Interview: Dasha Shishkin
Interview: Dasha Shishkin
The Moscow-born, New York-based painter and printmaker Dasha Shishkins work has been in the spotlight since her inclusion, as a Columbia University MFA student, in the 2005 edition of P.S.1 Contemporary Art Centers "Greater New York." The show’s co-curator (and current P.S.1 director) Klaus Biesenbach compared her work to that of Goya and Brueghel. Others have conjured Egon Schiele, Brice Marden, Henry Darger — even Japanese wood prints. But Shishkin’s pieces belong in a category of their own. Her abstract landscapes, bizarre scenes, and images of borderline-perverse human interactions — which tap into the viewer’s own thoughts, dreams, or fantasies — are devised with bold, rich colors and tactile textures, using domestic materials like wallpaper and unique media like Conté crayons and Sumi ink. Her show at Zach Feuer Gallery last fall drew scores of visitors, and the general consensus was "wow." A new body of work appears at Gió Marconi Gallery, in Milan, starting this month. Marina Cashdan spoke with Shishkin about her practice and the much-anticipated show.
The titles of your works tend to be enigmatic and playful — for example, Come On and Blow It and Hideous Potato, missed terribly, with likes and no hate. Where do they come from?
Titles are like a cherry on a cake. The cherry does not make a cake a cherry cake, but it is still there to attract or distract an eye. I like words very much. Titles are separate from the pictures for the most part, and they are as much of a distraction and a pair for the image as my name is for what and who I am.
Can you talk about the method and madness behind incorporating various textiles and materials into your paintings?
There is not much madness or method in the approach. Some materials are underdogs of an art shop or a studio — torn, wrinkled paper, ripped canvas, leftover fabric — and I feel their neglect. But it is not out of mercy and in no way a condescending step down that I use them. It is a "what if" and "why not" thought, along the lines of "equal opportunity" for art supplies.
Also, I don’t consider them or call them paintings but drawings, because that is what they are to me — colored-in drawings. But then again, "painting" is just a name.
Over the past century, the definition of painting has been extended to everything from performances, like those of Kazuo Shiraga in the 1950s through ’90s, to Adobe Photoshop and iPhones, as in David Hockney’s recent works. Why don’t you consider yourself a painter, and would you consider those extensions valid?
I think why I remove myself from the painters’ milieu is because I make drawings and not paintings. I am still attached to line and eloquent silhouettes that line creates, leaving paint and colors to be fillers and not definers. I am thinking of Picassos quote about painting as an act of active participation and drawing as an act of voyeurism. I like being a voyeur for now.
In terms of Photoshop being used for painting, I think it is probably up to the person using that material to want to define it as such. I once was told by someone, "You have a canvas, you have a brush — this is painting; that’s what painting is." But I wonder whether that’s what a painting is. Is graphite to paper immediately a drawing? You can make a drawing with whatever on whatever. I think it’s more of a question of language rather than of process. If someone using words can explain why using Photoshop makes them a painter, more power to them. It’s a juicy debate for words rather than the images produced.
Your works are fantastical, fetishistic, and mischievous, at times skirting the perverse. Where do your narratives come from?
Inspiration comes in the process of work and is in the work itself. "What if" appears once again and is the general subject matter at the moment. I don’t see the resulting pictures as either perverse or chaste. But either way, everything can be seen as perverse and fantastical and chaste if considered thoroughly enough. It is still a strictly individual sense. Even if general morals exist and are followed by that particular individual, deep down there is a secret (or not secret) floor plan for the comfort zone.
What can you tell us about your upcoming show at Gió Marconi?
The work is still being made, and it is difficult for me to describe the sense of it at this point. But I like to sit in the corner and look at the new pictures. There is always a surprise and excitement that follows completing of the work, rendering the process of actual making almost subconscious, because glee takes over the memory of decision making. The work seems to edit itself.
What do you think of the future of painting?
Oh, it’s simply fantastic!
Apr. 22–May 29, giomarconi.com
"Interview: Dasha Shishkin" originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Modern Painters. For a complete list of articles from this issue available on ARTINFO, see Modern Painters' April 2010 Table of Contents.