Ten Questions 023 – Chad Wys

November 24th, 2011 by Mat Dolphin

Born and based in Illinois, Chad Wys is a ‘visual conceptual artist, designer and writer’. His work covers a number of mediums including digital manipulation, painting, sculpture and mixed media, and his interest is largely focused around the deconstruction and appropriation of pre-existing images and objects. His work explores ways of finding a new meaning within the art he finds by altering and playing with what’s already there. After coming across his work on sites such as Ffffound and Behance, we got in touch with Chad to see if he’d be interested in answering our Ten Questions. Luckily for us, he was.

Read on for an insight into the thought process, concepts and inspirations that go into Chad’s work.

1. How do you describe what you do?
I think of what I do as minimal appropriation art. Not quite as minimal as, say, the work of Richard Prince or Sherrie Levine (who often refrained from altering what they appropriated), but more like minimalism-meets-appropriation. I like to juxtapose motifs from art history into one odd and disjointed piece; often that includes simple, geometric shapes or splashes of paint in places they shouldn’t be. I like to crop and to obstruct the viewer’s gaze. I like to challenge what people think of tradition – especially artistic tradition. The appropriation of the object or the image is crucial to my work because I want to recontextualize the visuality of the thing I’m appropriating; I want to offer it up for ridicule and examination, but I also want to put visual limits on that ridicule. I do this by slapping some paint on a Victorian portrait, by melting the floral motifs on an antique porcelain dish, or by painting color charts on bucolic thrift store landscapes… it’s great fun.

2. What made you want to do what you do?
I think I appropriate objects and images from art history because my chosen field of study throughout my academic career has been art history. I haven’t formally trained as an artist; rather, I’ve trained as an art critic and a critical theorist. As such, I mean to make meaning through the objects and images I find and alter.

3. How would you describe your workplace?
Utter chaos. I’d like to pretend that I’m a neat person and that everything has a place and that everything is in its place, but that’s simply not true. Once in a while I get my workspace completely organized and meticulous, but I work feverishly and at a rapid pace, so things quickly get tossed about. I can’t be bothered to pick it up now can I? From that chaos emerges some interesting artistic accidents that might never have occurred otherwise.

4. What is your favourite colour?
In my old age I’m leaning toward pink. Pink is such an annoying and totally unacceptable color. It works well in my artwork because it so often feels out of place. When pink is used ironically, I have quite a fondness for it. I would never want a pink room or a pink car, but a giant glob of rude, pink paint can pull off an aggravating and gratifying aesthetic sensation that no other color can.

5. Who is your favourite artist or writer?
I have so many favorites but I have a serious fondness for Gerhard Richter. I am reassured by the fact that he’s had such a varied and imaginative output over his career. He has tackled photo-realism and he has tackled Color Field minimalism. In an industry where artists are so often “branded” based on a single, signature style, I find it refreshing to specialize in many different styles. I’m far too impatient to stick to one thing for very long.

6. What was your previous job?

I’ve been a student for as long as I can remember. I probably will be for years to come. As a result, I’m quite poor and quite content to remain so (until I want to buy something).

7. Do you work within a team? If so, how many people do you work with?

Never by choice. I prefer to work with humans as little as possible. Unfortunately that doesn’t bode well for my social or romantic life.

8. Do you listen to music whilst working? If so, what do you listen to?
Absolutely. It varies from mood to mood, but I often find myself listening to the instrumental work of Alexandre Desplat. He creates the most brilliant classical film scores. The score he did for the film Lust, Caution is a permanent fixture in my home. Beauty.

9. Who inspires you to do what you’re doing?
I think other artists inspire me to be an artist. I get such a high from enjoying other people’s work that I seem to have no choice but to try my hand at it as well. I certainly didn’t get my artistic interests from my parents (as kind and generous as they are).

10. Which advice has helped you the most?
English poet Robert Browning once wrote that “less is more”. At this point it’s taken as a cliché, but it doesn’t have to be. If you really live by those words you can learn to budget what you do for the better. As a visual artist I find this to be particularly important; conveying a complicated concept with as few visual and intellectual pollutants as possible is perfection.

Big thanks to Chad for taking the time to get involved with the series. We love his work and strongly encourage you to check out more of it on his site. You can also read his blog and follow him on Twitter.

As always, thanks to you dear reader.

Until next time,


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