Edward del Rosario
By BRYAN THAO WORRA
AAP staff writer
EDWARD del ROSARIO has been widely exhibited to great critical acclaim. A graduate of the painting department of the University of Kansas with an advanced degree from The Rhode Island School of Design, del Rosario is a figurative artist with a distinctive technique and style. He’s known for his finely detailed and carefully composed portrayals of contemporary figures in quirky and intriguing situations that consistently command the careful viewer’s full attention. Del Rosario’s drawings have the been compared to haiku, and are held in high regard by those who’ve seen his work.
Asian American Press had a chance to interview him recently. You can visit his work online at http://coldwaterwash.com
Asian American Press: We often talk about how artists got started, but what keeps you going?
Edward del Rosario: I am competitive with myself and I believe in the pursuit of excellence. I am driven to reach a point where I could consider myself to be a “great” artist. It is as if being a great artist is a plateau one reaches after long climb. Once you reach it, everything comes easy. The reality is that plateau doesn’t exist. I just keep raising my expectations of what it means to be a great artist and pushing the boundaries of what I deem to be excellence, at least with myself. The pursuit of excellence is a way of hanging a carrot (cake) in front of me thinking that if I keep driving forward, I might actually get to take a bite.
Another idea has to do with fulfillment. There was an anecdote I once heard about addiction to heroin. After a point, you no longer take heroin because it makes you feel good. You take heroin because it stops you from feeling bad. In the same sense, I continue painting because when I stop painting, I feel awful. I’ve noticed that when I take a long hiatus from painting, I find myself more anxious, confused and depressed. I believe that there is something in the act of painting, something in the creative process that fills a deep void, something in the act that I find fulfilling.
The simple answer is that art is fun, I enjoy it, and I want to get better at it.
AAP: What are some of the themes you’ve enjoyed exploring through your art lately? Do you feel there’s been any recent changes from your previous directions?
EdR: I think that I’ve been consistently exploring the same themes for about a decade. The themes are generated by a meta-narrative that deals with power struggles and the aftermath of a post post-colonial world. The narrative is often depicted by adolescents who have witnessed political, religious and economic power struggles and re-interpreted the conflicts as some sort of children’s game. When I first started dealing with these issues, the conflicts were simply between two or three people. The conflicts have grown to involve multiple groups and address several themes. Although the concepts and themes have stayed the same, my interest in how they might best be represented has changed slightly. Over time, I’ve become more interested in not only large-scale conflicts but also in how the themes might be better addressed formally and conceptually.
AAP: When do you know a piece is finished?
EdR: I don’t think I’ve ever considered a piece finished (and I’ve heard this from many other artists as well.) Instead of actually finishing a piece, I make a decision to stop working on it. It is often a result of time constraints, deadlines or loss of interest. However, I take a delight in paintings that are returned to me after a long absence and having an opportunity to continue working on them once more.
AAP: What’s your artistic process like for you as you start developing a new piece?
EdR: I divide the process into two parts, pre-production and production. In the pre-production, I develop the components of the paintings, namely the content and the canvas. I spend a lot of time preparing canvases. The canvases I use are 7-8 coats of oil ground over linen and have been sanded down between each coat. Each canvas takes around 3 months to properly prepare. In pre-production I also work on developing the content. For example, I sketch out objects, make character studies of possible participants and create different settings where the action might take place. Once I have a large enough library of content, I play around with the pieces, making different mock-ups and scenes until finally fixing upon a composition. After the canvases have been properly prepared and I’ve settled upon a composition, I begin the production phase. The production phase is the actual painting part.
AAP: What would be a dream project you’d like to take on?
EdR: I would love to turn a set of my paintings into an epic, dynamically animated installation. It would be a combination of computer programming and animation in which the animated figures would be governed by a set of rules and interact with other figures based on those rules. I imagine it might be something along the lines of object-oriented programming meets figurative painting.
AAP: Who would you consider to be one of the most surprising influences on your work?
EdR: If you mean, what influences on my work would others find surprising, then I would say people might be surprised that I am influenced by several abstract expressionist painters, (Joan Mitchell, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko). I find their use of color as well as the emotion and energy they bring to their paintings exciting and inspiring. I’ve also been profoundly influenced by performance and video artists. I’ve found both William Wegman’s videos and Anna Deavere Smith’s performances to be great sources of inspiration. Both the videos and the performances have an acute sense of observation and a subtle sense of humor and simplicity, concepts that I strive to achieve in my own work.