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New fine art by Will Felix to be unveiled in 2017. These will represent a radical shift in style, content, materials, process, and presentation.

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The Four Seasons

The Four Seasons - composite of the 4 paintings
The 4 Seasons - Summer
The Four Seasons – Summer, 2003

This four piece work was created back in 2003. With art supply funds being low, I sought the ability to paint in an impasto-like quality, but using cheaper acrylics. I discovered acrylic gel medium and varnish, and this was the result.

The 4 Seasons - Autumn
The Four Seasons – Autumn, 2003

Over the years, this series has been among the most recognized, and consequent works have been influenced by them. As for the subject matter, they serve as a precursor to a larger project that I plan to work on in the future.

The 4 Seasons - Winter
The Four Seasons – Winter, 2003

“The Four Seasons” is available for sale now in giclée print canvas or paper, various sizes, at Crated and at Fine Art America. You can purchase either one season, or all four as a set.

The 4 Seasons - Spring
The Four Seasons – Spring, 2003

Two artists…

…that I view as mentors:

Pablo Picasso

PabloPicasso-Les-Demoiselles-dAvignon-1907
“Les demoiselles d’Avignon,” 1907

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel-Basquiat-Bird-on-Money-detail-1981
“Bird on money (detail),” 1981

…that my work gets compared to often:

Georgia O’Keefe

017-georgia-o-keefe-theredlist
“Gray line with black, blue, and yellow,” 1923

Wassily Kandinsky

kandinsky_wassily_4
“Composition VII,” 1913

…that my college art professors recommended to me:

Oskar Kokoshka

Kokoschka, Oskar, 1886-1980; Apocalypse
“Apocalypse,” 1950

José Clemente Orozco

katharsis_web
“Katharsis,” 1934

…that I detest:

Jeff Koons

25-jeff-koons.w750.h560.2x
“Play-Doh,” 1994–2014

Thomas Kinkade

gonwin2
“Gone with the wind,” 2011

…current and successful, that I admire:

Cecily Brown

brown dreamboat
“Dreamboat,” 2011

Jasper Johns

jasper johns map 1961
“Map,” 1961

…that I would like my art to gain influence from:

Norman Lewis

lewis twilight sounds 1947
“Twilight sounds,” 1947

Helen Frankenthaler

Hint from Bassano, 1973
“Hint from Bassano,” 1973

A teacher of modern art

In the last few months, I’ve learned a great deal about modern art and abstraction from British artist Matthew Collings. He has been like a professor that I never had. Not to diminish the value of my professors at Kent State; but the knowledge I got from them was more fundamental. What I’ve learned from Collings on his BBC documentaries: This is Modern Art from 1998, and “The Rules of Abstraction” from 2014,  was how this art all fits in this current world.

The documentaries provide me with a perspective that I (and I believe most people) have lacked. Most people instinctively see modern art as elitist, or purposefully obtuse. Collings shows the underlying narrative; and in doing so illustrates how the complexity of modern art mirrors the complexities of modern life.

While there is still a ritualistic, supposed instinctive appreciation for formal representational art, it is enlightening to embrace the expanded creativity of the modern artist. It’s also reassuring for those of us seeking to contribute to the newer narrative.

Owning up

I had sushi for lunch today. Sushi is something that used to be eaten by the affluent few in the US. Now it’s available to the masses at your local supermarket. Yet it still retains a certain level of distinction as something more than just “common food.”

There has been a lot of backlash against the oligarchy of late. Many colleagues and friends are attacking what they see as the rich taking advantage of us; calling for the overthrow of their dominance, and suggesting some form of violent revolution… even cannibalism. Our leaders now seem focused on maintaining the systems that have been put in place to benefit the upper crust. And the rest of us don’t like this, because it deprives us of some of our necessities.

As an artist, I find myself in conflict with this situation. Several of my works have (and continue to) address issues of class, and criticisms of the ruling hegemony. However, I would be lying to myself if I didn’t acknowledge that a good part of my drive to create and communicate through art has to do with aspiration; and that the work is targeted towards those that can afford to validate it financially as well as culturally.

As much as I would like to idealize a situation where common folk would purchase 1000 prints of mine for $10 a pop; it’s more likely that I will get that one wealthy patron willing to purchase an original for $10,000. This is how the art world has worked primarily for at least the last thousand years, almost to a fault. You can read about it in this essay about how galleries manipulate the high end art market.

Makes me wonder how the old masters handled this… after all, they were all directly indebted to the rich patrons that supported their careers and purchased their works.  How do you wish for the eradication of the very people who validate your career? Was Picasso, a known Communist, some kind of hypocrite, considering how wealthy he became due to the rich patrons he had during his career?

Perhaps this has to do with the heightened inequalities that we currently face. Many of the patrons of Modern Art were successful people, but they weren’t exactly “filthy rich.” Back then, your dentist and your doctor might live down the street, and frequent the same pubs and cafés as your struggling artist just starting out and living off sardines and wine. Those patrons didn’t necessarily sit on piles of wealth that match the royalty class, gained by clever systemic exploitations of the working class.

Nowadays it seems that wealth is propped up by a system that keeps it exclusive to a select few, and while it seems to allow for some aspiration, still keeps the doors well guarded. Along with this, there seems to be less allowances for any substantial cultural contentment that would be independent of that system.

The town I live in, Williamsburg, VA, owes much of its current cultural significance to the generosity and vision of the son of an oil tycoon. The dependence on that kind of patronage has led to some desperate measures on behalf of boards of trustees at the expense of artistic and educational inroads.

One could surmise that given a reliable method for an artist to gain meaningful recognition (including the financial kind) without the direct support of the affluent, that artists would naturally veer in that direction. It wouldn’t even require any animosity towards the rich; simply an acknowledgement that they were not needed in the process.

This would be a true revolution, in my humble opinion. Like eating sushi from the local supermarket.

A sight from the past

LookingThroughChaos

Thanks to a friend from my Orlando days, I now have a decent image of one of my early works: “Looking Through Chaos.” You can get a print of it now at Crated.

Looking Through Chaos by Will Felix
“Looking Through Chaos”, Will Felix, 1998. Collection of P. Turner.

What is abstraction?

Abstract art can be hard for many to interpret. Instinctively, humans seek visual information in the same direct “realistic” way as they do a picture, or a mirror.

This is an excerpt from IdeelArt:

Abstraction isn’t a style or movement; it can exist in all art to a certain degree.

Various dictionaries define Abstraction as ‘freedom from representational qualities in art’ and ‘not representing things pictorially’. The Tate describes it as when an artist has either ‘removed (abstracted) elements from an object to create a more simplified form’ or produced something which ‘has no source at all in external reality’.

While an artist may have a real object in mind when painting, that object might be stylised, distorted or exaggerated using colours and textures to communicate a feeling, rather than produce a replica. It’s more about how the beauty of shapes and colour can override representational accuracy.

Abstraction is a ‘continuum’. Many art movements have been influenced by and employ abstract principles to a varying extent; the more removed from reality a painting or sculpture is, the more abstract it could be considered. Cubism, for example, with its distorted subjects, is highly abstract, whereas an Impressionist painting might be more conservatively so.

Most of my own works are abstract, although you may find some figurative symbols within them. I am more interested in interpreting tendencies and possibilities than representing physical actualities. The dialogue with the audience may then refer to current events and broad subjects without directly defining them. The idea is to encourage the imagination.

As an example, the featured image is called “Garden” from 2007. At first glance, one does not see an actual garden, nor should they. The work is an abstraction of the idea of creative people collaborating to make beauty.  At the time I was part of the artist group Apollonova, in Northeast Ohio.

Is the fine artist of today the new magic act?

A trend that I’ve noticed particularly on social media is the tendency to give great attention to art which seems to come from an odd technique or an unusual individual.

One recent popular example of this is artist Stephen Wiltshire, diagnosed with autism at three, and capable of drawing whole cityscapes from memory.

With one brief glimpse during a flyover, Stephen is capable of drawing the city in great detail. His work would be amazing to see even if he had spent years studying the landscape, but he spent mere minutes.

It makes me wonder: does the artist have to be an obsessive-compulsive to be noticed? Do they have to be performing some “magic trick” for their art to be recognized as something worthwhile? Is their art even particularly appreciated; or is it more about the wow factor of watching them create something in an unusual way?

Another example of this phenomenon seems to present itself with “realistic” interpretations of old master paintings, either through people posing in pictures in elaborate makeup; or even whole landscapes or ponds made to painstakingly match the details of a painting.

Japan's Monet pond
A Japanese pond made to replicate Monet’s famous paintings.

Some may argue that fine art has been this all along: functionally, a display of moments or images meant to please or decorate.  To have people do this in a somewhat unique way makes it all the more pleasing and entertaining. It gives the resulting image an interesting story. And no doubt, the drive of a creative person can sometimes set them apart from society in part due to how they choose to create.

However, it would be sad if their uniqueness would in turn be used as a way of dismissing the greater narrative being displayed in the artwork itself. Is anyone curious as to why Stephen chooses to draw detailed cityscapes, and whether by doing so, he may be making a greater statement about his humanity… or ours? Or is the attention placed on him merely about the amazement of his ability to do something that doesn’t seem possible to us “normal people?”

When I see things like Monet’s art being “realized,” I wonder the same question… whether the importance of his continuous examination of the image is being overshadowed by the spectacle of artifice.

This is not meant in any way to diminish the achievements of these new artists and interpretations… in fact, it’s a concern that they are not being appreciated for the actual art that they create, and instead may be tolerated as a new type of circus act. The potential danger here is that we as viewers become reactionaries without substance; moths seeking flame but content with fireworks… not engaged to anything beyond the surface of what’s being presented; “surprised” that something was actualized, not concerned about the thing itself.

It makes me question whether Monet would be appreciated nowadays as an artist for the depth of complexity of his works; or would his seemingly obsessive-compulsive and repetitious studies of a singular subject be the factor that amazes the public, in the same way Wiltshire’s instant capturing seems to be.

As I was writing this, a fellow artist posted a video link from some “media/news company” of artists making replicas of photos using colored sand. “Incredible art,” it announces. Credible artifice, I surmise.

 

It’s Spring! Celebrate with “Ver Sacrum”

“Ver Sacrum” can be purchased as a high quality archival giclée print now at Crated.

When I originally painted this piece (as part of the “two” series in 2011), the goal was to pay hommage to art masters (such as Picasso, Matisse, Pollock, O’Keeffe) that directly influenced my work. In this particular case, the artist was Gustav Klimt. When I first started to take my art seriously, I had a book about Klimt written by Frank Whitford. This book highlighted Klimt’s life and his works, and gave me a sense of what it would be like to live as a working artist. I still have this goal in mind.

“Ver Sacrum” is latin for “sacred Spring” and was the title of the official magazine of the Vienna Secession. The Vienna Secession was an art movement formed in 1897 by a group of artists who had recently resigned from the Association of Austrian Artists, seeking to develop their own collective style. One of these artists was Klimt. Published from 1898 to 1903, Ver Sacrum featured drawings and designs in the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) style along with literary contributions from distinguished writers from across Europe.

“Ver Sacrum,” 2011

With my interpretation, I took elements from Klimt’s style and added aspects of my own, giving it a modern approach. I was also fortunate to get access to some gold acrylic paint which strengthened the connection to the master painter’s style.

The original piece is 16″w x 20″h (41cm x 51¾cm) on canvas, and is currently still in my possession. High quality prints are available at various sizes and prices. Discounts available to those that sign up for the email list.