Studio Visit: Annie Morgan Suganami

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Annie Morgan Suganami is an artist living and working in Wales.  Her work can be seen in PLEAT's November 2017 exhibition as well as anniemorgansuganami.com

Please describe your work
My work is mostly figurative, though I sometimes produce abstract work. Next year, I will do a six-week residency in a very large mansion, where I will exhibit my work in a solo show later in the summer. The brief is to go outside my comfort zone. This is a wonderful opportunity to do something a little different and to develop ideas I have already begun, but not had the space to exhibit them. There may well be representational work, but it will be a mix of 2D and 3D where I’ll be exploring material beyond my usual range.

I paint more than I produce drawings but find that if I have an exhibition I like to make drawings to satisfy my curation. I enjoy 3D very much, though studio size restrictions definitely impede more than a certain amount of experimentation. I do find that once set in to painting on a daily basis, I am perfectly happy to continue to paint, so that also precludes other ways of working until I need to do so.

I definitely have different ways of painting and drawing, from reasonably representational work where I work from photographs or characters I make up, and these can be much freer. I enjoy the change and can almost guarantee that if I've been working on say a detailed face, I'll go into a made-up piece or abstract directly having finished days of extreme concentration. It's like jamming and improvising as a musician having been playing Bach previously. The variety informs my mark-making and ways of using material. I paint with brushes, cloth and fingers and happily overpaint old work which can often influence the next piece.

In my figurative work, I aim for characters that show a certain tenacity, thoughtfulness, perseverance and beauty. They are my personal icons in uncertain times.

What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?
Global warming is the constant external factor pressing on my internal thoughts. It is my reality, and despite my concerns, I find it very difficult to express them in my art work in any direct fashion. It is too dark a subject and I don't want to be literal. I don't consciously concern myself with 'concepts' as such but work from a series title. My internal concerns are directly transferrable from music-making as in composition, texture, dynamics, line, colour, feeling and arrangement as in what medium, which ground and the endless possibilities at my disposal. Choosing is a constant practice. Sometimes my choices end in a ‘finished’ piece, one that I’m happy to leave, exhibit or sell. So far, I have not particularly explored narrative pieces as the story is definitely written in a person’s face. Perhaps this will change the more I work. If I lose the sense of authenticity, I begin again.

Who are your artistic influences?
There are too many to mention, from lesser known contemporary artists from all disciplines of creative practices to those from the past, but I will touch on a few painters who struck a chord with me instantly.

I started my visual art practice seven years ago having been a musician all my life. In my first week of Foundation course, I was introduced to Peter Doig, Per Kirkeby and William Kentridge.  It's as if my tutor knew what I needed to see and what I would like. They appeal to my musically developed sense of line and composition and my love of colour. Well, that’s my take on it anyway.

Being a singer-songwriter, figurative work definitely satisfies my need for feeling emotional responses to the work. Alice Neel definitely covers that one and her work will always encourage me to go with my unmeasured figurative work. She reminds me to consider my figure in space and that you can paint anyone, anywhere, though most good painters do that. Joan Brown also encouraged me to consider locating my characters though generally speaking I tend to stick with the figure alone and rarely locate them in a scenario, though I am beginning to place my people in context now, either sitting in a chair or standing in front of mountains. Major developments for me!

I am currently really enjoying Peter Blake, Henry Taylor, Kerry James Marshall and have just discovered Amy Sherald, to name but a few. I often go back to Hockney, particularly his work from the 60s and 70s and his etching and drawing. I don't know whether I've learnt anything from these wonderful artists that I can honestly say has positively contributed to my work. I can only do what I do. I still face my shortcomings no matter what other great art I view, but that art certainly inspires me and keeps me searching on obsessively happily on a daily basis.

I can't say I enjoyed practising as a musician, but I find it nearly impossible to stop painting for at least ten hours a day! I'm lucky to have come to paint in my 60s as I don't have to work a job, I can literally do whatever I please. I feel blessed.

How has social media affected your studio practice?
It's Instagram that I consider to be my studio mate. I live in West Wales in a little town called Machynlleth. I have two small rooms as my studios in our converted chapel. Social media has allowed me to converse with and contact artists and interested followers from all over the world and I get to view miles of art every day. Quite extraordinary really.

I found PLEAT on Instagram! It's wonderful when people comment positively on my work. It's very encouraging and creatives need feedback. As I barely leave my studio I can be in contact with the outside...literally....world. I will often find faces that I can use on Instagram too. If I feel the face I find is going to be highly recognisable, I will contact that person for permission, but if I'm borrowing a nose or an eye shadow, I just go ahead and take the help.

I've always worked alone, practising daily, music or art, so Instagram is a positive boost that doesn't interfere with my time, but keeps me in contact with daily inspiration, remarkable art and wonderful people and sometimes I'll be invited to contribute to an exhibition. That's always a bonus.

Studio Visit: Anthony Falcetta

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Anthony Falcetta is an artist living and working in Massachusetts.  His work can be seen in PLEAT's November 2017 exhibition as well as anthonyfalcetta.com

Please describe your work.
My work is a way to distill my experience of seeing and inhabiting physical space. Making paintings is an analog for looking at, moving in, and responding to the world around me -- a way of understanding or processing that results in these interesting material objects. At their simplest, they can be symbolic like maps or diagrams. At the other end of the spectrum, they're like ongoing situations, with an underlying tension that keeps them from relaxing into pictures. In practical terms, my paintings rely on texture, colors interacting beside and behind each other, a mix of gestural brushwork and geometric shape-making, and a process of building up layers, tearing them down and reworking everything. It's always improvisational and responsive -- pushing things until they lose balance, then running around shoring them up.

What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?
I've got a strong sense for space, and how it's weighted and shaped by form -- architecture, natural contours, street structures and so on. I tend to "feel" a place acting on me before it makes sense visually; understanding takes time, and I think my work re-enacts that. As a painter, I operate in pretty binary terms: fast/slow, thick/thin, organic/synthetic, hard-edged/gestural, rough/smooth and so on. It's simplistic, but these little oppositional tensions can add up in the matrix of a painting. In the end, there's this sense of things happening throughout -- on the surface and underneath, in every layer. It keeps my eyes and my attention moving around a piece in a way that feels like being out in the world. I love that in painting every move is built on and responds to the ones before it, so what you get at the end is a compilation of experiences and a record of changes. This feels like the operation of growth and memory to me.

Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them?
Early: Hopper, DeChirico, Joseph Cornell... for their concerns with structure, containment, memory, mood, and the complicated relationships of people and their inner 'scapes to their external surroundings. Later: Johns, Rauschenberg, AbEx... for curiosity and freedom, for the blurring of boundaries between object and image, and how color, form, and movement could be freed from the obligations of rendering and depiction. And then there's Richard Diebenkorn, whose work checks so many painterly boxes for me -- color, gesture, edges, visible edits, layering, buried architecture, overall composition -- while embodying a deep stubbornness acting in tandem with a deep hopefulness. I think as I keep maturing, and have more visual and verbal conversations with other artists, the process of being influenced is changing. I look at all kinds of things from all kinds of creative sources, and they educate and stimulate and challenge me, and I respond by filtering them through the studio-language I've created for myself over time. I definitely get hot crushes, but my own studio work is still my long-term sweetheart.

How has social media affected your studio practice?
I look at dozens of other artists' work daily, and it's a vital reminder that *so many things* are possible for painting, all the time. It can be a great motivator on those days when the work feels dull or stalled out. The other side of that coin is the tendency to compare, or have a brief fit of FOMO, but I think that happens to humans in any setting, and I can (usually) get far enough away to see it for what it is. Otherwise, it's exciting... processes are shared, ideas get floated, announcements are made, friendships form long-distance, and shows get curated among artists who might never have met. At its simplest level, it allows creative people to discover each others' work, and express support and encouragement, and that's really valuable.