Razvan Boar

Razvan Boar Interview - By Steven Cox

Steven Cox: Let’s open up our interview by discussing your past and when you began making art…

Razvan Boar: I was always drawing when I was a kid and that stuck with me until today, but I didn’t have a strong desire for doing art. I was really into other things. I grew up in a family where everyone did something creative and that influenced me in many ways. I only took painting seriously in art school.

SC: Have you kept any of your old drawings from when you were young?

RB: Yes, lots of them. I still have some of my kindergarten drawings too.

SC: Tell me a little bit about your current studio and working routine. Do you aim for set hours of being in your studio? Do you live close to your studio? How does a regular day begin?

RB: First floor, delightful architecture, 1920’ house, Roman Square, Bucharest. Basically, I like to be in there all day long. And I must say that leaving my house in the morning to go to work, all this routine turned out to be very important. My day begins with a coffee and reading the science news. Also Instagram.

SC: It is really special and perhaps rare to find a studio that makes you feel both comfortable and excited to work in. Is this a new studio for you or have you been working from there for a while

RB: It’s kind of new. I had it since November 2014. Pretty cozy and fun to work in but I’m sure I’ll need something bigger soon.

SC: There is quite a sharp visual contrast between your current works and your works pre-2013. Your past works were dominantly monochrome and owned a dark and ambiguous narrative where the imagery seems to reference a soviet era? Can you tell me about this past body of work?

RB: I studied art in Bucharest and school here is still conservative and rather traditional and when you consider the status of East European painting at that particular moment (pre-2013) you get a certain acknowledged look.

But the focus on the medium, and the attention toward details in my work were always constant. Also, I think we could speak about a certain logic that my paintings exhibit in general. A type of structure within the image generated by a specific way of approaching images.

I was always referencing a certain type of image, and especially the network or relationship between different images. War, the soviet or communist eras were never my particular interests. Almost all the images that I used were made in America, and I find it funny that people don’t get that straight away.

And I think the particularity of my research for ‘the image’ was an important part of my work. I spent many hours building huge databases with images of all sorts: from movie-stills to historic photographs, from drawings to decorative-patterns etc. I guess I was after some sort of reference to portraits in general, to anatomy and the human body almost every time. That was addictive.

The nature of the collected images, many of them in black and white, made quite an impact on my relationship with color at that time. But the focus on drawing and textures and composition, were also reasons for working with such a restraint number of colors. I made few true monochrome paintings. Most of my paintings had subtle shades of grays and colored tones and I particularly fancied that. I learned a lot about color working in that particular manner and now, I think you can see that in my work.

SC: I find it interesting that your past works owned photorealist imagery that belonged to a 1950’s era, whilst many examples of your works 2013-onwards own graphic, comic orientated figures that similarly own characteristics reminiscent of the 1950’s. I am keen to know why this time period is of interest to you?

RB: The ’50 were glamorous and sexy, and you get that particular aesthetics that’s so appealing. The ’50 were naïve too. But to me, almost every image from this particular time period seems to be taken or extracted from a gag of some sort. It’s a gag orientated, naïve attitude, that you get from pictures, movies, comics, cartoons etc. made in the fifties. And I’m just fascinated by the way images manage to present themselves and carry so much meaning.

SC: Can you discuss your change in direction and highlight what first interested you to explore this whimsical style of comic imagery?

RB: I get bored easily. And, you know, there’s so much you can do with paint, and I just knew I cannot stay in one place for too long. It’s just the way I approach things. I hated being stuck with something when you know you can do a lot more. That’s why I put together drawings and paintings for my first shows and later setting up things so that my paintings reflected also my particular interest for drawing. I wanted to make room for that. So I cannot really talk about the change in direction for something I did back in 2013, because I feel, I’m doing it all the time.

And I had a thing for comics since growing up. Cartoons too. I won’t ever forget Banana Man, or He-Man. I guess that’s now part of the way I think about images. I like George Herriman, Chester Gould, Will Eisner, Crumb and many more. And weird untitled vintage comics you find on the Internet.

SC: Are the cartoon images within your paintings appropriated from comics that already exist, or have you created these comic illustrations yourself? If they are sourced, perhaps you can tell me about the sources?

RB: Many of them come from comics that already exist. I did a lot of searching on the Internet and magazines and books and I was after a particular type of comic/cartoon that appealed to me in particular. And with this research, things can be very subtle: it doesn’t have to be a full page or anything like that, most of the time you get just a hint, or an outline or something minimal but really good. That’s what I was after. You can trace it to my fascination with drawing and how it developed over time. I tried to find sources for some of the images I like but were so out of context that their origin was impossible to find. I create a lot of drawings resembling comics these days and I enjoy that very much. So, you can say I work both ways.

SC: In regards to drawing, and your paintings consisting of comic orientated imagery and characters, I am interested to know how much drawing on paper you do today? Do you regularly sketch within sketchbooks or loose sheets of paper? I think it would be really fantastic to see an exhibition of these sketches on paper too.

RB: I draw almost every day. And I can spend a whole day on my desk filling up sketchbooks. I use almost anything really, loose paper, sketchbooks, cardboard, canvas etc. Whatever happens to be on my desk.

SC: Due to yourself painting upon unprimed canvas, in what ways do you pre-plan or sketch out your images onto the canvas? Do you use a projector?

RB: I use primed canvas too. I like having not just one solution or technique for a particular image.  I don’t really have a favorite way of laying out the image onto the canvas, but I use a projector quite often. And the main reason is composition, to see where it all fits.

SC: Also, if an image or work does not live up to your expectation, do you destroy the canvas? Or, are you economical by trying to re-use or modify the work?

RB: I try to re-use it of course but I destroy some of them too. It depends really. Bad things can turn out to be good and vice versa so you have to give them a little time.

SC: It is noticeable that the sexualisation of the female body is regularly present within your works, particular examples of this could range from the The Natural, 2014, to the more recent Ass Smile, 2015. Tell me more…

RB: What I like about this kind of images is that you can read them on so many levels.

Approaching this subject is proof of my fascination with the whole genre and tradition but you cannot help yourself and mock painting too. If you do it now, it almost seems you misplaced it historically and you make people think: what is he doing???

Also I knew this was sort of a personal quest and I was stuck with it for the long run. And I know nudes are edgy and may look ‘easy’ in a taunting way but it’s a rather difficult image to build and to paint.

SC: If you consider nudes as a difficult subject to “build and paint”, what are the regular difficulties you stumble upon during your process of painting?

RB: To make the image work and to be autonomous and before that, to be able to nail down the best image for that particular situation.

SC: Within certain recent works, you have double layered your imagery. It is interesting how this relates to certain works pre-2013. Is this a conscious return to this past motif?

RB: I have double layering images in notebooks from several years ago. You can also trace it in the body of work I did pre-2013. Things like that just came out from my experiments with drawing.

SC: What are the most important aspects of your newest works that you hope the viewer will experience and appreciate?

RB: I’d like the viewer to catch not only the gag or the narrative aspect in my work, but also to pay attention to the painting as a whole, with all the marks and colors and textures.

SC: I am aware that you are beginning to explore sculpture. Can you tell me about your new sculptural works and how you hope for these sculptures to interact with your paintings within a gallery space. Has it been a challenge for you to explore this new medium?

RB: My sculptural works originated from drawings that I made. And I guess I always fancied the idea of making objects. It’s a challenge that appeals to me in particular, knowing especially that some of my works on canvas display a sculptural effect. It’s a new medium for me and it’s really fun to work with materials such as aluminum and Plexiglas apart from the usual stuff. The difficulty resides, especially in finding the right people to work with and developing a working system.

SC: Can you tell me about your views on painting today? Also, what are your views of the art market as portrayed through online media?

RB: I feel things move very fast and painting now is very dynamic. If you think about the ups and downs of painting, this really seems like a good time to be a painter. I also have mixed feelings about it, seeing a lot of good quality work being done and things that are not quite good, but I guess painting has always been this way. The online media is a powerful force now and I think painting can really benefit from this.

Images courtesy of Razvan Boar, Nicodim Gallery, Ana Cristea Gallery

Razvan Boar