Robert Zurer is an InLiquid Member whose works are colorful and passionate, revolving around themes of spirituality and the “unknown”. This month we wanted to get to know him more and understand a bit more about his practice and what he’s currently working on. Scroll down to see a selection of his works and read our interview with him.
InLiquid: What made you first get into painting? How have you developed your skills over the years?
RZ: I started drawing as a child. It was a natural instinct. My skills developed by simply doing work and paying attention. I have had no formal training in art although I did attend private weekly group classes with the painter Wade Schuman at his studio from around 1999 - 2006. More recently, since 2017, I have been attending sessions of the NYC Crit Club and have participated in other private group crits. This kind of community involvement has moved my work forward more than anything else. I am writing this from the Vermont Studio Center where I was just accepted as a resident. It is amazing here.
InLiquid: You’ve mentioned priorly that you often don't have a plan in place when you start a new piece of work. Can you describe what your process for creating new work looks like?
RZ: I start by making random marks or by putting down an irregular ground and sit across from the canvas or panel and wait until I see something that needs to be added or removed or changed. Once I act, the painting becomes a new painting. It is a conversation, a call and response.
Sometimes when the conversation ebbs and nothing is going on, I might squint or rotate the painting, or look at it in a mirror. Sometimes a passage that I love at the end of a session becomes beside the point in the next session and has to be wiped out. Sometimes a favorite passage has to be sacrificed for the integrity of the whole. Sometimes you have to 'kill your darlings'.
The painting lets me know what it needs. To quote Louise Bourgeoise: "After a work is finished you say, Ah my God, this is what I meant."
InLiquid: Are there any connections between the pieces you've included in this collection?
RZ: I suppose they all explore our common human condition - what is unique to being a human on this Earth. Many of them are about a search, about making the unknown known.
InLiquid: Your work seems to revolve heavily around the psychological, the spiritual, and the mystery of human consciousness. What drives you to take on themes such as these? What are the challenges you face?
RZ: When I said above that I have a dialog with the painting, that the painting tells me the next step, what does that really mean? I have come to believe that it is really a dialog with something larger than I am. It is my desire for growth that drives me to explore these waters. I feel that what comes through is an answer to a silent question that I ask and the question keeps changing.
The main challenge is to be able to distinguish my own habitual moves and mechanical patterns from something that comes as if from outside - something that really takes me by surprise, something new.
InLiquid: Oil seems to be your preferred medium. What draws you to using oil paints?
RZ: They slide and mix and stay wet. They shine. They are sexy. I can remove paint between sessions. They are ancient. They are not plastic. I love the smell. Some colors are magic - green earth, sepia, transparent orange, indian yellow, alizarin crimson and the cadmiums. Somehow the same pigment in a acrylic paint doesn’t feel as deep for me.
InLiquid: Who are your biggest artistic influences?
RZ: Gorky, Dove, Bacon, Neel, Lassnig, Burchfield, Avery, Millet, Soutine, Grosz, Dix, Kollwitz, Rothenberg, Kandinsky, Carrington, Pelton, Bosch, Ryder to mention a few, but there are hundreds of artists working today with whom I have contact either in person or through Instagram that have really opened my eyes.
InLiquid: Are you working on any new works or specific projects at the moment?
RZ: I am always working on new work. I usually have around five in progress at any one time. Since the work doesn’t start with an idea or something specific that I want to explore, I don’t work in series. It has been one long project since the beginning.