January 2011: Nathaniel Lancaster Interview

January 2011: Nathaniel Lancaster Interview
Nathaniel Lancaster, A Punch in the Face

Transitioning into 2011 brings us two chances to see work by Nathaniel Lancaster most recently at gallery Twenty-Two, Charlotte, NC and at The Galleries in the neighboring city of Concord. Twice named Student Juried Show Best in Show award winner, twice Chancellor's Select award winner, one time Chancellor’s Select Purchase Award winner highlight Nathaniel’s academic career, and he has since gone on to receive prestigious regional first place award at ‘Carolina’s Got Art’ juried exhibition in 2009. With a growing number of exhibitions on both coast, Nathaniel is beginning to gain more popular acclaim.

Celebrating it’s first year in operation, Gallery Twenty-Two mounted an exciting show titled, “Monsterocities” which displays works by two local artist, Nathaniel Lancaster and Matt Hooker. The space is split with narratives. Hooker’s works are each small atmospheric pieces with animated cranes at odds with one another. They seem to Illustrate a comical anecdote of the apocalyptic halt to development that was seen in Charlotte over the past year or so. Hooker’s works offer a conflict in technologies. The cranes squaring off in a number of works are representing state of the art machinery from different eras, but may be more widely applied to the ever evolving technologies and tools that affect our daily lives. These works, smartly done, are warm and playful for more cynical sensibilities.
On the adjacent wall are Lancaster’s confrontational pieces composed of layered images wrapped with an almost indiscernable handwritten scrawl of looped texts that is prevalent throughout this series of works. Gallery goers are left to calculate a deeper meaning, to translate the narrative offered through the juxtaposition of pictorial references like snippets recalled and then parlayed against the title, a mental note, to jar free the tale. Each piece is an experience you may have heard about if you are in the artist’s circle, moments frozen in time and recorded by the artist, like “this funny thing happened today…”, but whether you don’t remember it in its entirety or like the rest of us are over hearing the conversation for the first time and this is all we can grasp from it. The visual experience is dynamic with each paintings arrangements and the quality of paint and palette brazenly used satiating all those that bear witness. The minimal amounts of information divulged to describe the circumstances surrounding each instance are enough to fully enjoy the investigation process to learn what is being communicated.
Are you shooting yourself in the foot or are you punching yourself in the face” stands out. All the images are flattened as the background pours through the positive space of the calligraphic expression. The figure looks to be in torment with itself in an internal struggle or merely visually communicating the title with a dose of dry humor. The text could mean anything as it is abstracted in this communication. In What Has Happened to the Majesty We Once Knew, there is the suggested narrative from the grouped images eluding to a camping trip, but it does not divulge the full pun of it’s title. The work seems to be an environmental statement with possibly majesty referring to the once majestic notion of the great outdoors which we have seen in drastic decline. I was able to catch up with Lancaster to learn about what he uses to build his works.

Greggory Bradford: How do you typically approach your paintings? do you sketch them first or Do they come to you? How do you come up with the images?
Nathaniel Lancaster: I usually approach my paintings very slowly. Unfortunately, I am not as prolific as I would like to be. I normally come up with titles for pieces before any imagery. I think this usually helps direct the concept in the work. I normally don't work with much sketching or drawing unless specifically for a drawing. In school my original focus was graphic design. With those studies I got used to working with a computer to design. Now, that's how I determine the composition of my paintings. Sometimes I will already have a composition worked out in my head, a painting that I want to see made. So it's really easy to work one of those out in photoshop. Most of my reference materials are from pictures that I have taken, but I have appropriated images from the internet if it is called for in the right context. I don't like to draw from it too often.

Bradford: Do you always paint to communicate your ideas?

Langcaster: Not always. I think that it depends on what I'm trying to do. I don't neccesarily want to limit myself to one medium. I think that it (painting) is the medium I am most comfortable with, though. I think that it depends on what might work best for the moment, or for what you are trying to figure out, or comunicate to a viewer/audience. I mean, painting is great for comunicating a few ideas, but for a complex narrative, one might choose written comunnication, or for better or worse, film.

Bradford: Do you use acrylics?
  Langcaster: : Right now I paint with a combination of oil and acrylic. It's what works for me right now. I would like unlimited time to experiment with various other methods of applying color to flat surfaces, but gotta pay the bills

Bradford: Is it important that the viewer figure out the text.
Langcaster: : I don't think that it is essential, at least in the way that, there are pieces of music that I can appreciate, enjoy even, where I am not sure exactly what the vocals might be, and I think that this may be the case with many people. I am sure that if I knew what they were, it might give me new/deeper insight to what is happening in the work/artists intent. But anyway, right now I title them what the words are anyway, so I guess it is up to me? 

Bradford: What is the strangest thing that has happened with one of these visual narratives? have audience interactions spurred other ideas?

Langcaster: I'm sure that I have had other ideas spawned from dialogue and debate. I think it would be hard to think of one specific because so many come and go, and I am constantly trying to come up with new ideas for work. 
At The Galleries exhibition, hosted by Cabarrus County Arts Council, titled “word processing” a group of artist were selected based on their use of text and symbols in their works. Painting, calligraphy, weaving, prints, quilts, drawings, ceramics, Braille and letter press are all included. “The idea is to present the different ways artists use text to communicate their ideas. Some use whole phrases or writings to convey meaning, others depend on the symbolism of a number, letter, or design” , Commented Curator Lin Barnhardt. In Addition to Lancaster’s work one can be expected to see these other artists: Nancy Baker, Noyes Capehart, Vicki Essig, Ann Harwell, Warren Hicks, Michael Klauke, Kenn Kotara, Scott Lowrey, Sandra Meyer, Leah Palmer Preiss, Mary Lou Sussman, Beth J. Tarkington, Kelly Thiel, Barbara Yale-Read, and Jessica C. White.

Word Processing - January 18-March 10, 2011

The Galleries, 65 Union Street South, Concord NC
10 am - 4 pm, Monday through Friday
whitehot gallery images, click a thumbnail.

Greggory D. Bradford

Greggory D. Bradford received an MFA from Edinburgh College of Art he lives and works in New York City. greggory.bradford@gmail.com

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