This First Friday, Sept. 1, meet abstract painter Ian Grant. His work will be display at Annie Kaill’s starting at 4:30 p.m. The Capital City Weekly was able to catch up to him prior to his show to learn about his artwork.
For those who aren’t familiar with your work, can you give us some history on your background as an artist?
Sure, I moved to Juneau over 20 yeas ago, attending the University of Alaska Southeast in pursuit of an art degree, and I’ve been here ever since. At that time, a wonderful group of artists were lecturing and very talented people were around me, creating this incredible working space for learning and developing one’s skill set. Once I picked up a brush for oil painting I was hooked and have been working in that medium ever since.
How did you become interested in abstract art?
I’ve always been drawn to abstract art. I think if I had to really draw things back to one moment, it would have been seeing the life work of Jackson Pollock at the MOMA in New York City. Life was surely one way prior to that show and immediately different walking out the doors. To sit amongst his work in massive rooms and to experience the overpowering feeling that comes with it, I just wanted to be in that — to create that experience for people the same way it did for me. Somehow, I wanted life to feel like that everyday.
Why is art important?
I think you could ask me this question every morning and each day I would be happy to tell you another reason why art is important. For me, today, producing art is simply how I measure my salt. I think we are all searching for meaning as we go through our days and there is nothing like the truth that comes in art to help express and share that with one another. I know we all have different priorities, things that drive us, but for me, the human experience, all the emotions that come with it, I want to spend life tapping into that. There is no greater reflection of life than art.
Can you walk me through how you typically create a piece from start to finish?
It’s always the same really, something in life reminds me that I’m alive, inspiration strikes and I just know it’s time to get to work. The challenge for me comes with preferring to work as wet as possible on the canvas, so this often requires days on end of painting so I am able to keep up with the paint before it dries…or before I go overboard and ruin another piece. I enjoy the process, the ritual, creating the playlists, choosing three colors to pair with titanium white and then it’s simply being brave and bold enough to lay down the first pallet knife and see where it takes me. I’ve never had a plan of what I would be doing, it just starts with a feeling and then simply begins.
I find your Boneyard series intriguing. Can you tell me about their creation?
The Boneyard series materialized in the summer of 2017, years after our tradition of ignoring all clocks and simply fishing the tide during summers in Juneau. While I was walking the beach, seeing the scattered bones, acknowledging the passing of time, I saw my sons now taller than I ever imagined they could be and a friend lending one a hand further down the shoreline. I became aware of the tradition, the language, the people, and the culture that we had created around us. “The Boneyard” was our place, it will live in my memories always, reminding me of that beautifully painful dance that comes with what life gives and takes away. These Boneyard pieces are my first dive in some time into combining painting, photography and digital art into a final piece. I’m hoping to move forward using Boneyard pieces to draw our attention to sustainability and keeping art happening within our children’s classrooms. I’ll be setting up donations to these efforts based on Boneyard sales.
What advice have you heard from another artist that has resonated with you?
The advice that has most impacted me as an artist came the first or second day of picking up my painting brush (still the one I use now). I was in a studio class where we were to bring in an object to paint. I took the hat off my head and began painfully working at trying to recreate this thing in front of me when Jane Terzis came over and must of saw the trouble I was encountering. She simply said, “Why don’t you stop trying to recreate the hat and paint it as you see it.” That was it for me, in that one sentence Jane had validated that there is no right or wrong in art, it opened up the doors and I’ve never created art in the same way since.
Who and what has influenced your work?
I think the greatest influence on my art has been due to my mothers’ passion for art and sharing that with both my sister and I as we grew up. Abstract work hung on the walls of our home, Hofmann books lay on the coffee table, and we spent what nearly seemed like every weekend at the Met or MOMA in New York. Art has simply been a part of what life is about for as long as I can remember. I do feel though that days spent in love with works from Rothko and Hoffman are what is really influencing my work the most lately. I’m most interested in breaking down what we can convey to another person in as few colors and shapes as possible.
Anything you’d like to share about your art?
The most gratifying moments I have in this world are hearing people speak about what my paintings mean to them. I love hearing what they see and I never challenge their interpretation based on my true intentions. If there were one suggestion I would share about viewing my, or any form of art, it would be to allow yourself to simply be open to the experience. If a piece speaks to you, let it do so in whatever way impacts you the most. It kind of reminds me of people singing their own lyrics to a song – just enjoy it however you see fit.
Grant’s work can be found on Instagram and iangrantart.com.
• Clara Miller is the interim managing editor of the Capital City Weekly.