As the 24-hour news cycle feverishly pitches the latest areas to shelter in place and continues to mansplain modes of self-isolation, it is easy to lose focus on the daily rituals- trivial routines and schedules that seems to curb anxiety and depression. Artists, on the other hand, can sometimes be inherently isolated individuals, finding solace within the confines of the studio; a personal space to be creative without restriction.
Artist, Erik Minter stays strong in the face of adversary: contagion.
I caught up with Erik Minter in his studio to touch base during this international chaos. A genuine conversation was had in these tumultuous times, a dialogue focused on personal reflection and artistic vision.
First off, for those who do not really follow your career, what’s your art background?
I’ve been drawing since I can remember… My mother told me she remembers when I was 6, and how I was enthralled by Ellsworth Kelly paintings at the Hirschhorn Museum.
I completed 3 years of undergraduate studies at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, but I expedited graduating by taking some summer courses and graduated a semester early.
Initially, I sought an opportunity to work on some cool sculptural works for Matthew Barney on his final Cremaster 3 film series.
I quickly acquired a studio with my friend Rafael Rangel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, where I was experimenting with all kinds of paint scenarios. I think that's where I was painting on metal street signs with enamel paints and spray. A lot of visual tendencies and stylistic elements were cracked during that time.
To stay afloat during that tough economic period surrounding 911, I ended up pursuing more art and design consulting work, like sculpture fabrications and mold making, welding, and even managing some major public arts installation work for artist, Tom Otterness.
What does your artwork aim to say?
I would like to keep my art open for one's own interpretation.
However, I feel like I'm regurgitating the stimuli of what surrounds us energy, speed, light, colors, fear, excitement, and all the emotions that come within this time of unknowns.
It can be self-referential, from being immersed in the act of painting. Painting is a nexus of decisions made both subconsciously and consciously, that arrive at a kind of expression that embodies taking in everything.
How does your work comment on current social or political issues?
I think every artist today must ask that question… to somehow be relevant to the contemporary art scene.
For the most part, I'm pretty apolitical.
I feel like most of the social and political issues end up creating a kind of tribalism in our culture and I think that is very dangerous for society. I think it promotes a kind of mediocrity in human progression.
I tend to get excited about people who are really making real changes in their field.
In my work, I strive to make painting an experience, traveling to an unforeseen place; hopefully pushing someone's thinking.
On the other hand, I think it's vital for every artist to be an activist. Our art can make big and small impacts on society, and hopefully the environment, in a good way.
As an artist, I'm not interested in the status quo.
Who are your biggest influences?
Well, there are quite a few.
From day to day they are probably changing, because I see so much goodness going on out there.
Miles Davis has always stuck with me since I was a child in Maryland practicing piano. I would listen to my mom's albums on the record player through these sweet tweed speakers in the living room. When I started reading about him, I started to see what I could pick up from him- his presence, how he commanded the band, and his audience. He became a kind of superhero. I am inspired by his ability to push other great musicians of his time. His transformation of contemporary jazz is very inspiring.
More recently, I've grown to really appreciate the Chilean painter Roberto Matta, I love how he was able to weave in and out of major 20th century art movements, from surrealism to abstract expressionism. Yet, he never really fits into one artistic genre. His work has a unique voice that speaks to me. I especially like his investigations into ‘innerscapes’- paintings that deal with psycho analytics and how the artworks become visual analogies of the psyche.
As of late, I take inspiration from the interdisciplinary designer/artist, Neri Oxman, and her amazing research on physical and aesthetic discoveries with material like ecology and nano construction.
Which current art world trends are you following?
If I knew, I would just be following the herd.
I feel too often that there are writers and art surveyors putting their own spin on what's the next’ big thing’ in art.
I guess ‘identity’ is popular now, and there is a figurative push that has been going on for a few decades now. But, I do feel a pulse on abstract art.
What has been your most touching or amazing moment you've experienced as an artist?
I can say the best moments for me are when I'm getting ready to release a large amount of paint onto a surface. I spend time preparing a color story, a narrative, that releases along with my gesture that happens very quickly… There is a certain adrenaline rush that runs through me. After that, the looking and investigating the incident brings me into a deeper state of mind. Something in me gets activated, it beats any roller coaster. It's the unknown that I’m drawn into.
What subjects inspire you?
Futurism, blockchain technology, economics, and mindful exercises are among a few subjects that I enjoy learning about…
Mostly, it's learning, and the practice of art making... It’s such a personal, subjective space… It doesn’t really have any relation to anything else that’s going on in the world.
I think that is cool that there is an interest in wanting to talk and look at art.
How do you define success?
I think one must simply gauge success from feeling joy in what they're doing… When you find that, and really experience it, it becomes a kind of addiction-- Getting up every day and thinking about creating or doing it all over again.
What’s your workday like?
If I haven't worked late into the previous evening, I'll usually get up around 7am… Make breakfast and take a 40-minute walk with my dog. This gets my blood flowing, and I try to focus on my breathing. Then I'll head into the studio, usually do some emails and admin work. Then around ‘noonish’ is when I like to silence the phone. I start working on a surface or getting into mixing my paints.
What inspires you to paint?
It's one of the only things I don't get bored of doing or looking at.
I can sometimes just stare at a painting for a good few hours before I make another mark.
The push and pull of simultaneity in color brings out a good energy in me that keeps me coming back and wanting to know and do more.
Interview was edited for clarity and content.