The Art Assassin

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang

Chapter 51: ASSASSINATION: Camilla Fallon, Artist Represented by The Barbara Ann Levy Gallery

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Camilla Fallon in her studio. Courtesy of Roberta Fineberg Photography.
Camilla Fallon: Point Lobos Cypress 3, 2007, oil on canvas, 30 by 40 inches. Courtesy of The Barbara Ann Levy Gallery.

Last year, meeting Camilla Fallon, a fellow artist who graduated from the same university that I went to, was quite a beautiful and fascinating experience. When I headed over to her website, I saw some of the most exquisite paintings rendered in mostly black and white with a tinge of grey and blue within the ground of the paintings themselves. It was like looking at the poetry of Robert Frost or humming the last symphony of Schubert. I couldn’t explain what drew me into her world of poetic imagery that captured my feelings as much as when looking at Brice Marden‘s Cold Mountain series over a decade ago.

I was honored to be able to get in touch with the woman who had inspired me to explore the poetry of the sinewy line and curve within my own spray paintings and street art. Her series of black paintings remain a triumph of the forceful imagination in newly explored avenues into the secret world of the psychological caverns.

If you have any questions about Fallon’s artwork, feel free to contact her gallery at barbaraannlevy1@mac.com.

Now here are THE ART ASSASSIN’s revealed details of this reputed “assassination”:

qi peng: You are represented currently by The Barbara Ann Levy Gallery. What is the story behind how Ms. Levy found your artwork for presentation? Do you feel that having your work displayed in a physical space differs substantially than an online website? Which do you think works better for presenting art?

Camilla Fallon: I met Barbara Levy when she had a gallery in Chelsea. Unfortunately it got too expensive and she had to give it up. She is in West Palm Beach now.

I had a friend who had a show there and I stopped by to see it, she struck up conversation and we hit it off.

I can’t tell you enough how much my (and all) paintings need to be seen in a physical space. A painting is more than a mere image. A painting has scale, can be architectural in relation to the viewer, not to forget tactile and a good painting has a presence cannot be duplicated.

qi peng: Your work has been featured in two art fairs, the Bridge Art Fair last year through The Barbara Ann Levy Gallery and The Affordable Art Fair through Artlog. What is your opinion on art fairs? Do you think that artists hate them? How does being featured within the art fair context enhance or detract from a career?

Camilla Fallon: Art fairs can be fun if you can go with the flow and not invest too much time or money.

I never expected any substantial exposure there, a gallery is a much better forum. I had a fantastic time in Miami, though. I don’t think one can have great expectations for oneself and one’s career. Looking at art, so much in one place that was not NYC was a revelation. There was a small Picasso collage that blew me away and some huge dreadful painting nearby. All in all a fresh look at the art market and a lot of interesting work. I don’t anybody ever gets a good introduction to an artist’s work at an art fair. The web provides a better forum for an overview and context in terms of how a piece fits into an artist’s development.

I’ve always heard people talk about how some shows detract from their career. I was in a Salon type show in Williamsburg recently and people remarked that nobody took the place seriously, I found the show’s premise interesting and I had my own reasons for participating in a show celebrating John Milton.

(It’s not my aim as an artist to live my life to please the rule makers whoever they may be.)

qi peng: What would you consider to be your studio practices? Where do you derive your ideas from for your paintings, both figurative and abstract?

Camilla Fallon: I am not sure what you mean exactly by studio practice: painting as an art form that one needs to do regularly over along period of time on order to develop? I was schooled in the History of Western Art for the most part my direct influences are from Post- Impressionism and early Modernism, late Monet through Picasso and Matisse, and French Symbolism, German Expresisonism, Mannerism, Titian and surprisingly Poussin. My influences are classic.

There are perceptual influences too, the way I see: response to blinding light, planes shifting in space, my physical body in relation to the scale of paintings I see.

Tactile response to the materials in my studio.

The idea to press stencils into the paint was from an exercise I used in a high school class that I taught making prints with bubble wrap, It was alive, unpredictable and graphic. The kids taught me a lot about surprise. I taught drawing in the AAS program at Parsons in the early 90’s; drawing with its primary aim to draw objects as coherent and readable planes in space. I learned a lot through teaching. I work as a Graphic Designer.

Imaging with Photoshop is a huge influence.

(I have turned a blind eye to Theory. A number of the people I knew stopped making things, and I think were lead down the garden path out of fear of being judged and then attempting to turn Art into an intellectual exercise that was so arcane that it couldn’t be judged) I mention this only to show that it wasn’t easy to stay within the realm of traditional painting. It was a conscious choice.

qi peng: What do critics and/or curators think about your ability to switch between abstract and figurative paintings? In what ways do you find painting each type differ from one another?

Camilla Fallon: Very few of my paintings are abstract in the true sense. They almost always refer to nature in some way or are perhaps symbolic. The History of Black series literally began by covering up psychological imagery that I hated. I wanted to strip down the painting process and make it more about itself and give myself a break. Simplify it. That’s why History is in the title. So I worked with black and white and a little color. The paintings are always evocative. It could be light coming through or something else, and there is often a ground plane or horizon line somewhere that you might not see. They are playful. Most critics and teachers said to me that you can’t do both. I don’t think too many people care about consistency anymore in terms of Art, look at someone like Gerhard Richter. The dealers want consistent work because it’s a product and they like to be able to predict what an artist will do.

This work isn’t abstract or nonobjective like Barnett Newman or Ad Reinhardt.

This is work that is rooted in nature and has a structure that comes from it. If you see it together in one space its all obviously by the same hand. One of the most interesting shows I ever saw was one of Mondrian’s flower paintings. Most people only see the work an artist is famous for. The art world likes a signature—like branding, consistency. Over the years I have moved back and forth and for me the need to make is also the need to let the work evolve. Even though I blur the edges, some people cry foul but I find that for the most the work is not pictorial. I cry foul when I see work that is merely pictorial or illustrational.

In a lot of painting now there is emphasis on craft. There have always been artisans and skilled people who manufacture images. Painting is different than that for me.

qi peng: Whom do you consider to be your artistic or cultural influences on your work? What excites you to enter the studio to execute a piece?

Camilla Fallon: I think I touched on that in [question] 3.

Some of my early was blatantly sexual with precedent from Hand Buldung and Balthus, I did it in way that scared people at the time. I was reacting to a culture that was becoming increasing conservative,

A few years later the stage was different. The provocative was de riguer.

In my studio what motivates me is time to work, space to work in and new materials.

Looking at paintings makes me want to paint, even at Miami Basel and the Jasper Johns show at MOMA. Seeing something that I respond to will set me off.

qi peng: Having attending the Yale MFA program, what are some of your memories and thoughts of your experiences there? Which professors did you find most crucial for your methods and philosophy?

Camilla Fallon: It certainly validated my own perception and experiences as an artist. I worked with the three B’s and a C: Bailey, Bochner, Berthot and Chaet and Roger Tibbets who I TA’d for. At that time I had no desire to painting anything but figures and I was blasted for my blatant sexual content, It was difficult. Another topic for another day. That aside, I learned about painting and the difference between Painting, making picures, ie the mere pictorial. Chaet, Berthot and Tibbetts were very much about the mark, handwriting if you will. Seeing and making understanding complex pictorial spaces trumped the pictorial with all of them. Bailey, I reacted against later. He liked to talk about the order in Poussin, for instance and how the Rape of the Sabines was about order that was cool and formal, therefore it is good. I was like WHAAAAT???? How divorced from the real can one be?

I think he was really off on that one.

But I am grateful that I know how to look for formal structure and the underpinnings of a painting particularly in the representational.

qi peng: What is some advice that you have for young, emerging artists graduating from a BFA or MFA program? Any suggestions for them to find gallery representation? Any ideas for how they should conduct studio visits/open studio exhibitions?

Camilla Fallon: The recent gallery scene was a good thing for a lot if people . it was open and young artists had comraderie. The Yale crowd that I knew always seemed backstabbing. I think one needs to cultivate relationships with other artists that are based on mutual respect. As I got older I saw a lot of people burning their bridges. The new crop of artists that I’ve met, the painters, I mean, seem to relate to each other in a positive way. Make your Art and cultivate people who understand it and care about it.

qi peng: In what ways do you think that the economic recession will influence the international art world and the way galleries behave? Do you see a direct impact on the works of New York artists specifically? Is any of your work influenced by the mood or ideas from this recession?

Camilla Fallon: If the pickings get slim and they will in the new economy, people will have to be flexible. Making Art is a life long process. I got burned in the early 90’s when there was a mini recession and the uproar about the NEA created problems for all of us. I lost my studio. It took a few years to get another one. I thought I would lose my mind.

It could happen again.

You have to go with the flow and stay true to yourself. In 5 years the Art World will be a different, Even if comes back, it’ll be different, the preferred type of work—whatever.

qi peng: What is your opinion of the mercurial and quick, rock-and-roll ascent of young artists from obscurity into blue-chip fame overnight? An example is Rosson Crow, who is represented by Honor Fraser. Do you feel that age allows maturity and experience in artistic style which contains a more developed vocabulary? Can young artists be truly insightful or should continued exploration be encouraged?

Camilla Fallon: I don’t think it has much to do with me. I think Rock and Roll fame is more the province of celebrity which is a whole different thing.

qi peng: What are some of your favorite hobbies? Do any of them relate to your studio practice?

Camilla Fallon: Listening to piano music, Schumann, Scbubert, the 3 B’s and some contemporary and trying to play, people see a rhythm and patterns in the work and are comvinced that it derives from that.

I never danced, but I love movement. I did gymnastics and now I do yoga, When I work with the figure which always a favorite I feel that I feel it. When I draw from a model, I feel that weight and posture. I must be intune with the physical body in some way.

It’s funny because in yoga and painting I have to have symmetry around me . If there is something weird on the wall I can’t balance. If I don’t have the right space around my paintings I can’t paint. The painting is like an extention of the room, architectural.

I read a lot which influences my thinking but I don’t see a direct link right now,

I used to read poetry and try to evoke it in some of my work, its been a while.

The History of Black is loosely based on a series of poems. But I’ve know those for a long time, they were written by someone close to me.

qi peng: What is your opinion on juried competitions such as Studio Visit Magazine and New American Paintings, etc.? Do you think that entering and/or winning will help to get critical attention for an artist’s work?

Camilla Fallon: I don’t like juried competitions much. I was in few a long time ago I gave it because it was too much like a cattle call, If its not difficult though I would apply for everything. You have to be able to prioritize. If its time consuming and expensive and you don’t get much out if it, move on.

qi peng: Do you enjoy reading art magazines? Which ones do you favor and recommend to the general public or collectors who are starting out?

Camilla Fallon: I don’t read them much, I look at the pictures in ArtForum see what’s hot.

I enjoy Jerry Saltz’s crticism in NY Mag. I almost never agree with Roberta Smith however. Since they are a pair I don’t know why that is. Some the online blogs are wonderful, ArtCal & Roberta Fallon and Libby Kossoff (Libby Rosof).

(No relation.)

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at qipengart@gmail.com
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Written by qi peng

May 12, 2009 at 2:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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