David Molesky is the painter of a world in flames
Interview by Vangelis Makris
The New York artist talks to LIFO.gr about his latest exhibition and presents 9 of his paintings
The exhibition of painter David Molesky is currently on display at the Stephen Romano gallery in Brooklyn, New York. The theme of the exhibition “Riot Paintings” is inspired by photos of the riots in Kiev in 2014. Let’s listen to what an artist has to say to LIFO.gr who, through his painting, records our present. A world that is on fire and changing radically.
What is the most vivid memory you have from your childhood?
– In my parents’ basement there was a burner that made a lot of noise and lit the room when it was on. At one point I found the courage to go down there alone. By the light of the burner, I found a bundle of papers, which looked like a treasure trove of stunning images. I went upstairs with the parcel to find out later that it was my father’s drawings when he was a teenager.
Why did you become an artist?
– I painted a lot when I was a child. I have been working continuously since I was 4 years old pretending that there was a studio in my room. I did not understand what a studio was then, but I found the need to find a special place to focus on painting. I started doing oil paintings at the age of 14 and had my first solo exhibition in high school organized by my art teacher. I seemed to have discovered something I could be good at.
Do you think that an artist has an obligation to society?
– I think an artist has an obligation to society and could do more than just inspire people through beauty. An artist should try to reveal to his viewers what it means to be human, as if his work is a mirror for the viewer, creating a system of trust with him. And it’s best when the message is conveyed through a global language that can transcend different cultures.
In 2009, after 18 months of apprenticeship with the painter Odd Nerdrum, you returned to the USA. Could you share with us your favorite memories from that period of your life in Europe?
– I have so many memorable experiences to remember from my tenure with Odd. I once walked by his studio expressing my admiration for his painting. He responded to my words by jumping over the chair shouting at the board he was creating “He could be better!”. It was wonderful to see this white-haired man wearing a robe rushing into the painting with tremendous energy and concentration.
Tell us a few things about your inspiration behind the series “Riot Paintings”.
– I started working on the paintings when the riots in Kiev reached their peak. Before that, I had a central idea, that I wanted to paint human figures with fire in a closed place, and I had decided that the characters in my paintings would not be victims or terrified by fire.
When I saw the photos from Kiev I was struck with the beauty of the protesters in front of the fire, they seemed to form an agreement between them for a common purpose: a transformation through an act of destruction.
A top 5 with your favorite artists and a short comment for each?
1. Tiziano: He captured with his art the noble characteristics of humanity.
2. Rembrandt: No one is capable of creating the illusion of human presence as well as he does.
3. Turner: A beautiful explosion of light and space.
4. Poussin: He really understood the composition and how to give a pulse to his paintings with multiple figures.
5. Da Vinci: He captured the enigmatic relationship between humans and the unknown.
How would you describe the ideal spectator of your works?
– I think the ideal viewer could be someone who knows the wonderful history of narrative painting and appreciates the importance of color itself, in addition to using it to create an illusion
If someone told you that your art “promotes violence”, what would you answer?
– I have not heard anyone say such a thing until today. But if he did, I would ask him if he personally feels that he is acting violently or if anyone is guessing that he is going to have this reaction. I wish I had a dialogue with him through which we would both learn something. One thing I hear people say when they look at my paintings is that the beautiful way I paint these facts negates any discomfort about challenging my images.
Have you ever read a book that changed your life?
– I often listen to audiobooks. But no one has made an immediate change in my life. I like reading Neurobiology, Anthropology, and Philosophy. They give me the keys to understanding life.
You have a collaboration with Juxtapoz magazine. What was your most awkward moment as a journalist to date? The best;
– Haha, awkward moment, then, probably every time an artist asks me to write about them. The best time is when I hear praise from the director or the publisher. I maintain a clear kind of cooperation with them. Sometimes I feel that we communicate with each other with telepathy.
Tell us about your favorite place in New York.
– I like the rooftop of my Brooklyn studio. It has an open view of all of the island of Manhattan. It makes me happy to go up there and feel this open view especially at sunset.
Think of yourself as a traveler in the time he meets his sixteen year old self. What would you tell him?
– If I met a 16 year old me, I would tell him to forget his pursuits of science or preparation for medicine, to feel free to study but not to feel confused about the real calling. Learn as much as you can about painting and anatomy, complete, fast and as early as you can. All this will be useful in the years to come.
You could share with us a photo with something you love (object, animal, person, anything)
– This is my best friend, Oskar, a three-year-old Aussie Shepherd. He likes to play Frisbee.