Discovery Series: an interview with Jeremy Couillard
Michigan artist now residing in Brooklyn, Jeremy Couillard is bringing new technology out of the ether and into the studio.
COMPANY: How did you get started as an artist?
Jeremy Couillard: I’ve always painted and done art, though I’m pretty much self-taught. I taught high school for 6 years and I had a lot of time off, so I did art in my free time and in the summers. In the summers, I treated it like my full time job and would get a lot done. After 6 years of that I decided to do art full time.
COMPANY: What artists do you admire? Is there a main source of inspiration for your work?
JC: My inspirations are constantly changing but lately I'm mostly influenced by all my teachers and classmates at Columbia. Some of my teachers and mentors like Dana Schutz, Matthew Ritchie, and I'm taking classes with Jon Kessler and Douglas Repetto, are very inspiring.
COMPANY: How did you start integrating technology into your work?
JC: I was always a big nerd, and I was always doing that on the side. I had my videos and I had my paintings. The first couple weeks of grad school John Kessler said why don’t you just put the videos inside the paintings? I thought it would be too corny, and he said, yeah it would be corny but also pretty fucking cool. So I tried it out. It was definitely corny, but it worked.
I like painting technology too, as a kind of analogue record of it. It’s so interesting to me because we are the last generation to remember what it was like before technology was everywhere. Like, we remember rotary phones. I guess the zeitgeist that I’m into is how technology is advancing and changing our everyday lives.
COMPANY: Can you describe your process? Do you have a specific mission/goal in mind?
JC: My process for painting is easy. First I’ll draw. Sometimes I’ll use Google images, especially if I have a specific thing I want to draw. Like for the cockpit painting. Cockpits are insane! I looked at many Google images of cockpits and created a painting that is a combination of several images I looked at. If you google image search “cockpit” you’ll probably find some of my source material. So many artists now use the internet for source material, especially artists who make representational paintings. There is so much information available and it is so easy to access. Francis Bacon kept file cabinets of images in his studio; he had images of animated monkeys or whatever else. But now you don’t need that. A little iphone can be an entire file cabinet of source material. It’s interesting that it’s shared also. I’m probably not the only artist who used those cockpit images for a work.
I use acrylic mediums, heavy gels. My paintings have really crazy surfaces. You see the buttons and want to touch them. I showed someone a painting today and he was just molesting it. I like that my paintings are engaging in that way. Acrylic is plastic, and I want to use it so that it looks like plastic, like real plastic buttons you can push.
When I integrate videos into my paintings, I make them last. I want them to fit with the painting, though the painting always turns out different than I imagine it will. I did an 8 foot painting with 5 digital photo frames in it. For that, I cut windows into the painting, filled them with resin, then velcroed photo frames into the holes. The video content usually pertains to what I’ve been learning on the computer, so it’s always changing.
I always love to learn about new stuff and use it in my work. I think if I was just doing the same thing over and over again I would get bored. I like learning things and figuring out how to incorporate it into what I do. It’s easy because technology is always changing, so I try and learn about it and incorporate it into my work.
COMPANY: What are you working on now?
JC: I just finished a painting today. I was learning 3D computer programming, so I made little 3D animations. There’s a scene in Tron, the first one, not the second one, when he just gets into the grid and there’s a little orb that floats down. Back in the 80s when that was made, those were hot graphics. Today it is literally ten lines of computer code. I made a bunch of them and put them into a painting.
As and artist, something that you have to consider is that anything with technology will be outdated and corny in two years. If I was to paint someone holding an iphone it would be really contemporary right now, but in a couple years it’s going to look old. That’s why my paintings have a sense of humor, because I know they will look corny. I want to embrace that about my subject matter.
COMPANY: Can you tell us more about your Network Paintings?
JC: The big 8 foot one with all the monitors in it was my first network painting. I put a file server behind it that you can access with QR codes. You scan the code with your phone and it gives you a URL to the file server behind the painting, making it a linked network. There’s also a router in my studio, and there are different cords leading out of the router into the painting.
I also made a twitter painting that is motion sensitive. When you get within 2 feet of it, it takes your photo and posts it onto twitter @1921681127. In that painting is a video catalogue of Messier’s star objects. This guy Messier, in the 18th century, catalogued all the star objects in the sky. I put that catalogue online, then into a digital photo frame integrated with the painting. So the viewer looks at the painting, and the painting catalogues the viewer. In a sense, the catalogue is cataloging you.
I want to do a bunch of stuff that is networked. David Joselit wrote an article titled “Painting Beside Itself,” and he says that for painting to still be relevant it has to be in a network. What he is actually referring to is a social network, meaning people have to be talking about the paining. I am taking the idea literally, and physically networking the paintings themselves.
COMPANY: What impact does the internet and social media have on the art world?
JC: There are all these spaces being created online for artists to do things, and there are a lot of social networks for artists. I use social networking sites to connect with other artists. We inspire each other, even if we don’t meet each other in person.