We had the good fortune of connecting with Edie Beaucage and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Edie, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk-taking plays a big role in contemporary art. Every artist I know takes risks in one way or another. Otherwise, we would not be inventing anything new. As artists, our quest is to find another interpretation of what it means to be human. Every generation has new ideas, and art movements are born out of this quest. For a few years now, I’ve noticed there is a new and active form of collective risk-taking in figurative painting. It takes on the general appearance of easy and relaxed images that present us engaged in casual pleasure. The term New Casualism, I found in an article written by Sharon Butler in the Brooklyn Rail in 2011 called “Abstract Painting: The new Casualists” seems best to represent this new way of painting. It could be called The Relaxists or Cool Easyism. We could vote on that but for now let’s call it Casualism – a preexisting, yet unnamed, way of living. It is apparent in our already casual lifestyles. I just found a new page that appeared on Wikipedia since last June when I looked for references on Casualism. This page clearly addressed Casualism in abstract art. How great a coincidence, I guess Casualism is happening then in both painting realms: abstraction, and figuration. In terms of figurative painting, it’s risky because it looks easy. It could be easily dismissed as not technical enough when in fact it is quite the opposite. It takes years of experience to actually “make it look easy”; to acquire the confidence to make a line that embodies a character’s curves, and in just a few strokes a full figure is built with a presence. That is mastery, it’s almost olympian, but it looks so simple. For the painters engaged in this way of working, such as I, the risk lies in challenging a preconception of how a painting “normally” looks. In Figurative Casualism, everything feels very relaxed. It’s as comfortable as wearing sweatpants and a hoodie. The recurring elements that point out to Figurative Casualism painting are found both in the subject matters and technique. The characters are depicted in familiar settings, going through their daily lives; laying on a sofa for example. They are often in relationships, hanging out with their buddies, holding each other closely. The architecture and landscapes are often suggested with simple brush strokes. In contrast to realistic portraiture, a casual painting looks more improvised than organized. It is immediate and imperfect, and sometimes there is an element of precariousness in the composition or the paint application. In Figurative Casualism there are surprising juxtapositions, open-ended stories, and leisurely feelings that act as a reprieve from our taxing social and political post-postmodern lives. Space, where we see our friends and hang out, is casual and happy. It’s a space for pleasure.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My paintings are a celebration of positive contemporary possibilities. In an era of mass-media thought-coercion, my work is committed to the preservation of intellectual and spiritual independence. I invest my seemingly whimsical subjects with genuine purpose, presence, and the intense assuredness of self-realization. My vibrant portraiture of moments and my casual characters alert the viewer to the urgent need to develop, express, and celebrate the saving force of indelible personality. My process involves gathering images and arranging storyboards from a broad array of sources ranging from Venice street life, to a multitude of paintings and photography in art history; to the contemporary art scene. My process is uninterrupted, spontaneous, and immediate; it is improvisation. I paint long, congruous, and sequential series of brush-strokes, confident in the momentary expression of candor that is based upon hours of premeditation and reflection. What emerges are startling ahistorical reminiscences that capture visual and formal thought lines from over three centuries of bohemian resistance to cultural hegemony. There is no question in my mind that art is a space of reflection. Reflection about everything that makes us human. Currently, in the art world, the emphasis of art school and museums exhibitions has been focused on political issues and identity-based questions (for very good reasons, indeed), but I like to think that there is much more material and creativity in our minds than this to work from, something is missing in the cultural conversations; love, emotions, happiness, pleasure, intangible notions that we all feel, should be among them. I wish to create a space, in our soft power exhibition platforms, to let artists like me engage their imagination in any direction they choose and not have to follow a critical doctrine by obligation. Critical theory is a great structural tool but it is not the end in itself in art-making. I go back to what Roland Barthes said in 1973 about his book “The Pleasure Of The text”… “The real aim of my book is to persuade intellectual on the left that they should assume the notion of pleasure in literary theory…because generally the left always present literature for its combative and struggle engagement value… In my opinion, there is no contradiction between social, political, or ideological engagement in literature, and its power for pleasure, its power for eroticism“. Together with joy, bliss, and love are subjects in themselves that can be addressed from many imaginary or realistic points of view. I don’t wish to exclude anything, I wish to add different perspectives that have been set asside for too long.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My itinerary starts with Edie’s LA Art Tour; we will do a gallery tour starting at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles to say hello to the best team: Luis De Jesus, Jay Wingate, Meghan Gordon, and Molly Joe Shea to see my colleagues as well as my artworks, then on to the galleries in Culver City: Blum and Poe, Klowden Mann, Zevitas Marcus, and Anat Ebgi. Afterward, we will be heading downtown for lunch at Zinc Cafe, continuing our gallery tour; Hauser & Wirth, Francois Ghebaly, Night Gallery, Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Charlie James Gallery, Chateau Shatto, and Park View-Paul Soto. Followed by the Hollywood media district galleries; Regen Projects, Steve Turner, Kohn Gallery, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, Various Small Fires, AA/LA, and Kristina Kite. That will take three days! Let’s not forget The Hammer Museum, The Broad and Moca Geffen! Then a personal architectural tour; first a canoe ride in the Venice Canals to see my husband Glen Irani’s architectural houses he designed and built (five of them). Followed by a visit to the Getty Center to see the exhibitions and the work Glen did in the exterior sites and gardens when he was one of the project architects at Richard Meier and Partners. For the brave, a six am surf lesson with Glen at El Porto beach, because he goes surfing there almost every day. Later we will grab a sandwich at Djelina to go on Abbot Kinney for a picnic and hike at Paseo Miramar with Moony (our dog). And, to finish the nice California adventure, a day ride motorcycling through Malibu canyon and a burger at the Rock Store hangout. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My Shoutout goes to painters engaged in Figurative Casualism, I invite them to consider my interpretation… To talk about specific, contemporary artists, I have been following and admiring a wide range of figurative painters. Here are a few of them as examples because I see in their work the presence of Figurative Casualism. Of course, I do not wish to put them in a “casual forced field” but rather share how they have inspired my thinking. From (comparatively) realistic Chantale Joffe and Salman Toor to lyrical Sanya Kantarovsky, to the “dudes” of Nicole Eisenman, they all share similarities and commonalities in approach to the subject matter and paint application. Chantal Joffe paints her family and friends sitting on sofas and chairs. She paints with accumulated light and determined brushstrokes, each of which is completely controlled (even the seemingly mistaken runaway strokes). The poses are simple and solid. Kantarovsky’s characters, by contrast, are very fluid in their posture. They are open-ended and free in space. Their body language is languorous. Trevor Shimizu, Jackie Gendel, Jane Corrigan, Eve Ackroyd, and Mari Eastman could all be described by using lyrical characters, ephemeral beings with strong and willful presence. Nicole Eisenman’s “personages” are recurrent types who hang out in familiar places like bedrooms or the metro, her painting “Close To Edge” 2015 and sculpture ‘Fountain 2017” are a perfect example of Figurative Casualism. The character’s poses are so natural and the rough bodies are just a reminiscence of us in these reflective states of mind. I recognize myself in them. Casualism’s relevance to our time is broad, it is a counterbalance space where we take a breath and recharge our souls. There are so many great figurative and abstract painters right now that are completely awakening the field. It is fantastic.