Laurie Lipton – Pushing to the Limit – Artist Interview

Laurie Lipton – Pushing to the Limit – Artist Interview

Laurie Lipton has been drawing for over fifty years. During this time she has honed her drafting skills to the point of distinction. If she can imagine it, she can realize it with immense clarity and finesse. When this expertise is married with her indubitably thought provoking ingenuity for weaving visual narratives filled with dramatic intrigue, you have a formula which enables the creation of some seriously compelling and intense imagery. Laurie is determined to address any subject which holds personal meaning for her, no matter how challenging or uncomfortable it may be for viewers. She constantly pushes herself and her audience with each new work, constructing powerful renderings which lead us to question our relationships, not only with ourselves and each other, but also with the traditions maintained and the new developments implemented in our modern era.

Laurie Lipton was born in 1953 in New York and currently lives and works in West Hollywood, California. She was the first person to graduate from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pennsylvania with a Fine Arts Degree in Drawing (with honours). Laurie has lived in several countries in Europe, including London where she stayed for 26 years. Her work has been exhibited extensively throughout Europe and the USA.

WOW x WOW is especially thrilled to bring you the following interview with Laurie, in which she talks about her move from London to LA, her thoughts on technology, and the importance of dedicating time and effort to your craft. Read on!

Laurie Lipton - NETWORK, pencil on paper, 135cm x 260cm
NETWORK, charcoal and pencil on paper, 135cm x 260cm

Hi Laurie, thanks ever so much for making the time to join us for a chat, we really appreciate it. First of all, lets talk about where you’re currently living. A couple of years back you moved from London to LA. How has life changed for you in the last couple of years? Tell us a little about what you like about LA, and what it’s offering you that London couldn’t?

Aside from the gorgeous weather, LA has offered me space. Galleries here are huge, and I’ve been allowed to make huge drawings in order to fill the rooms. I am in pig heaven.

Laurie Lipton - DELUSION DWELLERS, charcoal & pencil on paper, 97.3 x 123 cm
DELUSION DWELLERS, charcoal & pencil on paper, 97.3 x 123 cm

Given that your drawings are done on such a large scale, that they are very labour intensive and therefore take a great deal of patience and time, you must really have to believe in the initial idea. One can only assume that you end up having more ideas than you have time to create. What sort of criteria does the concept for a drawing have to meet in order to make the cut? Do you have a check list or do you rely more on instinct?

My drawings evolve on the paper, so the only criteria for an idea is that it is vague enough to allow me to play with it. I need to be engaged. I have to be interested. You’re right; each piece takes an enormous amount of time and concentration, so I have to allow myself the room to push my craft and my imagination to the limit, otherwise why bother?

Laurie Lipton in her studio, photo courtesy of Lucia Loiso
Laurie Lipton in her studio, photo courtesy of Lucia Loiso

A recurring theme explored within your art has been the rise of the technological age and it’s implications to humanity. On a personal level, do you use any technology in the preparation/planning of your artworks?

I use some of the oldest technologies around: pencil and paper. I just did a talk/critique with a group of Drawing Grad students and most of them work from photos or Photoshop images together. Their work looks polished but very flat and emotionless. I advocate getting in there and messing about with your medium. If you want to use photos, then become a photographer. If you want to use Photoshop, then become a digital artist. Pencil and paper, however, requires the use of pencils… and paper.

Laurie Lipton - SURVEILLANCE, charcoal pencil on paper, 71 x 99 cm
SURVEILLANCE, charcoal pencil on paper, 71 x 99 cm

With our technological advances still in mind, what do you feel are some of the most interesting aspects of the way technology is impacting on the art world, both in terms of artists and collectors?

When a fan of mine made a MySpace page for me many, many years ago, it changed my life. I was isolated. I had no idea of what was happening outside of my immediate area of London or my gallery. Suddenly my work began to circulate. Other artists contacted me from all over the world. Galleries interacted with me. I saw a vast amount of new art. I sit alone in my studio working, and then post my progress online to over 134,000 people on social media. It is amazing.

Laurie Lipton - AUGMENTAL, charcoal & pencil on paper, 170 x 134.6 cm
AUGMENTAL, charcoal & pencil on paper, 170 x 134.6 cm

There are a whole host of attributes which make your works objects of beauty. From the exquisite line work within your intricate compositions, to the sheer attention to detail in the rendering of a piece of lace, or the patterns adorning an item of clothing. You make art which is aesthetically pleasing, and despite the often darker leanings of your subject matter, beauty still pervades. What are your thoughts about aesthetic beauty in art?

I think that anything that is well-crafted and deeply observed is ‘beautiful’. What I find ugly is gimmicky, sloppy, derivative art.

Laurie Lipton - LADY DEATH, pencil on paper, 58.3 x 40.6 cm
LADY DEATH, pencil on paper, 58.3 x 40.6 cm

Your formal education took place during a time when conceptual art had become fashionable within the academic institutions. As someone who fought tooth and nail to pursue her dream of making figurative art when it was being frowned upon, what are your thoughts about the uprising of artists who are making interesting, thought-provoking, narrative, and most of all, figurative art, at the moment within the New Contemporary Art scene? Many of whom, it must be said, reside in the city you currently call home.

I think it’s fabulous. I hope the Old Guard hurry up and die out so that we can all get our work into the State Museums and replace the mind-numbing white canvases and rocks on the floor.

Laurie Lipton - REALITY TV, charcoal pencil on paper, 82 x 104 cm
Laurie Lipton – REALITY TV, charcoal pencil on paper, 82 x 104 cm

What rituals or habitual practices take place during your working day?

Because of my 26 years living in the UK, I make a cup of Earl Grey tea and turn on the BBC iPlayer before I sit down in front of my drawing.

Laurie Lipton - REALITY TV, (Detail)
REALITY TV, (Detail)

You have stated that you have an addictive personality. Aside from your creative compulsions, would you be willing to talk to us about any other addictions you may have?

In the past I used alcohol and drugs to ‘lubricate’ my creativity, but after a while it began to hinder it. I had to stop. Now I just use mega-tons of caffeine.

Laurie Lipton - HAPPY, charcoal & pencil on paper, 182.9 x 274.3 cm
HAPPY, charcoal & pencil on paper, 182.9 x 274.3 cm

In order to get a better understanding of the personality of an artist, it can help to get a peek behind the curtain. Would you be willing to share a story from your own life, one which you feel has contributed to shaping the person and therefore the artist you are today?

My entire life has shaped me into the artist I am today. There is no one tidy little episode. However, the main factor that has produced the kind of art I do today is the amount of work I put into developing my craft. Kids contact me online and say, “Tell me how to draw like you”. They want to know what kind of pencil or paper I use. They really don’t want to hear that it’s not the art materials that are important, but the amount of work. The more you work, the better you get. At anything. It’s a simple fact.

Laurie Lipton - HAPPY, (Detail)
HAPPY, (Detail)

What are your thoughts about the dialogue and conversation cycle which is created between the artist and viewer?

I am not in control of what the viewer thinks, sees or feels when looking at my drawings. Art is a deeply personal, subjective experience. What they bring to my work is not my responsibility. I am only interested in the ‘dialogue’ between me and my piece of paper.

Laurie Lipton - DEATH & THE MAIDEN, pencil on paper, 43 x 34 cm
DEATH & THE MAIDEN, pencil on paper, 43 x 34 cm

What is the most extreme reaction you can remember someone having to your work?

Someone at one of my openings demanded that I take down ‘Love Bite’. He was VERY disturbed by it. I refused, of course, and he left in a rage. Funny thing, though: it was one of the first things that sold from the show.

Laurie Lipton - LOVE BITE, charcoal & pencil on paper, 137.4 x 96.5 cm
LOVE BITE, charcoal & pencil on paper, 137.4 x 96.5 cm

You spend long hours alone making your art. Has the isolation ever resulted in cabin fever of any kind? What steps do you take to stave off loneliness?

Life always tends to intrude before I totally disappear up my own asshole.

Laurie Lipton - THE ILLUSION OF CONTROL TOWER charcoal pencil on paper, 143.5 x 363.3 cm
THE ILLUSION OF CONTROL TOWER charcoal pencil on paper, 143.5 x 363.3 cm

What’s next for Laurie Lipton?

I am currently working on a major show for the Ace Gallery, Beverly Hills, that is opening in Oct/Nov. I’ll have more definite dates closer to the time. I also have a documentary film coming out around then too. You can find out exactly when and keep in touch via my website, or Facebook page, or Twitter account.

laurielipton.com

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3 Responses

  1. Michelle Banville
    | Reply

    Fabulous art, interesting woman – inspiring!

  2. Jim Mall
    | Reply

    A remarkable talent whom I have just discovered. I hope to see her work in Chicago. She must be collected here.

  3. Barbara Kramar
    | Reply

    Very interesting style. I too have been an artist since 4-yrs. old! Native Angeleno. I commend the patience that Laurie has to complete her pieces. Very tedious work.

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