We interviewed the American artist Dave Swensen, currently on display at the Ramo Gallery in Como with “From Above” (of course suspended given the global health emergency). Dave Swensen finds himself for the first time with a solo exhibition in Europe.He is a self-taught painter and sculptor and works in his studio focusing on minimalist concepts and forms.
Federica Fiumelli: Your work moves gently between painting and sculpture. How did your self-taught training take place?
Dave Swensen: I didn’t grow up studying art. I didn’t go to art school but have always had an interest in art. When I was a teenager I would research other artists in books and listen to interviews where they would discuss their work. I learned by doing. Trying various mediums and ideas until something felt like it was genuinely mine.
The act of going between the two mediums happens constantly. Early in my career I started out wanting to be a painter. I had a big passion for it but never felt that I was able to execute my ideas very well. My need to create pushed me toward sculpture and other mediums. Later I started weaving the two practices together.
“From Above” is the title of your first European solo show at the Galleria Ramo in Como, can you tell us how the project was born?
When prepping for the exhibition, I knew I wanted to make all new pieces for the show. I spent a lot of time thinking about my art practice and the mediums used. Many of the pieces have smooth surfaces and dark, rich colors. After creating the works, two themes became apparent. They almost all became sort of topographical maps in a way. Each piece seems to have a surface dedicated to land or water mass and spacial interpretation. Ironically enough “From Above” for me isn’t about the works themselves but more about the act of making from above. Being positioned over a piece of art fixing it, refining it, and finishing it. It’s about being an artist and finishing something you love.
I read your thought on minimalism that reads as follows: “Reflects and executes a concept in the artist’s simplest of terms. Starting from nothing and stepping slowly forward towards an idea” How did you approach this mode of artistic practice?
I think I have become less reckless while getting older. Oddly enough for many years I would do the exact opposite. Exploding with ideas I would spend a significant amount of time reducing something down to its pure essence. Ultimately it’s way less stressful this way. I want to enjoy things more and I want to be sure that I am allowing my concepts to evolve naturally. It took discipline to slow down and really understand why I was making certain choices. On occasion, I still allow impulse to take over. I think that’s important but I just want to be more present during the creation process. I want to feel it and I want to enjoy it. With this, I am able to take a longer look and be more steady in my approach. Ultimately ending with a stronger piece that takes me longer to create because I am spending much more time with each work.
What do you think of the contemporary art system? Do you notice differences between America and Europe?
I’ve found a lot of artists from both the States and Europe that really resonate with me. In the central US where I’m located, I’ve never really felt like I fit in. I think the contemporary art scene where I live is still growing. Every artist dreams of showing work in a certain venue or location. Most often then not it seems to be across the globe from where you are. Europe is beautiful with a rich art history. I guess that’s why I’m drawn to it. I can feel that history and it’s importance when I visit. I’ve always wanted to be a part of that.
You have an interesting project on Instagram called “Closed Windows / No Entry” – an authentic space where you can present the work of different artists. What relationship do you have with social media? Do you think they can be digital exhibition spaces?
I remember for many years working via email. A grueling process that was slow moving and just wasn’t cutting it. Using social media lets you join a community of galleries, artists, curators and art fans quickly and efficiently. For me, making these connections and friendships has really been inspiring.
With “Closed Windows / No Entry” I wanted to promote the artists that I love. I intentionally mix newer and more well know artist together in the feed to try to break down some barriers that younger or newer artists feel early on. It’s been a great experience so far and has allowed me to meet some great people I might not have other wise.
Digital spaces are becoming more and more of a reality these days. I had the pleasure of working with ARTLAND and it was great to see how they photograph a gallery for their 3D application. There will always be a need for people to see art in person because its the best way to experience it. But, using online tools to learn about art and other artists is something that can benefit us all as well.
Right now the world is going through a global pandemic, following the spread of the coronavirus, can you imagine what impact it will have? (also in the artistic field)
What’s happening across the world currently because of the Coronavirus is scary. Everyone is trying to learn and adjust as we go. The impact will be great and hopefully we can learn from the mistakes and improve should anything of this nature happen again. Artists are impacted just like a lot of small business owners. But during this time, it can also help to become more creative in ways you wouldn’t have thought of before. Like, gathering more online as an art community and sharing. It’s important to keep an optimistic mind and to keep supporting each other as much as possible.
What do you read in your free time? Do you have any books to suggest to us? (Or movies)
I am often busy with my family and studio practice. I don’t have as much time for reading as I would like. I do enjoy reading about other artists work and exhibitions around the globe. So many inspiring people are constantly creating. It’s refreshing to see there is always something new.
Most of my days are filled with music; I am always listening to something. TV, music and films are always jumping out at me. I tend to be drawn to dark more memorable subject matters. Longer form story telling is the most enjoyable for me as you get to really live in that world for a while longer.
Dave Swensen, Repeater, 2019 – Ph. Courtesy the artist
Dave Swensen, Endless Waves, 2019 – Ph. Courtesy the artist
Dave Swensen, Downpour, 2019 – Ph. Courtesy the artist
(1990) Graduated at DAMS in Bologna in Visual Arts with a thesis on the relationship and the paradoxes that exist between photography and fashion, from Cecil Beaton to Cindy Sherman, she specializes at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna in the two-year course in art teaching, communication and cultural mediation of the artistic heritage with a thesis on the historical-critical path of Francesca Alinovi, a postmodern critique. Since 2012 she has started to collaborate with exhibition spaces carrying out various activities: from setting up exhibitions to writing critical texts or press releases, to educational workshops for children, and social media manager. She has been collaborating since 2011 with various magazines: Vogue online, The Artship, Broken Fracture, Wall Street International Magazine, Forme Uniche Magazine.