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Arts & Culture

Artist on Artist: Gary Sweeney interviews James Cobb

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

James Cobb “with ants” (left) and a very uncomfortable Gary Sweeney


In addition to your paintings, you’re designing amazingly complex prints on the computer. I’m a proud owner of one, and I can look at it for hours.  (Note to readers: Check them out. And then buy one.) Your paintings have a lot of gestural brushstrokes, where the objects move and blur, like a Francis Bacon painting. Your computer prints, on the other hand, are static and clean, as if they were designed by an engineer. Was this a conscious decision?

Yeah, working digitally has enabled me to reconnect with that love of precision that led me into drafting. I’ve been enjoying creating schemata-like, somewhat rhizomatic (as a friend described it) imagery on the computer. Diagrams and exploded views of something. Just now it’s very satisfying. I’m certainly not in love with sitting in front of a screen for hours on end, but the image creation process, aside from that, is incredible. Currently, I’m printing on different materials to ascertain what gives me an object with the most personal appeal. I’m prone to this precision approach when I draw as well, but with paint I get seduced by the visceral possibilities, get well into the push and pull of it, am consistently feeling the urge to finger paint and so, generally, the work has a very different feel.

The art business seems out of whack. If you could change the gallery system, how would you do it?

I don’t think it’s possible for the business of art to be anything other than out of whack. It’s an unholy coupling, but there are ample opportunities to find like minds within that system. I’m not concerned that the system be changed so much as emphasizing the fact that the gallery system isn’t the only game, and doesn’t actually hold the keys to the kingdom.  

The Arts Issue
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