Roy Lawaetz, artist, originally from the tiny island of St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, a former Danish colony. Born in the town of Frederiksted.
Good morning, Roy, and welcome to Vision and Verse, the Place for Art and Authors. I love your work! How would you describe your artwork?
My work has developed along different renewable thematics over the years. My first 20 years as an artist I did geometric, abstracts on rectangle canvases and then moved on to more lyrical works largely using sand textures and acrylics, mainly in the abstract expressionist vein.
“A Higher View”
The Caribbean’s background offers a unique bedrock of inherited cultures: The Pre-Columbian, the European, the African, which I started developing from the mid-eighties. In these paintings art spectators had the opportunity to see a new art form. It is a personal aesthetic that is deeply-rooted in an eclectic blend of influences, historical and cultural.
While many of the 20th Century’s most formidable artists have found source material and inspiration in tribal cultures in distant countries, I an artist, who lived first hand in a milieu with such native opportunity. Exposed to carnival performances and archaeological fragments from early childhood, I integrated these impulses into an art form that departs from a sense of classical conformity in exchange for the exotic.
I departed from the standard rectangle format in painting and rediscovered the tiny triangular Zemi stone of the Taino Indians, who lived in the Caribbean before Columbus’ arrival in 1492. And from this point of departure I actually built my repertoire of prototypes in a laboratory environment of research and development.
In year 2000 I wrote an art book with my own art theory on my triangular works, which I have named “The Modular Triangular System”. It’s a unique, high quality art book with 25 ex. of my works and description of the whole theory. The book is for sale for $50. Check out my web site: http://www.roylawaetz.com and also roylawaetz facebook.
In 1996 I was able to showcase some of these pieces (11 - big triangular paintings) at the International Bienal de Sao Paulo, Brazil, in a major exhibition where the works of world artists such as Goya, Klee, Picasso, Andy Warhol and a host of others were an integral part of the grand selection. It was here that I was able to demonstrate the tremendous potential for works of art that could be derived from triangles in combination, prototype building as an alternative to rectangular formats. These works were also inter-actively demonstrated for audiences with pumps, water, laptops, music, expanding the senses. etc.
Lately, almost three years ago ( in July 2011), I made a surprising addition: I actually began to use the rectangular format again exploring digital possibilities for visual imagery (after having abandoning it for almost 25 years)---but this time utilizing a tiny Apple iPad with a stylus and digital Apps whereby I could blend diverse applications. I’ve now posted over 1,000 of these iPad- derivative images on Facebook with accompanying narratives. I realize that the prevailing consensus remains that visual artists usually prefer not to include an interpretation or commentary to their work. But actually there have been exceptions to this prevailing consensus. Japanese artists who added commentary to their works and also artists such as Kandinsky who analyzed the movements of shapes and forms on the picture plane. If an artist also wants to write about his own visual work then I liken this to a singer who also wishes to dance along with the music rather than standing still. Van Gogh was also extremely verbal and communicative about how he wanted to do his paintings and often seemed to be ahead of himself theoretically than in actual practice.
What is your favorite medium to work with?
My favorite medium has been acrylics since I started painting at the Provincetown Workshop in the early 1970’s with professors Victor Candell and Leo Manso. Manso was a brilliant colorist and actually was one of the first professional artists to begin working with acrylics. He introduced acrylics to me.
A can of peanuts.
Tea or coffee:
Coffee with cream
Pizza or ice cream:
Rarely. I try to stay away from pizza or ice cream and preserve my 175 lb frame. Although a Magnum (Ice cream) can catch up with me on a hot day in the summertime.
Where would you like to visit?
I’ve travelled most of my life since I was 13 and have seen or lived in a string of countries, the US, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Iceland, Spain, France, Germany, Holland, Brazil, the Philippines, Hawaii, Hong Kong, much of the Caribbean, etc. I also speak some of these European languages at various levels of proficiency. But I guess I would like to visit Greece someday because of the ancient lure of the location and its lasting influence on western culture and language.
Favorite musical artist:
Probably Elvis Presley.
Do you listen to music when you work? What?
I don’t listen to much music when I work. I actually like to think in terms of my own sense of rhythm and space, on the picture plane, applying some of the compositional ideas of counterpoint, structure, intervals, etc. that my major mentor Victor Candell, who was an avid enthusiast of classical music, especially Mozart, passed on to me.
IPad: “Garden Music”
What makes you laugh?
A witty joke is probably my preference but some well- placed dirty jokes are most welcomed too.
How old were you when you started creating art?
Around twenty eight and quite accidental, while taking a break from a farming routine on the plantation “Balenbouche” in St. Lucia.
We all like to draw, paint, glue rocks together, snap photos, etc., but we are well aware we couldn’t make a living doing it. When did you know this is what you wanted to do with your life?
Well, back in 1972 or so after I’d started for one summer at the Provincetown Workshop with Victor Candell and Leo Manso, Candell, thereafter, offered me a significant position as his class monitor in NYC at two places. I was really elated and couldn’t turn down that amazing offer because I’d only been under his tutelage for two months.
When did you know you made the right decision?
The intellectual/humanistic way Candell accepted my basic learning level which was just raw potential at the time. He was extremely erudite and a man of the world. But he assured me back then that art was not “just about drawing pimples on noses” but about finding about yourself and what you cared to impart to yourself and others. He said that my life experience, if put to art in the right direction, and developed with diligence, had possibilities. I started out with two pineapples in his class and we moved on from there.” Isn’t it amazing how he he’s listening to us?” I overheard Manso tell him one day. Yes, said Candell. Nothing to unlearn, from bad teaching principles and he’s listening to us. He knows very little right now but he’s willing to listen.”
Where do you get your inspiration?
Often just a word, a memory, a shape, or the strength and solidity of the subconscious to deliver subject matter of interest. There are many branches on the trees that bear fruit so that there’s usually always something to harvest.
What do you do when you get artist's block?
That doesn’t happen too often but I’ve had long stretches where I haven’t painted for different reasons. Rather than artist’s block it’s more like situation block when you have to get other things done in life before you can move on again to harvest artistically. Family obligations, etc. My wife sometimes wishes I would have a one day artist’s block! LOL.
Who is your favorite artist?
Kandinsky, the way he interconnects the imagination, the cosmos and spirituality in a musical scenario with a spread of theoretical dogma.
Picking one is difficult for me. That’s tough to choose.
Here is one of my Kandinsky-inspired iPad works:
Same here. There are so many staggering choices to choose from.
Best book you ever read.
In recent years, Rohinton Mistry, “A Fine Balance.” I hope he wins the Nobel Prize someday. But as far as writers go, Shakespeare and many of the great writers, Conrad, Tolstoy, Flaubert, way too many to note. I always wanted to be a writer in my teens so I read many of the great ones already in high school at Cherry Lawn. Becoming a visual artist was a real surprise and a serious detour from a writing career that has lasted.
Last book you read.
“Entangled Minds” by Dean Radin. Bestselling author of The Conscious Universe.
Describe your perfect evening.
A relaxing moment with my wife, a glass of red wine, creative discussions filled with mutual dreams and optimistic plans for the future.
What would you be doing for a living if it weren’t what you’re doing now?
Possibly an inventor. I had an offer once by one noted inventor who wanted to be my mentor and show me the ropes. How to develop prototypes, then fly to Taiwan and then later try to sell to manufacturers for royalties etc. I’ve always been gifted with having ideas and he thought I had possibilities.
Who is the one person who has influenced your personal life the most and why?
There have been many significant and helpful persons along the journey, such as the outstanding French art critic Marianne de Tolentino, but my wife Marianne (same first name) has been most crucial in her extreme critical sense, constant encouragement and her love and support for my art as well as her organizational skills. She’s been a serious art collector since the age of 20 and is my strongest critic, inspiration and supporter to date.
If you could sit down and have a conversation with ONE person, living or dead, real or fictional, who would it be and why?
That’s an easy one. Victor Candell. I would certainly like to thank him for believing in me from the start. Also, I’d like to have an opportunity to discuss with him certain aspects of my art. He always called me a “maverick artist” in a positive way and acknowledged I sometimes even broke some of the rules he’d taught me but was man enough to admit “somehow you’ve pulled it off, again.” We had a great teacher-student relationship and we loved to discuss politics as well. There’s a wonderful interview with Candell here: http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/interviews/oral-history-interview-victor-candell-12351
What advice would you give someone who aspired to be an artist?
Try to find a real art teacher, one who’s more of an inspiration and guide, a savvy coach than one who’s going to tell you what color to choose or what to paint. One that can teach you to paint above your natural abilities because he or she believes you are unique and are genuinely involved with your progress. A real teacher discovers that uniqueness that exists in you and helps you to exploit that to the highest levels as possible so that you believe in yourself and your creativity to move forward. Thanks to Candell I was able to be good enough to be later accepted at the Royal Danish Academy for the Arts in Copenhagen, Denmark where I then continued my studies with Professor Richard Mortensen, a great Scandinavian artist of world renown and who’d worked in Paris for about 20 years and associated with others like Leger, and many leading artists of the day. Richard Mortensen had met Kandinsky personally and had taken some of Kandinsky’s theories and expanded their brilliant potential, making a mark for himself in art history. I have him to thank as well.
IPad Art: The Digital Art Studio”
Readers interested in purchasing my art book or art works can contact me at email@example.com also take a look at my web site: http://www.roylawaetz.com or
my face book message contact: roylawaetz facebook.
It is a pleasure to offer all readers of this visionandverse.blogspot.com a special price on my iPad paintings, which are printed on museum quality canvas, Lyve Canvas, and done with Breathing Color. A certificate for pH and lightfastness will follow. Size 20” x 16” $499,- + shipping. But this special offer expires January 31, 2015.