'This is key: ask questions. And then ask more questions' (Chloe Piene)
Charcoal on vellum, 183 x 104 cm
Photography by Finn Lubars
Charcoal on vellum, 183 x 104 cm
Chloe Piene (b. 1972 in USA) is a visual artist known for her drawings and video work.
She has been nationally and internationally highlighted for her unique and powerful draftsmanship and her ability to span an extremely broad spectrum, both in the play with her materials and as a certain philosophical position. She has made various and diverse associations with prisoners, love letters, failure, death, catastrophe, ruin, violence, alchemy, human anatomy and heroic transformation. She has been characterised as both brutal and delicate, figurative, forensic, erotic and fantastic.
For Piene, drawing is at the very root and origin of architecture, engineering, fashion, design, planning, thinking, cartography and sculpture. All of Piene's media, including her sculpture and video, reflect a profound investigation of human existence, often fearless and up to this point directly questioning notions of fear, courage and fortitude.
She received her BA in Art History at Columbia University and her MFA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, University of London. Piene exhibits internationally, some shows include: ‚Selections from The Guerlain Collection at The Pompidou’ (The Albertina, Vienna, 2019), ‚Reloaded‘ (Piene paired with Egon Schiele as part of his Centennial, Leopold Museum, Vienna, 2018), ‚HB + CP - [Drawings by] Hans Bellmer and Chloe Piene‘ (Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris, 2008), ‚Bodies of Desire: Works on paper by Willem de Kooning and Chloe Piene‘ (Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, 2007), Whitney Biennial (2004). Her work is part of national and state collections worldwide including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin; Sammlung Hoffmann, Berlin; Fondation Guerlain, Paris; Centre George Pompidou, Paris. In 2021, she was nominated for the 15th Drawing Prize Daniel & Florence Guerlain Contemporary Art Foundation.
In your opinion, what is the mission of contemporary art and what is the role of artists in society? What influence can art have on social change? Do you think that artists can stimulate personal and social change?
Artists are fundamentally open minded. As creative creatures they are by the very nature of their practice in conversation with many people, all part of the ideas and methods that intrigue them. Out of this, they weave - in order to express something definite and true. What is said moves people - makes them wonder - connects people, without prejudice. It is important to take art work out of galleries and out of traditional market platforms so that more people are exposed and have greater chance for involvement and dialogue. I think artists need to have many aspects of the skills embedded in their practice - used openly as a tool towards communication and change.
What role does narrative play in times of great crises and upheavals? Is it still possible that we dare to hope for and imagine a better future?
Dare? We dare every day. Doing this mysterious thing that we are compelled to do despite any rational censure to suggest instead, for example, a desk job. Daring is part of being an artist. Taking risks in a curious and positive direction is essential to what an artist does. Artists are solution driven problem solvers by definition. Trying to render, construct, create, working alone or with others - it is often collaborative by nature with many different kinds of resources and personalities.
What form could a dialogue between art and other disciplines take in order to promote social change and (re)shape the future? What other disciplines would you like to interact with?
I have always wanted to do an Opera, even though part of me despises the medium, I think it would be an interesting challenge to re-invent. Also to make a horror movie. I think cinema and streaming are major vehicles for social change because the audience reach is so enormous and the lines between the film industry and that of art should not be so stiff. Film makers admire artists and vice versa, so why not get them together. Same with fashion: a lot of mutual admiration but not as much actual collaboration.
What do you personally wish for a better future?
The current ‚system‘ that circulates trades and represents the face of art - as it stands now questioning itself somewhat in shambles - needs to change. The artist’s voice should be heard - on its own terms - quite loudly. I always find it strange that when I do an actual talk, with my own voice, people are so amazed. They learn so much. They are really enlightened by my own connection to the work I am doing, and all the ideas involved that reach out into the world. I think journalism and the codex of presenting the work to the world should simply be much much more open, the dealer is just one part, and many other disciplines and voices in the conversation should be acknowledged, not just as an occasional, journalistic accident. I am inspired myself, since I was a child, by people who speak out, who are articulate, who are not afraid to be heard - this too should be the goal of the artist - they should not have to hide behind someone else’s narrative/voice/press release in order to be seen. The more direct the voice the quicker collaboration and constructive paths are forged.
It is often said that the special power of art lies in the courageous and fearless pursuit of the new, starting from scratch on a blank paper. What strategies or rituals do you use to find your way into a new artwork or project?
Oh, such a good question. This has a tendency to suck me in. I trip over things accidentally - in conversation - some ancient book, the forest, some old strange object, that makes me look further, and this is key: ask questions. And then ask more questions. The blank page? It can be intimidating even as you have conquered it 1000 times, When you stand before it, it is always the first time - again, because you will make something new. But I have so many ideas in my head, some more expensive than others, some, cost nothing, I am just hungry, always hungry, to create. I have to feed myself by making things. If I don’t I really suffer. I would be lucky if my existence wasn’t tied in such a direct way to having to produce. I have million dollar ideas and 1 dollar ideas, and they are always in me moving around… I am lead in a raw way as by a string, from my navel, by sheer curiosity.
The interview was conducted in Juli 2020