Wednesday 19 February 2014

10 Question Column: American Painter Davyd Whaley

Davyd Whaley working on his painting Sacred Heart at Art Egg Studios New Orleans, Louisiana. The medium is oil, enamel, blood, mixed media on Arches paper. Photograph by Norman Buckley 2013
American artist Davyd Whaley’s new solo exhibition Subconscious Tendencies has opened at Galerie Michael in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. He talks to Jeanne-Marie Cilento about the show and his method of working in our 10 Question Column

DAVYD Whaley’s paintings exude energy, colour and life. Although they explore both the light and dark sides of human experience, the paintings’ brilliant tonal palette and raw composition express a passionate joy in living. The new works voyage through the complex workings of our mind and spirit and the mystery of our subconscious and dreams.

Whaley grew up in the American South in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Tennessee where life was hard and the arts did not play a great part in quotidian existence. His own path took many twists and turns before he returned full-time to his life-long love of drawing and painting. Although he began to draw at 12 years old and continued throughout high school, Whaley’s life changed when he joined the Navy as a way to pay for his university education. He excelled at electrical engineering and after a four-year stint on submarines went to North Carolina State University to earn his electrical engineering degree, all the while continuing to draw and paint.

Today, Whaley says the training helped him as an artist, especially in drawing with perspective, line and scale. After his degree, a successful career working in the corporate world followed with executive and managerial positions in large companies. However, Whaley's 20-year career dramatically came to an end when he had a series of unexplained seizures which made it impossible to work as an engineer.

“I felt that I had an epiphany of some sort,” Whaley says now. “Creating art was no longer something I did as an outlet for stress, but became something that consumed me. And my work became bolder and originated from a deeper place. I moved away from figurative painting and more into the world of the abstract.”

Whaley continued his studies a the Art Students League in New York with Larry Poons and Ronnie Landfield and at UCLA with Max Malansky and Nick Brown from the Chicago Art Institute. He participated in group shows and began selling his work which was featured in art magazines and galleries. Whaley had also began to teach art in his spare time to seniors and underprivileged children in Los Angeles. In 2012, Whaley won the prestigious Los Angeles Volunteer of the Year Public Arts Education award.

Hollywood played a part in Whaley’s growing artistic career when his work was seen by Galerie Michael, a top Beverly Hills art gallery, at the summer art show hosted by Oscar-winning producer HarveyWeinstein. Last year, Galerie Michael held a major solo show of Whaley's works which was very successful. Today, the artist continues to paint full-time in his large, light studio in downtown Los Angeles at the Santa Fe Artist's Colony.

1. What are the themes you are exploring in your new exhibition?  
The title of the show Subconscious Tendencies explores work on a subconscious level of survival, abandonment, beauty, love, rage, deception, violence, death, denial, and acceptance. My paintings, on a personal and collective level, are about what it means to be a survivor. Most of my paintings suggest inner conflict subliminally, metaphorically or on an unconscious level.

2. How does this show differ from the last one you did a year ago at Galerie Michael?
This show shines a light on some of the principal methods concerning how and why I create work; specifically, my work with my Jungian analyst and how it has impacted my work. Last year, the gallery shared a video introducing me which allowed viewers to see my studio and hear about my work from a narrator. This year I hope to be able to share in my own words. Last year, I  didn’t understand many of the terms well enough to articulate what was happening to me on a psychological level. 

3. What part of painting gives you the most happiness?  
The most notable times, yet the most ironic for me, are those times in which I lose all consciousness of the work: I have no memory of the deed or painting the pictures. I forget basic things, like eating, drinking, and I paint in a trance-like state. It sometimes feels like I have just taken ecstasy. When I look at the image on the canvas afterwards it often looks very alien to me. If I could use a word to describe this, I would use mystical because the experience is a spiritual one.  

I have no sense of when it will return. There are paintings which were painted by me without any memories. The only way I know the paintings are mine is the fact that there are sometimes photographs or videos of me painting on the canvases. The titles of these works are selected after these works are completed. Happiness for me is achieved in the sharing of the work. I hope there is something in my paintings that connects to the viewer on an instinctive, environmental, emotional or psychological level.

4. Do you find your creative process is more rational or instinctive?
Painting for me has always been instinctive. It is not an intellectual process. I often build paintings from my subconscious, from dream-based images which I later work out in psychoanalysis, discovering their connections to myths and folklore and then discovering their metaphorical or allegorical meanings.

5. Do you like to have a set schedule of working creatively everyday in your studio in Los Angeles or is the process more fluid?
I find that the process is more fluid.  It would probably be better for me if the schedule were a set schedule and certainly I do have to paint or draw everyday. I actually have psychogenic movements, which start in my right arm and become very aggravated and cause pain if I don’t follow their dictates. I do enjoy my creative process, with a great love, but it also causes a great pain like the Red Shoes: once you have them on you have to dance.

6. Can you describe the experience, person or training that has had the greatest impact on your artistic career?
Larry Poons has had the biggest impact. When I studied with him at the Art Students League of New York, he told me to get my own studio and not to worry about what other people paint. I feel very fortunate to have studied with such a master painter. In this upcoming show I have a piece Colour Is Your Only Weapon which I completed in his studio in New York.  The title comes from his quote. As an artist you only have two things that separate you from anyone else, colour and light. You can paint anything you want, but it must have colour and light. All of of Larry’s advice has been true.  He was an excellent teacher.

7. We've recently interviewed two other Los Angeles-based artists Thomas Houseago and America Martin ~ who both find the city a good place to paint. How do you find Los Angeles as a place to work as an artist?  
Los Angeles is a good place to live and work as an artist.  There was a show called Pacific Standard Time:  L.A/L.A 2011 at the J.Paul Getty Museum that raised the awareness of the Los Angeles art scene.  Prior to 2011/2012 I don't think there was as much attention on LA globally. People thought of artists here as hobbyists. That is changing. After the PST show it's exciting to see Los Angeles artists have works in major museum collections such as John Baldessari at the Guggenheim, Lynn Foulkes at MoMA, Catherine Opie at the Guggenheim, Chris Burden at the New Museum etc.

8. Is there any other particular town or place in the world you find inspiring?
For this current show I was very inspired by the city of New Orleans. The colour in New Orleans was carnival-like, the shapes more primitive and unfinished than you might see in a other cities.  Pink buildings, with green porches, red bricks against a bright cerulean blue sky. Or one day I would see someone dressed as an indian chief dancing in bright pink feathers in front of the Virgin Mary while the sun set on the Mississippi River.  

9. In our digital age what does painting give us as an art form?
In some instances the digital age may give us the same result as painting. For the collector there seems to be some advantage, because there is consistency in how the artwork is produced by the artist, for example the works of Damien Hirst,Takashi Murakami. But I prefer painting because it is tactile and it uses the right side of the brain, as opposed to the left side, which I think I think is more involved in digital work.

10. Recently in the United States, there have been huge prices achieved in modern art sales such as Francis Bacon's 1969 Three Studies of Lucian Freud, for $142.4 million USD at Christie's in New York. Plus Jeff Koons Balloon Dog (Orange) for $58,405,000 USD ~ the highest price paid for a living artist. What do these prices say about today's contemporary art market?

Honestly, it’s hard to put my head around such an abstract question. Looking at the scenario of the contemporary art market it would indicate that extremely rare works of art will inflate with collector demand. The number of collectors are exceeding the available valuable works of art. Francis Bacon's Three Studies of Lucien Freud, valued at $142.4 million USD,  purchased by Ms Elaine Wynn, net worth $1.9 billion USD. She has loaned the painting to the Portland Art Museum. She is a board member of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which doesn’t have any works of art as valuable.  In my opinion, this purchase offers a great benefit to the community. 

David Whaley's exhibition Subconcious Tendencies is at Galerie Michael, 224 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills USA:

Click on images for full-screen slideshow
Boy in Uniform 2013 Oil on linen 24 x 36 inches

City Baby 2013 Oil on wood 12 x 12 inches 

Your Mental Illness is an Illusion 2012 Oil on canvas 81 x 46 inches

Goofer Dust 2013 Acrylic on Arches paper  24 x 36 inches

Your Mental Illness is an Illusion I 2013 Oil, mixed media on canvas, 6 x 12  feet 

Sacred Heart 2013 Oil, enamel, blood, mixed media on Arches paper 72 x 110 inches 

Magnetic Fields 2013 Oil, mixed media on canvas 22 x 17 inches

Armour 2013 Oil on masonite 29 x 29 inches

Rubedo 2013 Oil on wood 38 x 46 inches

Green Snake Lady 2013 Oil on wood panel 12 x 12 inches 

Bedevil 2013 Acrylic, mixed media on canvas 3 x 4 feet

Insistent Rhythm  2013 Acrylic on Arches paper 24 x 18 inches 

Un Deux Trois 2013 Pencil and crayon on a paper menu 17 x 11 inches

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