Introductions: Claudia Bicen
Claudia Bicen is a San Francisco based artist who hales from London. We caught up with her to ask a few questions about her practice and her history. Read on to learn more!
1. Tell us briefly about the focus of your work.
I have no formal education in art and instead graduated with a BA in Philosophy and Psychology and an MSc in Cultural Anthropology. Studying these subjects has played a huge role in the direction my artistic practice has taken. Through varying styles of portraiture, both realist and surrealist, my artwork is focused on the human spirit. I am captivated by how conscious, sentient beings have evolved from physical matter to be able to communicate and understand one another. Drawing portraits is a further exploration of this phenomenon: an extraordinarily intimate process where a three-dimensional illusion of another thinking, feeling human being is created with a two-dimensional medium.
The pursuit of realism as an artistic technique is an obvious one for me because it is the detail of life that really holds my attention: the subtle shift in light across the curve of a cheek, the tissue paper folds and creases of old skin, the glint of an eye and the individual hairs of a beard. It is in these details that I find the highest degrees of beauty and it is through these subtleties that I try to capture my subjects' vulnerability and honesty.
2. What themes are you currently exploring?
I am currently working on a series of surrealist portraits that juxtapose the vibrancy of human life against its essentially ephemeral nature by combining the intricate detail of realism with the disintegration of form. My work at Project 387 will be a continuation of this theme but more specifically focusing on the Japanese aesthetic principle of 'mono no aware', the idea that true serenity arises from our ability to embrace transience. Moving away from traditional mediums and settings, the portrait project will utilize the unique objects at, and location of Project 387 to create a walking meditation. The project will engage the viewer as a witness to the process of change and provide them with an opportunity, if they choose to take it, to embrace the dissolution of beauty.
3. What are you looking at, reading, or listening to right now that is influencing your work or process?
Some of the big influences for this project have been the Buddhist meditation teachings of S. N. Goenka, the existential psychotherapy publications of Irvin Yalom, the cinematic masterpieces of Fricke and Magidson and the 'memento moris' embedded in 16-17th century European art. The musical lubricant for my recent work is the dreamlike soundscapes of Gold Panda, Evenings and Clams Casino. My visual influences are always the people around me: the woman on the bus, the man on the street.
4. What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?
My current studio is in my kitchen where the lighting is best. A typical work day is placing myself in the center of the room surrounded by pastels while the world goes on around me and the music plays loudly in my ears.
5. Is there anything unusual that helps you stay focused while working?
The realistic style of my work only serves to feed my obsessive nature (and provide a socially acceptable forum for it). My bigger problem is being able to pull away from my work. I often work for many hours without a break only to suddenly become aware of my body and realize that I'm famished, thirsty and exhausted.
6. What's the best advice someone has giving you about your work? The worst?
Best advice: don't stop.
Worst advice: draw celebrities.
7. Are you involved in any upcoming shows/events/happenings?
The opening reception of my first solo show will be held on August 2, two days before the Project 387 residency starts. The exhibition will be at FM Gallery, one of the main galleries at Oakland's Art Murmur, and will showcase work from the last year.
8. Is there one particular thing you are most looking forward to at Project 387?
I am most looking forward to turning off my electronic companions/crutches, disconnecting from the constant flow of distractions that dominate city life and being able to embrace the stillness and presence of the natural world that I hope will facilitate my creative process.