When I researched Allan Gorman earlier this year, I concluded that his preoccupation with visual tension lends itself to mesmerizing compositions and paintings. In the following interview, Gorman reaffirms his fascination with superior aesthetics while elaborating on his transition from advertising to fine art, as well as, the addictive, altered state of consciousness that he experiences painting, his creative process, evolution, and more. I invite you to enjoy a candid interview with an exceptionally skillful artist.
Brenda Haroutunian: Welcome back to artcopyblog.com Allan. Would you like to introduce yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Allan Gorman: Hi Brenda, and thanks for inviting me back. By way of introduction, I’m a realistic oil painter who focuses on finding interesting compositions within industry and architecture.
BH: I am wondering why you do what you do? Also, is there a special reason why you concentrate on industrial buildings, spaces, and so on?
AG: Interesting question. If you mean, why do I make art? I find the process addictive… if anything, for its meditative value. When I’m painting and in the zone, nothing else matters. All I think about is the task at hand. As a reward, when a work is finished, there’s a great sense of accomplishment and pride in accomplishing something to the best of your ability. I can think of nothing else I’d rather do. If the question is, why do I paint what I paint? That’s been an evolution and hopefully, will keep evolving. For the psychological answer, you’ll have to talk to my shrink. 🙂
BH: Maybe I should ask my shrink to speak to your shrink to get to the bottom of this. 🙂 Could you also tell me a little bit about your process and how you work?
AG: My work is derived from photographs. At first, I’m a curious voyeur, using the camera to find interesting and unusual compositions that I think would make exciting paintings. I search for abstract tensions created by, or found within, the reality I see.
For me, it’s not so much about what the objects are that’s of primary importance, but rather, what interesting and exciting designs are created by the placement of shapes, the light, the colors, and the tensions I find. Then I manipulate and alter my photographic images on the computer to give myself a good guide and reference for a final painting. I then project the image and trace it onto the painting surface with pencil. And then the actual painting itself is a process of building up layers and working out problems. From beginning to end, this can take weeks to many months, depending upon what I’m working on.
BH: I want to go home and try to try that. Do you feel that your style with its emphasis on refined composition reflects your personality?
AG: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, with any art, I don’t think the personality of the creator can’t help but show through. The idea is to be as authentic as you can be. If you’re faking it, that will show too. Personally, I’ve learned that if you do what you love, then your authenticity will naturally emerge.
BH: That’s an incredibly thoughtful answer. How do you feel that your practice has changed over time from your years in advertising to the present moment and your preoccupation with aesthetic tension and so forth?
Well, as I said in the last question. It’s about being as authentic as possible. So, when I began painting again – after a break of almost 25 years – it took me awhile to get to a point where I stopped thinking about whether or not people would like me and what I was doing.
Coming from a commercial background, it was important to please the customer, so back then I would do work with the thought in the back of my mind ‘I think they’ll like this!’ I was trying to please gallery owners and patrons. In that way, the work was a bit commercial and “wanna be-ish”.
But a few years ago, I came across a picture of a Holly Steam Engine that called out to me and made me want to do a painting of it. It took awhile to work up the courage – it was quite complicated, but it kept eating at me. So I convinced my wife to take a drive with me to Buffalo to take some pictures and then went away for a month to paint it. That became ‘SteamPunk’, and I consider it the first ‘real’ painting I made. The experience of working on it was cathartic and fun, and I’m very proud of the result. So now I’ve made the conscious commitment to paint purely for myself, and to keep trying to learn and challenge myself with each successive effort, the experience changed my attitude as well. Now, if people like the paintings that’s fine. And if they don’t, well that’s okay too. It was a seismic shift in perspective.
BH: These are fascinating and poignant aspects of your biography, I think. I was wondering if you would tell me a little bit about what you feel are some of the most inspiring things happening in your work at present?
AG: I was in Chicago last fall and found myself intrigued by the angles and shadows that are created by the rusty elevated train structures. I captured a bunch of photos and now I’m working on a series of paintings I call the ‘under the el’ series. I took some in NYC and plan on doing more of these. I’m using these as the foundation for a show I’m co-curating at The Nicole Longnecker Gallery in Houston, TX from Feb 25-April 1st, 2017.
The show is called ‘Industrialism in the 21 st Century’ and will parallel the great industrialist/precisionist painters from the last century (Charles Sheeler, Ralston Crawford, Lesey Ragan, et. al.) with some of the best artists from across the US and Canada who are carrying on those traditions today. Three of my under the el pieces will be featured in the show. I’m also working on turning this series into a museum exhibition. I’m very excited about the work.
BH: It is exciting. It’s also an interesting moment for art history with tradition connecting. Could you please tell me a bit about what you feel the artist’s role is within their community?
AG: I think good art makes people see differently and feeds their soul. Without music, books, theater, film and fine art, life would be pretty empty, don’t you agree? So we need artists to keep stretching the boundaries and feeding our spirit with their creations. My work, I hope, will do that in a non-threatening way I try to be generous and recruit others who might appreciate what I have to show and share with them. And there are also daring artists who hold up a mirror for us and use their art to create a better society. I’m not that lofty or politically motivated. But I applaud those who are. We need them too.
BH: I agree. Employment prospects for art history students are not good, but I too am addicted. I wonder what art that you most identify with most?
AG: My tastes are pretty eclectic and I like all sorts of things. But I suppose I identify most with photo-realists, modernists, and art that reflects industry. I’m especially fond of American realists and art deco, and trash-can school art from the earlier part of the 20th Century.
BH: Hmm. I see the tone and influence of The Ashcan School in your work now that you mention it. Interesting.! Where do you find ideas for your work?
AG: It usually flows naturally. One idea sparks another. But it all stems from what I see – either directly, or within a photograph or a movie.
BH: Is there anything that you dislike about your art?
AG: I still have a lot to learn before I can say I’ve mastered my chosen medium (oil paint). That will take years. But I often find myself frustrated by my inability to accurately and confidently depict what I see in my mind’s eye.
BH: What is your favorite response to your art?
AG: The best is when I get a new collector who will turn into a life-long ally and friend. To know that something I created will give them joy each time they look at it is the best validation and reward there is.
BH: Have you seen any good art lately?
AG: I attend the major art fairs in NYC when I can and give myself an assignment to find something I love and something I hate. Earlier this year I attended The Armory Modern Show and also Art/NY. I thoroughly enjoyed them both. I also try to get to the NY galleries a few times a year.
BH: What do you think that future generations will recall about the art world today?
AG: The business of art and making art are two separate things altogether. I don’t much care for the former and concentrate instead on my work. I don’t know what future generations will think and don’t want to bother thinking about that lest it influences what I’m doing.
BH: What is your favorite city for seeing art?
AG: New York. Nowhere else like it.
BH: What artist do you feel is undervalued.
AG: Me. 🙂
BH: Thank you, Allan, for an honest and thoughtful discussion!
AG: You’re very welcome. It was fun.