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“I’m trying to incorporate more texture into my pieces…” – Questions for Susan Swartz

Ferenc Margl

Mostly the depiction of the nature is underlined in relation with your paintings. But you use a very abstract painterly language. Could we say that you also deal with the problems of the painting or you handle the craftmanship part of art only as a tool for expression?

Susan Swartz: I use art as a form of expression; however, with trying to express myself I sometimes deal with problems of painting – choosing the correct colours, designs, and layers. There are times when I’ll paint an entire canvas and then realize it’s not what I want to say so I paint over it and create a new image.


Budapest, Künstlerin Susan Swartz

Susan Swartz, Ludwig Museum, Budapest

Have you ever felt that it is what you want to express but somehow you missed the size or you should make for example an individual piece to a triptych?

S. S.: I work with a variety of sized canvases, so I feel that most of the time I can paint a piece the size I want. I have some diptych and triptych pieces, but I usually create series as a way of further exploring and adding to an individual painting.  The progression of the artwork is visible throughout each series, as I delve further into the idea and push the boundaries of it.

You usually work with acrylic, but on the Nature Revisited series it seems you used silicon as well, and the patterns on the surface look like direct print of flowers? Are these a part of an evolving experimenting?

S. S.: The Nature Revisited pieces are all still made with acrylic. Yes, they’re part of an evolving experiment.  I’m trying to incorporate more texture into my pieces by exploring the use of other mediums to create my images.

Budapest, Künstlerin Susan Swartz

Susan Swartz’s exhibition, Ludwig Museum, Budapest

Do you also interested in other forms of art, for example are you taking photos related to the later painterly depicted landscapes?

S. S.: No, I don’t take photos related to landscapes. I only create acrylic paintings; however, I am now exploring how to incorporate other mediums into my work, for example, elements of the natural environment. My moving art video is currently the only piece of work that shows multiple forms of art. This video, created with photographer Louie Schwartzberg, blends his photographs of nature with my paintings of the environment to show my inspiration for painting.  The video really connects my work with nature.

It seems, at least for me, that you paint really window-like paintings. I mean the frontal surface is always strictly separated from the frontal part. Why is that so? Are the canvases already framed when you paint them, or you cover/remove the not frontal parts later?

S. S.: I never frame my paintings. The image on all of my paintings extends across the canvas and onto the sides of the piece.  Framing the artwork would contain the image.

Sorry, frame was not the correct word in this case. I meant that are you working with canvases which are already stretched?

S. S.: Yes, I work with canvases that are already stretched.

Most of the exhibited works at the show are from the last few years, I found only one piece which is from 2002. Is this considered as a starting point for your recent works, or how is it linked to the other works of the exhibition?

S. S.: Personal Path is an exploration of my journey as an artist. Originally I was a realist painter working primarily with watercolours. My work has since evolved to abstract acrylic paintings, going through a representational phase that primarily focused on depicting the aspen trees of the Park City, Utah environment. In its third iteration, Personal Path at the Ludwig Museum in Budapest focuses primarily on my most recent acrylic works.  However, pieces from the representational phase are also exhibited.  Heaven is one of the few more bright and abstract pieces I created in the early 2000s.

Susan Swartz's exhibition, Ludwig Museum, Budapest

Susan Swartz’s exhibition, Ludwig Museum, Budapest

Is there any reminiscence of this representational phase in your current working method? I mean – do you make sketches or ‘plans’ for your abstract pieces or your method is closer to expressionist action painting?

S. S.: I do not make sketches or plans for my paintings. I only take the ideas in my head and put them on the canvas. Some of my newer series – Secluded Woodland and Nature Revisited – show a bit more of my representational style, yet these pieces are quite different from my representational works and I still consider these new works to be abstract.

When did you start to collaborate with Dieter Ronte, the curator of the current exhibitions? Are there any further shows that you want to realize in Europe?

S. S.: I began collaborating with Dieter Ronte in later 2013. Our first show together was an exhibition at the Kollegienkirche in Salzburg, Austria in the summer of 2014. I have many ideas for Europe, but who knows what will be realized. This spring, I may be exhibiting my work at the Ludwig Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.


(On the occasion of the exhibition Personal Path, Ludwig Museum Budapest.)

“Stiftung fur Kunst & Kultur e.V., Image: Daniel Biskup”

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