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Fetishes — Fetish

Telacan: Tiananmen

Unconscious Transmission: The Generation "Gap"

The Ethics of Hysteria & of Psychoanalysis

3 Poems

René Ricard

Interview with
Silvia Kolbowski

Interview with
Jonathan Lasker



Interview with Jonathan Lasker


Josefina Ayerza with Lynn Crawford

It is a densely linked winter, I'm swimming; I'm swimming through stretches of order. Repetitive, not identical. Structures, streams of structures, repetitions of streams of structures. At once there begins to be darkness, my body cracks up to an object. It is an object of monumental dimensions. My body cracks, continues to be cracking, up to this element. The rhythm is sudden, hard driving. Ashes pile unto my ankles. The motion of swimming is twisting; there's a shift in the motion of swimming; the motion of swimming stops.

Stillness brings the white-the ground-back, forward. I'm in the blank, lose count of days, whirl. Living's no different than this. Reaching the dead land-lines cross out everything-my head turns, there is no relief until, with my eyes, I invent new signs. Arabesques grow, shred, restrain into tall, shining ornaments; lines bend, curve, distort, assemble, sequence. Written characters impel comedy.

Dilemmas pass in moments. I watch their dance. It would seem that this crack in the mystery opens for me to perceive music, spin. Afterwards, I stare. It's fixed, cast out, on scribbled paper.

Abstraction is extravagance: To be a Thing, Cosmic Selfevidence, Standards of Expression, Formalities Of Self.1

Lasker image Perhaps Jonathan Lasker's paintings work out an adjoining field, where he has probably left images of himself for us to wave at. But we may only see them through mist, when climbing the slopes, as they roam through space, effacing in the sequence, which leaps.

Abstracts of a conversation with the artist

JA/LC - Things, I' d say interrupt . . .

JL - The grounds usually have a pattern, an order is constructed within that pattern, and something on top disrupts, violates. The pattern expresses one form of language, then the disruptive element will be a contradictory, extremely expressive, very gestural language either in reaction or in contradiction or in violation . . . of the very well ordered system within the pattern. The background pattern is based on random mark-making in the sense of...

JA/LC - Mark-making?

JL - A kind of automatic drawing. The arabesques are subliminal images, yet consciously composed. The ground is very orderly, and then you have this element on top, sitting in a kind of spatial position so it becomes a figure in relationship to a ground, a figural element . . .

JA/LC - A relationship. . .

Lasker image JL - You have figures composed in a ground which are part of a generalized whole, and do not have so much individuation unto themselves. Then you have a very individuated figure, taking the frontal position, that somehow or other begins to identify with those forms. There are different layers of identification, and levels of identification . . .

JA/LC - A master figure?

JL - It is a question of dominance, really. I am interested in levels of priority, hierarchical levels: a dominant figure juxtaposed with something subordinate to an overall system. It has to do with human expression, identity, individuality, it starts taking on those association qualities.
Sometimes I'll do studies over a couple of months. I do a lot of studies which don't actually become paintings. I keep them, they are interesting but minor ideas. I reserve large paintings for things that I think are more major.
I started relatively late in life, twenty six, twenty seven. Prior to that I played in bands . . .

JA/LC - Rock and Roll . . .

JL - Yeah, I used to play bass guitar . . . I wouldn't characterize myself as a musician.

JA/LC - A musician . . . a painter . . .

JL - Well, that wasn't very hard. I was kind of a lousy musician.

Lasker image JA/LC - A white ground covered, colored markings, black . . .

JL - White and black are very special colors in the sense that they have a strong negative and positive way of acting formally in a painting. I paint white on top of a white primer. Dark lines become optical as they are playing against white. White, depending upon how dense the linear pattern is, and how open it is, gives you more or loss light . . . if you think of the Impressionists, what was considered to be innovative about them was almost entirely about how light was rendered and also how form was rendered. It shows how radically different our view of painting is today. The fact that I don't consider that to be important is based upon the fact that I have a rather conceptual view of what the painting is doing, how it works, in ways which are actually less formal and more theoretically abstract.

JA/LC - Ideas to be communicated and form go together?

JL - Yes. At all times I regard myself to be dealing with form. I think in visual art formal issues are the primary means of interpretation and ideas to be communicated. A great number of my paintings use continuing vocabularies, continuing formal elements I have, sort of, conceptually catalogued. They appear and may reappear in individual paintings. Eventually I stop using some of them because I've said about as much as I can about that particular element . . .

JA/LC - So there is a continuum, a continuing . . .

JL - Well, I think that painting by nature, art by nature, has a continuum, that the creative process has a continuum.

JA/LC - Where is the joy?

JL - Pleasure in painting . . . it's a good question. You can enjoy a sensation which might not at all times be pleasurable, ok, but if you are enjoying it I think you are getting pleasure from it. I try wherever possible to find pure pleasure. I think of painting as work and I think of it as pleasurable work. The biggest pleasure in these paintings is when I come up with what I feel is a new image, and that happens in studies. Probably my most enjoyable moments are here in my living room, making studies, and then what happens in the studio is a kind of production. But I do get a great deal of satisfaction out of completing a successful, complete painting.

Lasker image JA/LC - So continuation happens here, in your studio . . .

JL - Well, it may be there's a kind of a genesis, a conception: paintings get conceived in the living room, and then born in the studio.

JA/LC - What else?

JL - Well you can say there is an interesting fact that this body Of work goes back now fourteen years.

JA/LC - A fourteen aged body?

JL - Yes . . . and they basically deal with three formal elements: figure, ground, and line drawing. These three elements have an extreme malleability, a rather extreme expandability, in regards to how much visual vocabulary can be expressed. So what has happened is that these paintings have changed simply by my inventing new forms of visual vocabulary to be expressed in them. Then I have a new body of work within the overall body of work, the scribble paintings for example. Both sets of paintings operate pretty much in similar ways, but use different formal elements. The arabesques are things unto themselves. They are figures themselves within a pattern and compose an overall whole, whereas the scribbles are continuous, forming an overall pattern; there's no individual, and there's no way of individuating any one collection of lines within this overall pattern.

JA/LC - Marks, letters, strange language . . .

JL - Yes, or hieroglyph, it has those possibilities latent in its expression, but is sitting there latent.

JA/LC - Latent . . .

JL - Something which is a potential, that could happen in this work, could be expressed. It is for the viewer to express what is latent in that expression of these paintings.


1. Jonathan Lasker, Michael Werner in Köln, 1990 back up
Untitled, Drawing on Paper, 1989
Untitled, Drawing on Paper, 1989
Untitled, Drawing on Paper, 1989
Untitled, Drawing on Paper, 1989

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