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Interview: Featured Artist Jim Fuess

War #2
Jim Fuess’s abstract paintings are tone poems in acrylic, at once lissome, dynamic, violent, and graceful. Here, Fuess sits down with Interrobang to expose the method behind his Expressionism.

Interrobang Magazine: I understand you started painting later in life. What inspired you? What continues to inspire you?

Jim Fuess: I spent grades 7, 8, 11 and 12 in Rome, immersed in Medieval and Renaissance art history. We got to see the real art with teachers who treated us as adults. Because I’ve had essential tremor in my hands since birth I assumed that I could not be an artist. I was going to be an academic. When I was thirty, a lady friend left for Switzerland and gave me a pile of paint and canvas and said “play.” I’ve now been painting for 35 years. I love art. It’s what I do. I paint, I write about art, I’ve run the New Art Group (www.newartgroup.com) for 18 years and I curate art shows.

IM: Can you talk a little bit about your technique and how that’s developed?

JF: I work with liquid acrylic paint on canvas. Most of my work is abstract, but there are recognizable forms and faces in a number of the paintings. I am striving for grace and fluidity, movement and balance. I like color and believe that beauty can be an artistic goal. There is whimsy, fear, energy, movement, fun and dread in my paintings. A lot of my work is anthropomorphic. There is interaction between abstract forms and forms that represent animals and humans. The shapes seem familiar. The faces are real. The gestures and movements recognizable.

The painting technique involves using squeeze bottles with different viscosities of liquid paint, two brands of paint, and a number of interchangeable nozzles of different apertures.

IM: Many of your paintings a macro quality about them, the sort of abstraction that comes from viewing something either very close or very far away. Confrontation, Schizophrenia, War #2 — they all have this naturalistic feel, like aerial photography of a littoral zone. By contrast, “Evolution” looks like something you might observe under a microscope. Is that a conscious decision on your part?

JF: One of the fun parts of what I paint is that one painting can look like it is underwater or outer space. They can seem to be both a large or very small image. In Schizophrenia, the contrast is between the huge clouds overhead and the screaming double-white face in the foreground. Confrontation is what leads to the chaos of War. It seemed appropriate that they should be in stark, contrasting black and white.

IM: When you say “confrontation is what leads to the chaos of war,” are you drawing a line between those pieces (Confrontation and War#2)? Can we read them as a loose narrative?

JF: The series goes – Confrontation 1&2 – Attack of the Furies – War 1&2

IM: The names seem to help conjure the desired effect – “War”, “Schizophrenia,” etc., but others, like “Abstract 254″ don’t give any hints. Is there something specific you try to evoke in your pieces? Or do you take a more laid-back approach to how others view your art?

JF: I try to get the viewer to look into the images by giving them a hint, however some of the images are just abstract. This gets the viewer involved and slows down their viewing process. I also want them to have fun and play. Some titles come when the work is finished; some take a while. I was at a show when two older ladies looked at one of my images and said, “look at the two poodles” and by God they were there. They created the title.

IM: You’ve talked about form and movement, and I think there’s a very kinetic aspect to your work. A sense of motion, collision, accretion. How important is the communication of movement and tension in your pieces? And how much of your composition is planned at the outset and how much is spontaneous (and is that important)?

JF: I like movement, collision, or relationships between forms and images. It makes for energy. Some of the images such as the flower series are static. Some of the composition is planned but I’ve learned that a painting can take on a life of it’s own. I don’t fight it.

IM: Anything else you’d like to add?

JF: Over the past two-and-a-half years I have had the privilege of having over 100 images of my work in 73 print and literary sites. I would like to thank the literary community for their selfless, untiring and mostly unpaid devotion to their dream and their help to others.

IM: Thank you, Jim.

JF: Thank you.

- Interview for Interrobang by Christopher Curley