Frame 61

Owen Drysdale

Frame 61
Owen Drysdale

"When I start a painting it begins as a building of a illusory space whose sensation is tied to a specific locality and experience."


Could you tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a practicing artist and where did you study?

I grew up in Houston, Texas and attended Texas State University for my bachelors degree in San Marcos, Texas, which is just south of Austin. Roughly directly in the center of the state. Currently, I'm a graduate student at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York in my final year of a 3 year MFA program. Both localities have been great for me in that I can focus on my work but still have access to exhibit and see shows in other cities nearby. I suppose practicing implies being out there in the world and I'm still in school which is a very specific kind of bubble to be in but I've been lucky enough to have had opportunities to show my work. Most recently I had my first solo show in Houston this summer at Barbra Davis Gallery.

Your paintings have an expressive freedom about them whistle your sculptures feel more controlled and sedated. This brings an interesting juxtaposition, could you tell us about your process and the thoughts behind your work?

The paintings seek to describe a state of intuitive and free flowing thought. One in which images and associations shift meaning as they come in contact with one another. In this I see a distinct parallel to browsing the internet. There's a kinship to them. I can jump between content and connotation with both in such a way that I have multiple points of view simultaneously. The sculptural work in my view is an extension of my practice as a painter and stems from wanting to create an installation where the viewer can engage the works as I do; in their relation to one another in a space both mental and physical.

Big Hopeful Songs, 2015

Untitled, 2016

Untitled (man sculpture), 2015

You Put Your Energies, 2015

Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine? What is your studio like?

My studio is on the campus of Syracuse University and much of my life revolves around me being there. I typically arrive in the late morning to finish all of my obligations so that I can get to work in the studio around 7pm once the building begins to quiet down for the day and I work into the night. I often jump from one work to another and have several paintings going at once tacked to the wall in one half of the studio while the sculptures hug the walls on the other. It's important that it not be too comfortable and that I have the majority of the floor space open so I can see work from a distance or quickly scan them as a group.

What do you hope the viewer gains/reacts from looking at your work?

In an ideal situation the viewer enters a similar mode of thought that the paintings are made in. One that jumps from one association to another to another. I hope that they could slow down, even for just a second and consider how much input we receive and how amazing it is that we can make some sense of it for ourselves.

In your paintings you seem to create a collection of colour and mark making, that has the illusion of something organic, something that has grown out from the middle of the canvas. What is your starting point when you approach a blank canvas? Is there an image already planned or is it spontaneous?

Within the paintings I'm very much interested in evoking a naturalistic, representational space through an abstract mark and how I can use the strategies of both to support and deny a categorical reading of the work. When I start a painting it begins as a building of a illusory space whose sensation is tied to a specific locality and experience. They can be tied to a sensation like that of swimming or eating shaved ice or falling for someone in such a way that it feels like a movie or being blinded by the sun. As I'm working the paintings diverge from my original intent as I continue to follow new associations that present themselves as the painting begins to exist in relation to its image and the fluctuating connotations of the marks that comprise it.

Untitled (gradient), 2016

We Like it Here, 2015

How do you go about naming your work?

Titles are tricky for me. Sometimes I'll hear someone say a phrase that instantly solidifies as they are speaking with me or I've overheard it somewhere. These can become the basis for paintings in themselves and I catch a break for once. More often than not I use titles refer to a nonlinear narrative structure that is in the work. They act like beacons in conjunction with other formal elements of the work to infer a type of place or event. The titles in recent work come from associations of my time in San Marcos, Texas where there is a strong swimming and leisure culture because of this river that runs through the town. It's one of those places that is so nice it feels like a trap.

What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?

Ugo Rondinone's exhibition Clouds+ Mountains+ Waterfalls at Sadie Coles  last fall. I was in London studying for a term through my university and the air in that show was just electric. The sculptures and paintings worked together in such a way as to form an atmosphere in the exhibition that surpassed anything possible with a single type of work and I've been chasing after it for my own work ever since.

What does the future hold for you as an artist? Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about? 

Aside from me being excited for where my work is going I'm looking forward beginning my life outside of school and to finding a community for myself in whatever city I end up next once I graduate in the spring.

My work is in a group show titled Conduit in Lincoln, Nebraska that opens at Tugboat Gallery on the 7th of October.

Artist's website

Interview published: 30/09/16