Interview: Bill Sullivan

Self Portrait with Mirror  #33 © Bill Sullivan
Pigment print on canvas    26" X 18"  
2009, edition of 3

Alice Waraxa: How would you describe your vision as an artist?

Bill Sullivan: My vision? I don't know, changing but always the same?  In spite of wanting to do something new, I often end up with something that was already there in the past 
Every couple of years I seem to want to start from scratch on something new  - something new that seems exciting at that time...But often in spite of yourself, you see stuff returning from previous ways of working and projects, an image, a concept that I was trying to work hard out Return in a different form.    And in the process trying to do something new - you end up resolving something old.But as far as what that vision is concerned with I guess it is something to do with the psychological reading of images.

AW: What could you give as advise to photographers that haven't entered the field just yet?

BS: As far as advice for new artists or photographers.... prepare for the long haul - and embrace change. Keep your mind as open as possible to new positions - and be prepared to fail.

Don’t be ignorant or keep your head in the sand. Look at as many images in as many areas of art and photography as humanly possible.
And ask yourself exactly why certain images work and why other images do not. Cut expenses and create as much time as possible to experiment and develop work.

Also as far as where to show and tell all this new work you will be making. The small art book scene has really exploded and provides almost a new model for how artists can get people to see their stuff. There is art book fair circuit or scene. From PS1’s Printed Matter book fair to the recent Off Print in Paris - this interesting direction.  And artists like Ofer Wolfberger has really embraced that model - creating new bodies of work coming out of very different and unique books for each new projects. But that is really something to watch - his site and blog Horses Think has allot of the info on it.

Self Portrait with Mirror  #56  © Bill Sullivan
C-Print   2010   

AW: Are there any online resources that you find yourself visiting regularly? Are there any offline resources that you use?

BS: Funny these days it’s Facebook more and more I am afraid  - its amazing right now the breadth of images, and information folks I see.  For mostly abstract painting Pascal Blanchard is an extraordinary resource, Deborah Hammond for great classic art photography most of which I have never seen, Brad Feuerhelm and Andrew Leigh for incredible found and vernacular photography. Facebook may be problematic in other ways and may not be very good in a year from now but right now it’s about the best online resource for new images and shows for me.

It also connects really well with this booming small art photobook or zine world I was talking about which really is where it is at for allot of people connected to art photography these days 
People like Erik Van der Weijde and his 4478zine site work really well and integrate through Facebook as well as Shane LaValettes LayFlat who is expanding into a bigger online resource as well. And right now it is a great mode of operating and connecting to other people in the art world that is pretty accessible - and cheap for new artists. 

AW: Your work deals with perception of reality in portraits. What is your exact definition of a portrait/self portrait?  

BS:I guess it is someone, an artist, made someone look a certain way interesting or boring.... ugly or attractive?   But so they did in such a way that the friends and family, the people that actually know the person - could still recognize the person.  But it seems like a portrait is something that functions on those 2 levels, depiction and recognition.

Self Portrait with Mirror  #14 , © Bill Sullivan
C-Print   2008  

AW: You seem very confident in the direction of your art, in what I read from the interview on your website. Do you develop that confidences about you’re direct before you work or is it a process that develops through the creating of the work?

BS:I don't know about that. I guess if it comes out as confidence I think of it as more of in the end you have no choice but to trust your vision, Its your way of seeing that you offering to people 
So you have no choice but to trust that. And we are lucky with art and talking about things we did in the past - hindsight can be 20/20 and we can always change the story.

AW: The concept of taking light and making it an actual object is very interesting, what lead you to or why did you choose to use a computer screen in your process?

BS:I had been working with noise for several months, basic B&W noise - dots, just watching the distortions and modulations of noise shifting from image to image. And I did that by layering image over the same image in the same frame ...  making each new image disappear in a soup of all the other mages, and after I felt like confident that I understood something about the way that noise worked on us, psychologically speaking - I felt like I understood something about how we are effected by modulations of contrast. I looked for other sources or places that contrasts could be modulated organically, and that’s how I came to the screens

Untitled (torso)  © Bill Sullivan
  Pigment print on canvas 
2008   20"X 24” edition of 7

AW: Was the public response what you expected or where you surprised at the outcome?

BS:I am not sure what I expected. People’s response is always a little different than what you might expect - but a majority of people typically gravitate towards the same images, and you never know exactly what those images might be.

AW: During a gallery showing do you take great planning in the layouts of your work, the 1st perception of your viewer, and installation specifics when displaying in galleries, or is that something left to the individual curator of the gallery?

BS: You have to do everything you can as a an artists to play a role in hanging a show of your work 
- You know better than anyone else typically the strengths and weaknesses of how certain pieces hang on the wall, and really that is the work - how it seen.

For Pablo #3   © Bill Sullivan
  Pigment print on paper  2009  

Bill Sullivan is an artist who lives and works in New York City. His work has been exhibited and published internationally. He graduated from Georgetown University in Washington DC in 1988 with a degree in English Literature and Painting. He worked for more than a decade on a conceptual body of artwork entitled Das Blaue Auto, which used a variety of media and text to chronicle the evolution of a fictional lost European Art movement. He took up photography with a focus on street photography in 2002 and began to fuse his conceptual concerns with his experience as a portrait painter, culminating in the project 3Situations,completedin2007. 

All Images are Copyright 2011 Bill Sullivan. http://www.billsullivanworks.com/

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