Clint Fulkerson is an artist from Maine who began his career with a degree in metalsmithing. As a metal smith he said he learned to become slow and precise which was the opposite to the painting he was doing at the time with broad gestural strokes. This became his new method of working and he now forces himself to “slow down and consider each moment in the present” which allows him to think about the influences of his work that range from science and math to information technology.With information technology, math, science and precision on his mind Fulkerson draws works that are reminiscent of tessellation (tiling) patterns that fit perfectly together. The drawings evolve based on rules that he has developed which define the placement of each mark. While his personal algorithms are the overriding design each work begins at a random place and then evolve as he works.
I was fascinated by his work and approach and asked him if he would be interested in discussing it with me. Following are the results of my interview with Clint Fulkerson.
CB: When you talk about your work you mention your interest in cosmic proportions. Can you tell us what you mean by cosmic proportions?
CF: For me it’s an all-encompassing term that refers to the elegant self organization in nature based purely on physical properties, at every scale from the subatomic to the universal.
CB: What created your interest in cosmic proportions?
CF: I think it was a combination of learning about golden ratios and how to draw figures using renaissance proportions, observing plants and collecting insects, and seeing the Eames’ “Powers of Ten” video as a teenager.
CB: How are the “universes” that you create personal?
CF: I choose a combination of materials and devise starting conditions and rules to follow (or break) and let the pieces develop in an unpremeditated manner. I let the rules determine the forms, like an algorithm, but I make decisions along the way, change my mind, make mistakes, and draw everything by hand, so everything is infused with a human element. A finished drawing is a personal record of a multitude of tiny decisions made during a particular time period.
CB: What were the science books were you introduced to as a child?
CF: One of my favorites was “when Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” by David Morgan, illustrated by John Sibbick. The illustrations are amazing, I remember pretending to be the dinosaurs in this book when I was about 8 years old. I also read Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” and “Chaos” by James Gleick as a teen.
CB: How did you gravitate to the geometric abstract format you currently use?
CF: After working as a metalsmith and using many different media, feeling scattered and unfocused, I was compelled to simplify my choice of materials and processes and started using hand drawn geometric abstraction as a way to start from the bottom, a lowest common denominator, and work up from there. I haven’t worked up that far yet! I keep finding things to investigate using geometric abstraction, but I occasionally work with curvilinear lines, color or push into the third dimension.
CB: How does physics and science play into your work?
CF: I am constantly considering materials and spatial relationships so I cannot avoid physics, but I have not made gravity or kinetics major aspects of my work. I think about tension, compression, and stability between lines in a drawing. I listen to science podcasts (Star Talk, Big Picture Science) and watch nature and science shows, so these interests come out unconsciously in the work. I experiment quite a bit in the studio, so I sometimes feel like a scientist, but I appreciate that I am not expected to search for truth.
CB: Have you begun working with the 3D pen yet? If so how are the works evolving?
CF: I probably won’t get my Lix pen until mid 2015. I can’t wait! I have made lots of sculptures modeled from welded wax wire, which was ridiculously frustrating, hopefully this pen will be a quick and intuitive way to draw 3d forms.
CB: Do you have particular universes that you think of when you make your work?
CF: I actively resist trying to work toward a particular outcome, I set up rules to follow to make things a bit more objective, because I often slip out of abstraction into surrealist symbolism if I’m not careful. I try to follow number or density progressions, and let the pieces grow as if I am an agent of pure force, not intention. I prefer to read into the drawings after they’re made, as any viewer would.
CB: With your work you are interested in pursuing fundamental aspects of existence can you say a little bit more about that and how the geometry you have developed explores the connectivity of universes?
CF? I am interested in physical properties of objects-how the are put together, how they are distributed in the universe, but I am also interested in metaphysical questions about space, time, cause & effect, and possibility. In my drawings I set up situations that require contemplation of these matters to be drawn, thereby embedding these references in the work. As I said earlier, I think of the geometry as tying together all scales of the physical realm in a simple manner, and it is also easy to draw a geometric array intuitively with a bit of practice. Relationships between objects can be reduced to pure geometry and pure geometry as a starting point can be extrapolated into complex relationships, regardless of scale.
CB: Does your metalsmith work inform your drawings? Do you do them concurrently now? If so how does that work out?
CF: To get better at metalsmithing I had to intentionally slow down and be more meticulous and particular. Tiny parts had to fit together. I had to look at what the tool did to the medium, moment by moment. Before then I was just painting, which looks good with messy gestural flourishes. My metalsmithing teachers wanted tight craftsmanship, so I was conditioned to strive for it. I still try my best to make precisely crafted drawings, but I am not always strict about this.
I love to model in wax because it is like drawing in 3d- adding to the form incrementally, so I loved lost wax casting. I used wax wire to make 3d geometric frameworks to begin most of my pieces. I didn’t really enjoy fabricating metal objects by designing and cutting and filing and sanding and soldering and polishing. Too many steps killed my interest. I haven’t made anything in metal for myself (as art) in 4 years.
CB: The process that you use to “slow down and consider each moment” is that related to a meditation practice or is it a particular practice that you has become a technique for the work?
CF: Drawing has become a daily practice, similar to meditation. I maintain complete attention to each moment and mark, as if I were focusing on my breath, but what I do doesn’t seem as pure as meditation, it’s more of a physical trance, but I let my mind wander, and I might be listening to a tv show or music while drawing.
I should actually meditate, I hear good things about it, but I have only tried a few times.
CB: Thank you for your time.
Fulkerson’s drawings are currently on view through February 21st in
“Artists of the Year: 2014’s Greatest Hits”
The Curator Gallery
520 West 23rd St NY, NY