Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Creative Genius I

Creative Genius is a lil window to the art world. Here you would meet different artist working in different mediums with different accomplishments.

Today we are meeting Michael Azgour, San Francisco based artist. Michael is an abstract figurative artist based in San Francisco. His work has been shown in galleries across the country and his paintings are part of over forty public and private collections in the United States and Europe.

Azgour's recent paintings focus on expressive and geometric abstractions of the figure. The relationships between multiple figures and their environments evoke narrative and psychological interpretations. Distortions in form and depth—as well as an emphasis on expressive paint application—create a visual ambiguity and sense of mystery. He combines these abstractions with representational modes of painting, such as space, light and modeling to achieve provocative and visually complex works. 

Heres a sneak peek in Michaels world....

Tell us about yourself.
I'm an artist living in San Francisco. In recent years, I've focused on abstract figurative oil paintings on canvas. Although many of my compositions involve multiple figures in well-developed environments, I'm particularly interested in the female figure positioned with limited, abstract grounds.

Tell us about your first attempts to be creative.
I've never attempted to be creative. It always came as a drive to create which I followed in whichever way I could discern. As a child, I was inseparable from my simple lego collection. I created games and projects which implemented creativity, such as making boxes to hold toys, creating pop-up books, designing newspapers, signs and birthday cards, attaching mix-matched scraps of wood and hardware in spontaneous sculptures, and using my father's architectural tools to design building interiors. In middle school, I tool ceramics and woodworking classes. As an early teen, I began to draw, write poetry, and then to play music in a band. I was self-taught in nearly everything I did.

How long have you been painting, and what made you start?
I didn't begin painting until my 17th birthday when I used my birthday money to buy an oil painting starter kit. I simple was never exposed to it before. As a child, I had always though of painting as being confined exclusively to realistic painting, of which I had no interest. It wasn't until I saw paintings by the impressionists at the Getty Museum and images of Picasso that I came to be fascinated by the potential of color on a two-dimensional surface. I was memorized by the impact and versatility of the medium and began to paint regularly, with progressively increased enthusiasm that has never yet faded in the fifteen years since I began. In college at UCSD, as a Psychology major, I would sneak into the artist studios (of which I did not have entry to because I never took an art class) and paint all night until the early hours of the morning. Everything I did at this time was experimental and uninformed by art history or instruction.

What decade or style inspires you? 
Have any famous artists influenced you? 
I'm very inspired by modernism in almost every aspect...architecture by Gaudi, the Art Deco graphic arts period, and especially, painting. From expressionism to dada, cubism to surrealism, I'm drawn to the movements that made up the consciousness of the pre-war artist in Europe. I'm also very inspired by the artists of the Bay Area Figurative Movement, ca 1950-60s, including Richard Diebenkorn, Nathan Oliveira, Manuel Neri, and Elmer Bischoff. I'm also really drawn to the contemporary artist, Alex Kanevsky.

When did you know you were an artist?
I've always felt titling oneself an 'artist' was a bit arbitrary. It's not like being a doctor, which you need a degree to be called one. There are people who have spent thousands of hours making art who don't call themselves artists. And there are those who love the idea of being an artist and freely refer to themselves as one very early on. I don't know exactly when I decided to call myself an artist. I've dedicated myself wholeheartedly to art for nearly a decade now and I've been through a lot along the way. It's been both a very rewarding and a very difficult path. Despite this I would never be able to resign from the path, it's just so embedded in every part of me, for good and for worse. Even though I've worked in many roles, including computer programmer, investment assistant, science research, restaurant server, etc., working in art (painting and teaching) decidedly brings me the most enjoyment. I've learned a great deal every step along the way, from my first drawing class to teaching at Stanford Univ., and I continue to learn. The learning process is not a finite thing, and that seems to be what attracts me to it. It's a combination of the fact that there is no correct way, but still there is good and bad. It's like a puzzle out there to solve and the puzzle begins with a blank canvas.

How do you recharge when your creativity hits the wall?
When I'm in the midst of a series of paintings, I like to overdo it. I'll start too many works in the time allotted (by, say an upcoming show), and push myself every step of the way to stretch new canvases and make bold moves and drastic changes again and again. I get into a mode that I enter the studio and attack the paintings in progress fearlessly and continue for a dozen or so hours with very few breaks. I have wet paintings all over the studio, many loaded brushes on the stand, and a 2x4 foot palette covered with paint. By the end of the day, I'm not thinking at all--just reacting, holding five brushes in one hand, reloading another instinctually from multiple pools of paint, applying and scrapping, back and forth onto the large canvases. When the series is complete, after months of work, I'm exhausted. I want nothing more than to escape my studio and do anything else. So, I generally take a few weeks off to recharge and regain my appetite. I like to starve myself of painting, to really feel the hunger, to NEED to paint, before diving back into it. And then it starts again, slowly cleaning, buying materials, writing, sketching, photographing, drawing, until it's the day to build, stretch and prime the canvases, and finally, to feast on the virgin canvas with color.

What is your favorite art related book and website?
I like the book, Bay Area Figurative Art, 1950-1965

If given an opportunity to spend a day with an artist from Present or past who would it be and why?
Leonardo da Vinci, just to hear his take on the world and on art. That would be a revelation.

What are your artistic goals? Where do you see yourself in the near future say ten years from now?
I think success gets in the way of true creativity. The gallery market has tainted true artists like the music industry has musicians. We live in a world that makes it very difficult for true, brilliant artists to flourish without selling a lot of work. Artists learn quite early nowadays that they need to become business savvy or sink. Their work often changes in order to appeal to collectors. They produce the same piece again and again and dull down the concept and personal content of the works. The problem is that most of the people who buy art don't have extremely sophisticated tastes and so they usually purchase the works that have don't push the boundaries of the art world. I've known about this phenomenon and have resisted it tooth and nail. I know that to get where I want to be, I can't give into short-term market pressures. I have to do what what makes me 'come alive,' in the words of Howard Thurman. No matter how financially depressed I was in past years, I never let it get between me and my paintings. This is absolutely the most important thing. It's the only reason I'm still painting today.

Where do I see myself in ten years from now? 
That's a tough question. I want to continue learning, developing and challenging myself in ten years from now. All the great artists--not the really good ones, the GREAT ones--you see a continued development for multiple decades. They were not stale or satisfied after initial success. I pay close attention to the factors that will allow me to grow to new heights and let that lead me along my path. What this will look like visually in ten years, I have no idea. I try to tune into the visible part of the path and develop a series of paintings which take a step in that direction, confident that after doing so the next step will come into view.

What would you say (your piece of advice) to the upcoming artists 
To reiterate the Howard Thurman quote in it's full form, "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that because what the world needs is people who have come alive." 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Welcome to my Art Blog!

A new blog in web land is like a raindrop in the sea. My blog is about art. Anything and everything that fascinates me right from pottery - painting - photography - interiors - to anything and everything beautiful to my eyes would be captured here and shared with you all.

About the title of the blog. In hindi language ' आम जनता ' means Common People. Mango people is the literal translation of the the term 'Aam janta /  आम जनता'. This art blog is not for everyone but is meant for art lovers. People who are passionate about some kind of art. So heres a blog exclusively for you.

Hope you enjoy this blog!