Studio Visit: Charles Sommer
Charles Sommer is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. His work can be seen in PLEAT's February 2018 exhibition as well as charlessommerart.com.
Please describe your work.
My work has consisted primarily of collage drawings made from graphite, gouache, and ink on paper. The drawings often get transformed into oil paintings that I incorporate into larger immersive installations. The elements within this series of landscapes are sourced from imagined forms and textures as well as past drawings that have been digitally manipulated through 3D rendering software. The transformation process from material drawing into a virtual manipulation then back to a physical drawing becomes cyclical and self-referential. For me this process creates a fantastical system that mimics the metamorphic processes of the natural world ultimately creating a unique landscape of my invention. The work connects disparate elements and ideas about space and how it can be depicted, often moving between representational and abstracted forms.
What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?
I mine a multitude of topics that include scientific theories, the natural world, conspiracy theories, and science fiction. More specifically I am drawn to historical reports of UFO’s and other unexplained phenomena such as teleportation, reports of strange “falls” from the sky such as Mana, flora and fauna or black rains, the existence of multiple dimensions and thought matter. I am interested in using art making as a way to create a world to contemplate and explore these ideas through a language of abstraction and metaphor. For instance, I view collage as a metaphor for teleportation, removing a piece of one drawing and allowing it to appear in another or using a variety of “portals” to signify access points in and out of the drawings thus creating gateways between each piece. The aim with my work as a whole is to create a place where all of these often peripheral and misunderstood esoterica can exist together in a playful, approachable and most importantly, curious way.
Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them?
Surrealism, minimalism, the Chicago imagists, Dutch Landscape painting, and of course science fiction book illustrations have had a huge influence on my work. Max Ernst, Joan Miro, Kay Sage, Ken Price, Ed Pashke, Agnes Martin to name a few. As far as what I’ve learned from them I’d have to say it’s the desire to depict something not seen directly in front of your eyes that interests me most. The invention of a new unseen space or alternate world for anyone to consume and escape into is incredibly exciting for me.
How has social media affected your studio practice?
Personally, I think social media has had a very positive influence on my practice. I love being able to see what artists all over the world are doing. Being able to directly contact and connect with so many different makers and people who love art is a really wonderful source for dialog.