Alicia Gibson’s paintings take you back to high school where the margins of your notebook pages are lined with crushes and doodles of hearts and peace signs. Only these are made up of layers of built up paint, found music sheets, key chains and fake flowers with loaded sayings like “MARRY ME” and “DECADES OF DECEIT”. Drawing from her memory and subconscious, Alica’s work is raw and personal. We were able to get a bit of insight into Alicia Gibson’s process during our studio visit. Recently she has shown at Canada Gallery, Lyles and King and Rachel Uffner. She is currently in the group show ‘Fort Greene’ at Venus LA which will run through October 29th.
F: How do you start a painting?
AG: I start with a bit of loose content, paint, and a blank canvas.
F: There are a lot of similarities between your paintings and your drawings. Do you approach them the same way?
AG: They both share an adolescent color palette, meaning colorful/trapper keeper.
Of course with the paintings I have to invest a lot more time and money. The drawings tend to be slightly more representational but I do keep them around my computer and jot notes/ schedules on. I’m terrible at schedules. I do my drawings at home and paintings in the studio. Separation of church and state.
I know the drawings are probably more free, looser as it probably would be for anyone, but I really enjoy painting as well. Did you know Warhol liked his mother’s handwriting so much he often asked her to use her script for his illustrations. Don’t know where I was going with that besides the fact of the the use of typography to express emotion.
F: Your work feels almost like a journal entry. They come from a personal place with very specific narratives. Can you talk a little bit about that?
AG: Yes, the work is personal and diaristic. It just seems more honest to me. I’m kind of in my own head a lot and have a hard time grasping what people are actually saying. I’m often stuck in a negative space. Like I might totally minsterperate what someone says.
They could be saying the nicest things, but I take it as a diss. Then, I’ll obsess about what I think they said, get pissed off, angsty, and generally make a painting from this misinterpretation. But, by the end, the painting usually becomes funny, at least to me and my friends…an inside joke? A way to process a graver situation, that may or not be real.
F: Does the work start as drawing or journaling?
AG: I never journal, or keep a diary or anything like that. But I do ruminate or jot random notes to myself that I find much later. The drawings are a separate entity to me and I don’t believe I’ve made a drawings for a painting. Maybe I get a few Ideas after the fact, but I never make a drawing with a painting in mind. It would kill the drawing.
F: Do you have a phrase before you start your text works or do you start painting and it naturally occurs?
AG: I usually have a phrase, but it’s not really realized until I sit down to paint. It’s usually words that have been bouncing around my head. Then I’m able to paint. So, it’s pretty spontaneous. At the same time it comes almost from my subconscious, what I’ve been dealing with in my life brought to the surface. Memories, issues I’m dealing with at the time. They could be from that morning to past relationships months ago. The phrases are real, not fictitious.
F: There are multiple reads and layers in your work from the construction of the image and the text. Can you talk about how you build up the surface? There is a lot going on with an assemblage of burlap and muslin over the canvas. Can you talk about the different materials you are using in your work.
AG: I almost just said it’s ok to be arbitrary, but yeah nothing really is, even if we try. Everything comes from a memory(inside ourselves) or is a response to a given situation, personal or political. The paint handling is the voice. And I’m all about double-entendres when I can be. I’m just as confused as anyone else and I really respect the courage to be vulnerable in one’s work. Love it or hate it:) I try to put as much of me in the work as I can. By this I mean mainly the aura, but you can’t really force that one.
AG: I’ve always been interested in materials and the muslin and plaster of paris allow the paint to be absorbed, kinda like a freso. The burlap obviously allows for a rough surface, that kills the brushes, but adds a variant. I usually get into various materials through happenstance, i.e. people will give me the fabrics or trinkets:) As of late, I’m using mainly just paint on canvas.
F: The surface seems really worked up how many layers levels do you go through? Is there a call and response in your process?
AG: I always start on a fresh canvas except maybe once I painted over another patinging. I don’t like thinking about the older painting while I’m making a new painting on top of it. It’s kind of sad, like I’m killing the older painting because it wasn’t good enough. Yeah, it’s sad all around. I don’t really see my work as having layers, I mean I don’t old mastery techniques. I guess by using varying materials, it creates layers. I have no idea how many. Every piece is a variation. There is a call and response method in my paintings, but I don’t just dive in. Of course I have a working idea of what I want.
F: It seems like a lot of stuff is created in the moment and very personal. Do you ever step back after completing a painting and have the urge or need to self censor?
AG: No, but my mom tries to make me sometimes. I mean there is probably only one person besides myself who would know what the work is about and that is the person whom the work is about. It’s really pretty cryptic. I have had many panic attacks feeling everyone knows this and that relationship described in the painting, but they don’t.
F: Can you describe the narrative in creating the work.
AG: The work often comes from ruminations. Phrases that stick with me after I leave a conversation. A lot of the time the imagery isn’t linked to the text. Or maybe subtly. It often starts from a dark place and the work is a way to process and by the end of the piece I’m usually laughing at the previous ‘serious’ situation.
F: You just recently moved studios. How was that process? Were you able to pick up where you left off?
AG: I’ve never had windows before, so that was a huge change. Actually I’m not a real fan of sunlight and kind of miss the grittiness of my last studio which I’d had for 8 years. But it was time to change and this studio has more wall space and is a bit bigger. Give me another month and it will be just as grimey:) My studio mate is great and we’re supportive of each other. It is about a 10 min walk from home as opposed to the two miles.