late nineties.
favorite music: the Grateful Dead, old Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre, Suicidal Tendencies, Wu-Tang, the Doors…
reading material of choice: Charles Bukowski
movies: Hells Angels Forever, The Departed, McCabe & Mrs. Miller
hobbies: motorcycle (he has a Harley Davidson chopper)
favorite tattoo: the skull on the palm of his left hand

watch Wes Lang in his studio:

art gallery:
ZieherSmith (New York)

Wes Lang & Donald Baechler, Skulls and Shit, Loyal, 2009
The Paradise Club, Artwork by Wes Lang, Eighth Veil, Los Angeles, 2009 (published  at the occasion of the show “Carry On” teamed with Ryan Schneider at Eighth Veil gallery, on view from 15 May to 20 June 2009)


The Moonshiner’s Other Dream, 2005, pencil, colored pencil, ink, gouache on paper, engraved deer bone and unique frame.

Courtesy of ZieherSmith, NY