Yves Wallpaper, Oil on linen, 2012
How do you start a painting? With a range of studies that are more about the figure.
Your paintings always include a male figure – do you consider it portraiture? I want my paintings to be a riff on traditional portraiture, which is rather amusing since I also don’t care whether or not they function as portraits. To quote Kenneth Clark, the nude “is not the subject of art, but a form of art”.
Nikoma Vienna; Oil on Panel sketch on left; Oil on Linen painting on right, 2008
How has your work evolved? It is now less abstract but more painterly. I am better at manipulating materials. That’s why I’m currently copying a Titian – I want to learn to paint like him.
Where do your backgrounds come from? I collect books and catalogs on fashion, rugs, wallpapers, fabrics, kimonos and tapestries from all periods and cultures and they often show up in paintings when I least expect them to. There is rarely an intellectual reason, it is almost always a visual reaction, though often my combinations amuse me. I also like to use paintings and drawings for backgrounds, everything from Bridget Riley’s paintings to a Giulio Romano tapestry (it was heavily transformed).
Vatican; Charcoal and Gouache drawing on left, Oil on Linen right, 2001
Chinese Wallpaper; Pencil on left, Oil on Linen on right, 2012
The Chinese Wallpaper drawing and painting are virtually the same and yet different – notably the difference in expression – amused and possibly mocking in the drawing and serious and pensive in the painting. Was that a deliberate decision? No, not deliberate. My paintings are more true to how the model actually looks and with oils I can refine it more.
Nikoma Ruhlmann; Charcoal drawing on left, Oil on Linen on right, 2012
How does the Ruhlmann drape add to the Nikoma oil painting? The rings in the fabric echo Nikoma’s hair and creates soft halos.
What is your favorite color? (long pause) Red. All rooms need red, all paintings need red. There are some really great paintings signed in red. Picasso was good at that.
Your maquettes are striking – how do they figure in your work?
I take sculpture classes to become a better painter and the maquettes are the product.
What art is on your walls? The work I choose to hang on my walls is important to me emotionally and aesthetically. In addition to photographs I’ve acquired over the years there is work by artist friends Kelly Driscoll, Aleksandar Duravcevic, Paige Neuhauser, Kelly Saxton, David Sokosh, my mom, niece and nephew. There is also quite a bit of my own art. There is a wall in my living room where I frequently change the art based on what appeals to me at the moment.
I am a fan of classic fashion photography and I see a distinct relationship between the work of photographers like Avedon, Penn and Wolfe and painters like Pontormo and Sargent.
What do you consider the best show of 2012? The Renaissance Portrait show at the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) last spring. The Portrait show was amazing because it was a show about an idea (birth of secular portraiture in modern times) illustrated with sculpture and drawing as well as the expected paintings, beautifully installed without a single piece that didn’t add to the story. The show started with a Donatello bust that was the best sited object I saw last year and ended with Bellini. You could escape life for awhile.
The most disappointing show of 2012? The Warhol Show at the Met. Nobody needs to see the Julian Schnabel painting of Barbara Walters. There were a couple of great Warhols and a lot of shitty Warhols.
Your favorite museums? The Met, The Frick, The Detroit Institute of Arts, the ground floor of the National Gallery in D.C. (the sculpture wing), the Tate (the original), National Gallery (London), The Ufizzi, Palazzo Pitti, the Villa Borghese (I have not been to the Prado or the Louvre), the Victoria & Albert.
What do you do to relax? Watch TV like an addict.
Click here to see Karl Kipfmueller’s work featured in townhouse.bz/art.