Unedited conversations between artist in a productive critique  discovering  thesis and processes behind the work.








Conversation between Robert Szot and Olivia Ramos.


Robert Szot


RAMOS: Hi Robert, thank you for joining me


Szot: how are you Olivia?


I am well. How about you?


i am doing well thanks for inviting me for an interview


I think of this more of a conversations


oh i like that


so I am looking at your work, and in figuring out which piece to start with I was drawn by the title "Between Americans"


can you tell me about it, the piece and the title


that painting was a stand out for me in my last show "Good Heavens" which opened at the Muriel Guepin Gallery in the fall of 2016


it was actually a reworked cut out of a larger painting that i just couldn't get to work


when i finished it there was something about the "completeness" that i was drawn to, and I basically built the rest of the show on the back of that work


it was always hanging in my studio and i referenced it over and over as i was completing other paintings for "Good Heavens"


the title struck me as appropriate considering the goings on in our country at the time


i have always been a student of politics and social behaviors


and when i put those two words together they made a lot of sense to me, and still do frankly


if the title came later then at the time of the painting, when you were working on it, what were you thinking about?


what did the process look like?


i was thinking about the thing i always think about - which is that when you are laboring to find meaning and placement in your work, and are striving to be understood through singularities of your own creation, you must open yourself up to everything because you want your work to encompass everything.  at that moment the place i live and work was under a tremendous amount of stress and the future was being debated in ways i had never seen before, so i felt it was appropriate to mark that time in the only way i know how. so Between Americans became, like all art does, a watermark for me at that particular time and place


i think the best you can do is leave little clues about your life


and perhaps that was one of them


hopefully anyway


it is a beautiful piece, for some reason I see a parent holding a child... but the title gives me a new pair of eyes in a way - with the title I see moments of tension and friction


I'm interested in this comment you made, about wanting your paintings to encompass everything


if that's the case then it is not really talking about any one particular thing


i agree that it isn't


i think the best work, especially the best paintings, aren't about anything at all


i don't like to be told how to interpret anything and i try to avoid leading a viewer of my work to any conclusion


i prefer to just sit with something i am connected to


the best work is the work you have a compulsion to steal


just to get to spend some quite time with it


i do like to hear people's reads though, i like your read on between americans


i think if you can form a more personal opinion about a painting then you have a bond that transcends the 'meaning' of something


messages are kind of boring


I like the comment about a good painting stealing time from the viewer, however, I would not say the best paintings aren't about anything and would argue that if you really thought that were true, then why have titles at all?


would you say that you choose not to have an opinion, or rather not share specific opinions about the world around you through your paintings?


my opinions aren't relevant things when i am painting. i honestly try to strip away everything about who i am when i am working. i want to be the most basic, even just a breathing thing with arms, when i am working. i'd rather the work inform me then the other way around.


and i think titles are a bit of spice, but i do see your point. perhaps i like words because of my dormant journalism background




it sounds like you are channeling something then, if attempting to remove yourself completely - would you say so?


yes, you're right. i am trying to be David Bowie or Francis Bacon


that effortlessness and mystery people like that seemed to wield at will


sentimental i know


kind of silly


but when you see that work or hear that music it drives you crazy


there is no need to explain it away to anyone


I don't know about David Bowie, but I do think Bacon had a very fine tuned agenda


Bacon was fighting the church, the flesh, the prejudice and constraints of social construct


he was gay, he painted a bishop tortured in a freezer


yes but i never saw him say it


he didn't have to


i never heard he explain it


others said it for him


right! never had to


but it was there


in his work


it was very specific


certainly, but for me there is something a bit deeper in his work specifically


i like his movements


and his instinct for wildness


yes there were obvious messages in his figurative paintings, as i think in all figurative works, but that is all surface information to me


the underneath stuff, possibly made up in my own mind, is what i like the best


perhaps i am wrong


but that work is special to me because i "think" i understand it


but maybe my understanding doesn't hold up to a more academic study of work like that


well the movement I would categorize as technique


but i don’t mind, because i love those paintings because of what i think they represent


and there are paintings that are a manifestation of technique


and others that technique is a means to an end, that end being a thesis or statement, or something else...which I would say is more how Bacon operated


see i think this comes down to my lack of an art education


i never approached painting in a studied way


perhaps that is the gap here, my wide eyed embrace of something that i technically have no understanding of


but i won't shy away from it


I don't think there is anything wrong with that and could be a fresh approach to producing work


however, academic or not, you understand the difference between technique and intent? for lack of a better word


your technique is apparent, I am very interested in your intent - this idea of channeling


technique is the approach and intent is the product


yes - we agree on that


this idea of channeling removes you from intent in a way


so then can you tell me a little more about what it is that you are channeling?


i don't think it amounts too much more than me attempting to communicate the very things i feel when i see something i am drawn towards. my desire to express some wordless event or emotion. i am not to most gregarious person and i tend to keep largely to myself. i like the idea of my paintings making my statements for me and i'd like to think there is very little separation between my work and who i am at the deepest level. i don't think my work conveys any messages outside of "this is me in a different form".


it feels like a hamfisted answer


but i think it is true despite it's childish pie in the sky framework


no that makes a lot of sense, there is a lot within ourselves that we are not conscious of


it is a fair practice to try and explore it


and it doesn't have to be specific, since we don't know what that inner self language looks like


does that make sense?


what good is anything if you don't put yourself in there somewhere?




i think you wind up with a lot of gimmicks and empty ideas otherwise


that might be right


I wonder, if what comes out can be defined in the conscious language


and if it isn't, does it still have the same power


i think of it as a language but the problem is getting people to translate it to care enough about it to try to arrive at an understanding


thats the challenge


the battle against short attention spans


it's best to let these things unfold completely and that takes a time commitment


there is a story in there somewhere but it requires attention


can i ask about your background in all of this olivia? you are very sharp


im sweating a bit lol



haha I am flattered, I don't really have an art background either if that is what you are wondering


not an academic one anyway, my degrees are in architecture and real estate


who needs an art education


I think art education is a great way to spend your time


it was not my choice that's all


yes but imagine spending those hours working


in a studio and really getting after it


sure, but working towards what? how do you know you aren't going around in circles


art education gives you a sense of the lineage of art


how art was impaction, which art became absorbed into that lineage - it is important


if you want to fit into it that is


i get it, but there isn't anything that can give you a clear view of the future, just a bit of comfort that perhaps other's have been you are or there are people going through the same things you are. i am not dismantling the idea of art school completely but i would rather learn through experience, that's my only point. i was being a bit cheeky with you with my art education comment