Joshua Flint Artist
What is your reality as an artist, you never set out to be a painter?
Joshua Flint: That is correct, I initially went to a university to study environmental sciences, like Forestry and Wildlife Ecology. Even when I switched to an art school I went in with no real intention other than wanting to learn to draw and paint. The visual examination of the culture that painting allows proved to be alluring and exciting, and just fit with my life. My reality now is I paint full time and teach one course on traditional materials at an art college.
You have quoted Degas before, whose work was, seemingly, some have said, voyeuristic in nature would you say that your work might portray the same sense of the intensity of vision.
Joshua Flint: An intensity of vision and voyeurism appear to be two separate paradigms to describe Degas’ work. I’m not entirely sure that Degas paintings could be considered solely voyeuristic.
Perhaps, there’s a connection between that statement and my working methods. Since I use found imagery in my work a tangential relation to voyeurism is attached. These photo references were most often meant to be private moments or events for the families and friends who took these pictures. By painting them and bringing them into the public the functionality has now changed from their original purpose. So in that sense, like Degas’ bathers, I’m making what was once private and now making it public.
Bertold Brecht said “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” there has been a significant increase in artists making work about social and political issues and some saying the future of contemporary art lies in activism…Where do you stand and what are your thoughts on this as a painter?
Joshua Flint: Whoa, there’s a lot to unpack with this. Starting off, isn’t there a famous quote about how all art is political? I don’t know if I believe it but if you do then all art could be seen, regardless of its intentions, as activism towards some kind of end result. I think this deserves much more of a discussion, however, I don’t believe contemporary art’s sole purpose should be for activism. Art is not that one-dimensional. It functions in people’s lives on so many more levels than just activism. I don’t think the art world is necessarily the best venue to make true political change
“What does it take to make a great piece of art?”
Joshua Flint: I wouldn’t know as I haven’t made one. If I ever think something is great I might as well throw in the towel and do something else. That’s not to discount my efforts but maybe that’s for others to say, not me. Maybe I can look back in 20 years at some of the work I’m currently doing and point out some paintings that stand out for whatever reason. There needs to be a distance from the creator and the creation to truly judge, much like analysing history. Historically important artists, such as Manet, Cezanne, or Velazquez are in the canon because their paintings have been not only connected to their cultural moment but also remain relevant to our modern society. That double act to me lies at the heart of a great painting.
Art is meant to disturb, science reassures. Georges Braque 1882-1963 Some of your work certainly seems to me to have a wee sense of foreboding (using its synonyms, apprehension, apprehensiveness, anxiety, perturbation, trepidation, disquiet, disquietude, unease, uneasiness, misgiving, suspicion, worry, fear, fearfulness, dread, alarm) Is this the intention?
Joshua Flint: There is a sense of tension I’m trying to create in every painting. That tension could be derived from a visual contradiction in the piece, or a kind of paint application that lends itself to a concept, or simply in the palette. It is not necessarily an overly conscious aspect I’m fostering, it just ends up that way. I’ve had viewers of the same painting provide opposing emotional feedback, which is useful and curious.
You have said that the process of your work and showing that process is important to you and remains a prominent aspect of the completed work could you tell us more about this?
Joshua Flint: What I find fascinating about painting, more so than other media, is its ability to contain and project time. By that I mean you experience a painting all at once but the art wasn’t created that way, unlike a photograph. A painting was created over time, through different emotions, under all these varied circumstances, and that gets embedded into the image through the act of painting. Then it reveals itself all in that one instance. A performance piece or video installation unfolds as you observe. Sculpture doesn’t have this effect either since you walk around the piece and it reveals itself as you shift your point of view. Painting is unique in that way.
When you view one of my paintings I like that you can view the very beginning decisions up to the final touches, which, I think, reinforces this distinctiveness. Whether someone is totally aware of this compression of time or not, it plays in her mind when looking at the work. Showing the process, the technical narrative, as Vincent Desiderio would say, alludes to the power of painting.
How much of the story behind a work do you need or want the viewer to know?
When I view a work of art I bring my own sensibilities and lived experiences, as most everyone does, to that interaction. The artist may have a clear intention for the work but that intention could not be how I interpret the piece. It is the same with my work. I’m not trying to provide a map to a maze or relay some pedagogy so what they must know is inconsequential.
Is art too popular?
Joshua Flint: Ha! I don’t think so. If anything, the average person needs art in their life more than they realise. Perhaps art imagery, in general, inundate’s our life too much via social media outlets, 24-hour news cycles, memes, and everything else people bring into their lives. These channels don’t have the impact that viewing art in person can have. I say less of that stuff and seeing more art in person.
What does contemporary mean in art?
The three aesthetic theories of art criticism are most commonly referred to as Imitationalism, Formalism, and Emotionalism. Some think that the everything that is important in a work of art is the realistic presentation of subject matter?
Joshua Flint: Although I gravitate towards representational work, art should not be viewed solely through this lens. When I was in art school I went to SF MOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) on a whim one day and had a deep, mysterious moment with a Mark Rothko painting. It was catalytic. Something like that had never happened when observing a non-representational painting, and it made me realize realism is a tool to communicate but not the be all and end all.
Pablo Picasso once said, “We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realise truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.”
Joshua Flint: I agree, sometimes we need to go away from reality to better understand it and to see things anew. Making the familiar unfamiliar, that is exciting.
What drives you to paint and how often do you paint?
My daily studio hours fluctuate a little based on the season. I’m in the studio 4-6 days a week. I also teach one course, in both the Fall and Spring, at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. That pulls me away from painting but I enjoy it.
As for what drives me to paint? I couldn’t imagine any other life.
Next Artist: Karl Bryhn
Joshua Flint Instagram Page
This interview and others can be read on Bartosz Beda’s Execute Magazine