Home Magazine MeetMe#22 | In conversation with Dylan Gebbia-Richards

Art combined with chemistry... The  American artist, Dylan Gebbia-Richards has a very particular approach to the canvas. Thanks to his scientific background, the artist work on a unique chemical reaction that literally transforms his painting in organic forms. “Each piece of my work is a microcosm of the natural world. Like nature, these works are given the freedom to evolve and become something greater beyond their physical and visible parts."

Big canvases composed by several layers. Each of them is dense and represents your own world, in balance between your idea of nature, together with imagined microcosms. This is the first impact approaching Kinesthesia. Is it correct to think about your work with this double aesthetics? 

I don’t see it as a double aesthetic necessarily. People often ask, “How do you choose your colors” and the answer to that is that I do it by feel or the kinesthetic, tactile sense. Then my process of applying wax, after I choose and make the color, creates this fractal landscape resembling coral, broccoli or the interior of a cave. The texture is created without my hand, I do not touch the work while it is being made, because the landscape or texture forms on its own it appears natural, and in a sense it is. Just like a tree grows in the forest without anyone attaching leaves and branches to it to make it larger, my work also grows by itself. So the work is a singular merging of my process, which creates the organic forms and the selection of the colors which I do through intuition or kinesthesia. 

Your works are made with a mixed media points of view, and the interaction with the public seems really important. Have you always worked with this vision?

Yes, I have always wanted my work to reach a wide audience and make an impact on people regardless of their level of art education. For me making art is a mindset or approach to the world. Therefore art is not limited to a specific set of ‘art materials’ but can be done with anything. For instance, in the past I have worked with electromagnets and algea as different mediums for my art. 


Dylan Gebbia-Richards, Being an Animal (2019). Courtesy Unit London


The title of the exhibition at Unit London is really interesting: “Kinesthesia” opens up to different levels. Why did you choose this word for your solo show?

Kinesthesia is the sense of where ones body is in space. This sense specifically comes from the exact position of where our muscles are at any given time – not seeing, touching or any other physiological input. We all possess this sense and use it even if we are unaware of doing so. For example when you wake up at night and navigate towards the light switch in your room the reason you can do that successfully without seeing is because of this kinesthetic sense. Like this concept of kinesthesia as an entry point for the work because it positions the viewer to think of a work of art as more than just a product of visual thinking or conceptual thinking but thinking which is intuitive, which is felt. In our culture feeling is often the first thing to be dismissed, and much of the time this is for good reason. Our first emotional reaction to things is often flawed, illogical and can lead to dangerous actions, political policies, conflict ect. But equally true is the fact that we don’t get anywhere by ignoring our feelings. In fact by dissecting our emotions or even celebrating them, in part by taking them less seriously, we can learn a lot about our selves and get in touch with a deeper knowledge, an intelligence which cannot necessarily be described in words. We all have kinesthesia, an awareness of our bodies in motion, digesting, running, walking in the dark. Knowing that, we can understand that each of us make some decisions based off nothing else than just a feeling. How I choose my colors and compose my landscape within my various mediums is done based off feeling. And this is valid. Feeling and emotions are not none-sense but information, just like lines of code feeding into a computer algorithm are, information. 

Does the use of wax come from a research on natural landscapes, or it is the matter that interests you?

I began using wax because I wanted a material that I could play with. Wax is like water if water could be solid at room temperature. It has a plasticity to it that makes it fun and therefore full of possibility. It was through exploring wax’s unique properties for hundreds of hours that I discovered the first iteration of my process for making these works. Having a knowledge of how natural landscapes work informed this work but when I first began making it, it wasn’t something I was directly thinking about. 


Dylan Gebbia-Richards, Omni (2018). Courtesy Unit London


The big scale of your paintings suggests a total immersion: you are putting the public in front of a sort of cave. Are your landscapes physically livable?

Ha, well if you were to enlarge them to a human scale, make them the size of a mountain range for example, one could definitely inhabit the landscape that scale would create, but no, not livable in their current form. I have never intended to make them caves, although when people point this out to me I do see the resemblance. I work on this large scale because I want then works to be immersive. I want the viewer to feel a little daunted and overwhelmed. I think it’s a universal truth that humans are attracted to things which scare them. I want my paintings to take people out of their comfort zone and I employ scale, in part, to achieve this. 

How was the approach towards the gallery space? When you were invited to develop the exhibition, did you already have this idea in mind?

The arrangement of the show emerged once we got all the work into the space and could physically see it all contained within the room. I had twice as many canvas paintings and even a few wax pieces, that did not make it into the show. Once I saw the space I just knew some things were going to work and others would be extraneous. The process of arranging the show was improvisational and fast!

Cover image: Dylan Gebbia-Richards in his studio, 2019. Courtesy Unit London

Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.

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