Interview with Naomi Schlinke


Neoteric Art: You were a dancer in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. What made you decide to become a visual artist?

Naomi Schlinke: Choreographers struggle harder than any other artist just to stay afloat financially. An elaborate support system is required, including a board of directors and salaried dancers. I really couldn’t bear the thought of being shackled like that for the rest of my life. I wanted the directness and simplicity of a painting practice that was more akin to dancing itself. Ultimately, whether dancing or painting, my work all comes from the same core aesthetic and existential values.time-machine-schlinke-2008.jpg
NA: Describe your overall work and thought processes when starting a new piece.

NS: The intrinsic qualities of the materials themselves serve as my starting point — how they flow or puddle, what patterns they tend to form as they dry, whether or not they contract, for example. Sometimes I begin with a mental image of an action (pouring, flinging, brushing); that action interacts with the intrinsic behaviors of the materials, creating a particular provocative visual and energetic situation. Some aspects of an image are found in a flash while others reveal themselves slowly and methodically. Ultimately, each painting represents a culmination of the deliberate and the serendipitous, the visual and the kinesthetic. Along the way I conjure images of things and not-things, forces and consequences. Evocative, unstable forms take on meaning, association and even narrative possibilities when imagination is given free rein.oceans-of-ink-c-schlinke-2008.jpg

NA: Discuss your current series, “Oceans of Ink”.

NS: The core energetic image of this series is that of an abundance that crests the levee. Further into this process, I found a chorus of vertical events that oscillate between the organic and the graphic while their momentum carries them across the horizontal support. The beautiful liquidity of the ink allows me to use the brush like a seismograph and my hand like a shovel. Momentary and unique in the way that process-based art can be, these are images of “formation in progress”, equally legible from micro to macro levels.

NA: In 2007 you created an installation called “REM” which consisted of more than 100 images. Why were you drawn to creating an installation and do you see yourself creating more installations in the future?

NS: Initially, my intent was to simply settle down with an unlimited number of small panels and develop a certain kind of imagery. Predominantly inky black on white, they range in scale from four to twelve inches square. This was very much a continuation of a preoccupation with multiple images that has been with me from the beginning. Adapting themselves to the contingencies of each particular space, the constellations of images surge and eddy in clouds of association and juxtaposition, much like choreography. One beauty about “REM” is that it has yet to make a public debut outside my studio and yet it exists. Ultimately, this imagery was the groundwork for “Oceans of Ink”.


NA: You relocated to Austin, Texas in 1994. Discuss the Austin art scene. Have things changed since the mid 90’s.

NS: Relocating to Austin after 20 years in San Francisco was a difficult transition. When I first came here, the city was much more turned inward and the local art scene was unchallenged by outside forces. I think Texas itself has raised its cultural aspirations and Austin’s has risen along with that tide. Arthouse has become the place to see and be seen for younger artists. The glamorous new Blanton museum is finally the place one can always go for inspiration. Art Palace gallery drew national attention a few years ago in the New York Times. My own gallery, dberman , where I will have a show opening February 2009, is considered an enduring place for both younger and especially mid-career artists.

NA: If you had to pick one painting that shouldn’t be missed, what painting would that be?

NS: Given that I have been a painter who values the balance point between the intentional and the serendipitous, you might be surprised that Max Beckmann is one of my most revered artists. When I saw his great triptych “The Actors” at the Fogg Museum at Harvard, I was transfixed and deeply nurtured.