Art Lies, Volume 1, March 1994

. . Rt ....

11 I

IF

hi

The following are excerpts selected from a recent conversation between Artlies
editor Don Carroll and artist Gael Stack, whose solo exhibition at M o o d y
Gallery (January 22 - February 19) wassoontoopen.The
interview began by touching briefly on the structural strategies of various writers,
Joyce and Proust, for example, and how their ideas of form relate to painting.

can approach being in control of is yourself.
That's your only chance at any control. To
give up this notion of control is quite a
difficult thing to do. But really, it's the only
choice we have. So that's a change in me, and
it s reflected in the work. I don't try to be the
boss of everyone anymore, hard as this may
be (laughs).
Don: I he anecdota aspec t ot your paiitgs
seems to rely for its punch on a certain irony.
Gael: That's true, but I think all artists are
affected by things that happen in their lives.
Ever painting I do has some significant
clement from me in it. Whether I can make
an amusing story out of it depends...some of
my stories are heartbreaking and some of
them you won't ever know. It's what drives
me as an artist to work-to find a language
for parts of my life. But I don't think that's
what other people need to know because
people get from a painting what they bring to
it. So they would never bring the same things
I brought to it. There are areas of confluence.
If I know loss and you know loss it doesn't
matter if it's from a different story.
I really do mean them and in that sense I
think they're not ironic. The stories are
amusing but not ironic. I think they deal with
real sentiment which is different from
sentimental. I think that's the part that
reaches people if it does at all...It's hard to say
beyond that what they [the paintings] are.
Don: The newer paintings seem to have
added a representational kind of space.
Gael: It's several representational spaces
together, which couldn't really coexist.
There's enough reference to architecture so
you could think floors or walls. I'm very
interested in Buddhist prints. They have
different sections, different parts of the
narrative...All of the painting that I like and
all of the art that has influenced me has been
from the middle ages-which is interesting to
me-early medieval art and early Buddhist
art from the middle ages in Japan. They took
wild guesses at why things function the way

they do. I did one painting that had a Gaki
(ghost] in it. In ancient Japan they didn't
have science, and they didn't know how to
explain things like combustion or rust, so
they invented ghosts who went around eating
things and because rust takes a long time,
they had to eat very slowly. They gave them
very thin necks and great big stomachs, and
Oile. 01t Ulci io, in ii.C ', t uicS iei pcL
enough. They just roamed around...always
hungry, and I put a few in my paintings.
I [am] interested in paradox and the idea
that very opposite things coexist in all of us
all of the time. And it doesn't make us crazy.
...[There are] five ways to see a thing and they
aren't any of them the same,
I did a painting once about fun. I thought
1 would do a painting about fun...
Don: Was it fun to do?
Gael: Well, it changed. It started out to be
about fun. Then it started to be about the
pursuit of fun. Then it started to be about the
relentless pursuit of fun. Then it had a Gaki
in it-someone who is always hungry and can
never have enough fun. So it came to be
about something else. It's a painting called
Starting From Sleep. The title is from a
Japanese poem and the next line of the poem
is "with hands that touch nothing," so it isn't
about fun at all. But I had actually intended
to explore the issue. I like fun but Catholics
aren't good at it,
[In some of my earlier paintings
everything was still. All the people ee t;!i.
They were being acted upon ... The Japanese I
saw as having activities, but controlled
activities, so they wouldn't be alarming. They
had people flinging things and people
defending and attacking. There would be
slight movements and I think that was th
appeal and still is in a way. It was a way of
dealing with acting as opposed to being acted
upon, in a way that still feels safe.
Don: Isn't there any of that in the Western
tradition?
Gael: Well, I'm sure that there is, but in the

Western tradition, the activity is more
pronounced and less defined. I don't think
there's anything equivalent to, say, a tea
ceremony in Western art.... It's prescribed
action. It isn't going to be a big mess-if all
goes well (laughs). You could spill the tea, but
you do the tea.
Don: Politics can be an important subject
Matter.
Gael: Yes, I have. I think...you can do very
moving work about AIDS or about politics,
but you can also do moving work about
internal things. You can also do very valuable
things about AIDS through science or
through money. The only thing 1 mind is
that the two become confused, and the one
imposes merit on the other.
Don: The nobility of the cause elevates the work.
Gael: Yes, and some people think in the
nineties that you must do theme showvs or
deal with the border. I think that's well and
good so long as it also deals with the rtrit of
the individual piece. Not all border paintings
are equal.
Don: Perhaps the border could function as a
metaphor for transformation.
Gael: That's the thing. If you say, "the
border," it could either be literal or I Cld
say my diptych is about the border...What I
mind is the extent to which fashion gets
mixed up with art.
Don: Why do you mind?
Gael: Because I haven't learned to let go of it
entirely, yet. I mind it because I think art's
about individual views of things and I don't
like to feel beholden to any one thing. I'n
very catholic in my views on art, catholic x ith
a small C. [Art] should represent the diversity
of people who make it. I don't think it all
has to be about one.thing. I just ask they
make it well.,
i-

A

Carroll, Don. Art Lies, Volume 1, March 1994. Houston, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth228034/. Accessed May 29, 2015.