Michael Eudy
Places in space. Luoghi nello spazio.

Everything started in Rome. A city whose beautiful complexity/complex beauty eternally awaits discovery. Although transitory, Jahjehan Bath Ives, Michael Eudy and Joe Ives’ experience in Rome is deeply linked to its spatial and temporal dimensions. The linear perception of time the artists are familiar with is confronted by the city’s historical layering, which condenses past and present and leads to a new formulation of the gaze. Through this re –composition of visual information, one can notice the artists’ common interest in working with real or mythical places.

Joe Ives’ chair in Chair/Column becomes the support of an antique Roman column, redefining the space surrounding it. Jahjehan Bath Ives’ works also interact with the space through the light and shadow created by her mylar cuts. The works on show also ironically deal with an aspect of time that can’t be captured. In Portable City, time advances imperceptibly, following the course of a day from dawn to dusk; it is an imaginary city where six minutes of video stands in for the slow passage of a day. Michael Eudy explores new dimensions on the surface of the canvas through the deconstruction of a single view point. He aspires to an encompassing time that brings together past, present and future. Finally, Eve creates a vessel for communication between the original feminine condition and a more contemporary one. The multiple and complex possibilities that places and spaces can offer become manifest and are held within in a moment, fixing new experiences in a single passage.

Conversazione con gli artisti
di Mirène Arsanios, Francesca Cavallo, Barbara Goretti


The transitory side of your stay in Rome seems to match with an intensive investigation in your artistic languages.
How facing this new experience did strengthened your work and what instead was put into question?

Time. Time is the short answer to both aspects of that question. To respond to the first part, I would say that in Rome, time is simultaneously compressed and expanded, layered and labyrinthine. Experiencing Rome is intense for painters because that’s what we deal with, compressed or collapsed time. All the laborious hours a painter spends to complete a painting exist on the flat surface of the canvas as a singulairty. I had always been uncomfortable with that aspect of time in painting until I came to Rome. Here, one has to accept this temporal duality.
That being said, its almost impossible not to question yourself and your work. Just a 10 minute walk south of my studio is Santa Maria del Popolo, which has two of my favorite Caravaggio paintings inside. When I had been here about a month, I decided to go take a look at them. I think I stopped breathing for a while I was so stunned. I was struck with the notion that time ravages some things while it glorifies others, and if I wanted my paintings to stand the test of time I knew I had to make some changes.

There is a clear influence of your immersion in Italian art history in your recent works. Contrarily to some previous pieces where sources further de-contextualized favoured a play of light and shadows, Annunciation ( in which you used gold leaf ) is particularly rich and recalls Baroque style. You are overtly playing with art historical associations/references, also through the choice of biblical themes (Deluge, Eve, Eden). What is the relationship between the subject you treat and the way you treat them?

J.B.I. :

F.C. :
You often put together ornamental motif and human figures, which are covered and hiden by the decorative pattern: the golden birds in Annunciation, the waves in Deluge are motifs taken from wall paper. Representation and ornamentation dissolve into one another and recall the sophisticated interlacing of Islamic art used in techniques such as carving. At the same time, it emphasizes an ironic use of the very concept of ornamentation: can you explain what function it has in your work?


To which contemporary artists do you feel close to and how, if they did, have they influenced your work ?

That depends on when you ask me, it changes continually! But for the last couple of years I’ve been thinking a lot about Ed Ruscha. And I think that’s because his work is a seamless blend of the cerebral and the visceral. He’s essentially a conceptual artist, an artistic descendant of Duchamp, but yet he has such a lightness of touch that he truly is a great painter also. Ironically, I saw his “Course of Empire” show at last year’s Bienale and it had a great influence on me. On one side of the exhibition were some old black and white paintings of industrial buildings, buildings typical of suburban America. On the other side of the exhibition were paintings of the same buildings,10 years or so later, this time in color. Kind of a play on the classic “before and after” snapshot, but it was more than just the images of the buildings. There
was a particular dialogue that occured in the space between the paintings, and I found it intriguing.

You have recently been using video. In Eden (date), you projected small figured dancing in a thick vegetation cut into mylar. In Eve the figure- yourself- looses its “concreteness” but re- conquers space through movement and the energy of dance that are also softened (tone down) by irony: it seems to be a further development in your research. How do you relate to these new images?
J.B.I. :

Michael, the concept of space and time is very present in your work and it gives to it a predominantly scientific approach. Can you speak about your interest for theoretical physics and how it influences your work?

Well, there’s been this quiet revolution going on in the world of physics for quite some time, and to make a long story short it goes like this: We have two systems of describing our world, one of those being Einstein’s Theory of Relativity which accurately describes the universe on a macro level, and the other is Quantum Theory which accurately describes the world on a micro level. The problem is, in certain circumstances like the moment of the Big Bang and in black holes, these two theories break down and don’t match up. So there are physicists on the fringe of the discipline searching for a theory to unify them. As new developments are made, we realize that reality might be very different than what our daily experience tells us, and this is where my interest lies. I think it opens up possibilities for human understanding of space an time, as well as new possibilities for the space of painting.

F.C. :
You create images by putting together unlikely elements such as a pink car in the jungle of The First Safari. Recently you have create.... in which three planes are hazardously flying above an urban landscape; in.... a nineteen century english vessel and a second world war american ship are facing each other on a agitated sea. These colourful and cartoon-like images transmit a sense of imminent danger, achieved also through the overlapping of various focal points. In your recent works one can notice many allusions to contemporary politics: can you comment on this?

I can’t say that there are any overt allusions to our current political climate, but I will admit there is a sense of impending doom and direct reference to warfare expressed in some of the paintings. But I try to leave them impossible to resolve, a kind of unrequited danger so to speak. For example the airplanes do look precariously poised for collision, but a careful reading, as you’ve pointed out, will tellyou that the planes and the landscape are painted from different points of view. So the space that exists is an impossible one, but we suspend our disbelief when we look at the painting, much as we do when watching cinema, or for that matter when we listen to our politicians (ha ha!). A similar thing happens in “The First Safari” when I conflate the chandellier and the automobile. The viewer can’t determine his viewing distance and therefore has jumped into a space that doesn’t exist.

You draw your artistic sources from a vast reservoir of images. Recently, you have created some collages with vintage material taken from “romanzi gialli” . How do you related to italian pop culture? Do you consider your collages to be “places” where you collect material for experimentation?

Absolutely, I began doing the collages out of a need to express ideas without editing myself. Oftentimes I overanalyze an idea for a painting before I even paint it, so the collages were definitely a space where I could experiment freely and intuitively. It kept the work fresh because I didn’t feel the need to make “high” art. As for my relationship to Italian pop culture, I am still trying to understand its true nature. Italian culture is a “giallo”, no? A mystery that never gets solved? When I first arrived in Rome, I thought that Caravaggio, Bernini, and Michelangelo were italian pop culture until I discovered the gialli mondadori. When I saw them I bought lots of them, because they reminded me of home. We have a similar history with our own pulp fiction novels. I love them for their cover art, especially because they are so overlooked, and when they are noticed they are viewed with disdain. Painters in particular call them badly painted merely illustratative, but I think they exhibit a quick and beautiful virtuosity despite their vulgarity. And the abstract passages have an innocence that I think is lost in contemporary abstraction.

Finding solutions to spatial problems is what often drives your research and makes you akin to work with site-specific interventions. It is clear that the column at the centre of the room could have been a “disturbing” element for the overall installation of the show, but you taught of constructing a chair for it. Can you talk about this work and how it relates to the concept of place?

Your Portable City also suggests a practical solution to the urban problems of space: a handy city that can be built and taken down according to one’s own will... Can you explain how this project is born and what, according to you, could be the function of a portable city? Could it be an anti-utopian answer to the myth of the ideal city?

J. I.:

The video in Portable City refers to the presence of an object that is, at the same time, inside and outside the projection. Similarly, In “A Love Story” 2005, the piece of furniture that you transport all over the city is the “bench” where the spectator sits to see the video. What is the relation between your videos and your sculptural work when they are presented together? Do you use video as a temporal and narrative support?

J. I.:

Generale 1:

Looking at the show there is a strong presence of visual fabrics, styles that are borrowed and re-contextualised (the texture of green leaves of the jungle, the English style of the chair, the golden leaf in Annunciation). Is cutting and pasting different styles and reworking them a sort of camouflage? How do you position yourself within all these references?

Its interesting that you call our strategies “camouflage”, because I just recently finished a painting of a pair of shoes of mine that have camouflage fabric. I did it because I found the shoes very ironic. Camouflage is supposed to conceal, but these are street shoes, so the camouflage only manages to accentuate their presence. So what is be concealed? Are hidden within plain sight? The shoes seemed to be red herrings rather than camouflage, something to throw someone off course. That’s how I use all my references, indirectly. They are there to keep me, and the viewer, off center or decentralized. To me, that’s what art making is. Each work of art is a response to an open ended question. But rather than answer anything it only seems to ask more questions. So I guess my position is off center, because a space that doesn’t exist has no center.