Artist ∴ Manifesto
I have been using blood in my work in various capacities for the past 15 years. The initial concept which has remained consistent to my current work is the literal insertion of myself into my works. It was always my way of becoming one with my art where the line between the creator and creation is blurred. Similar to alchemy where one unleashes an entity into the word and is able to attain eternal life through its creation, this process acts as a metaphor for personal transformation.
Just as blood cleanses a wound as it flows, the use of it as an artistic medium, particularly if portraying something deep or cathartic, acts as a cleansing mechanism, almost ritualistic as a method of externalizing and “bleeding” out of what one is encountering. Painting with living cells which leave a wound vibrant and painful – as the painting sets, the once virile coloration as well as the vivid and potentially caustic sentiments which are imbued within it crystalizes and becomes a transformative rebirth as the fluid reforms into what becomes the completed painting. As the cells literally die upon the canvas throughout the painting process they gradually begin to fade as they solidify and combine into the final vision by the hand of the artist just as a trauma experienced recedes into a grainy memory. To understand this through experience has lead to an ever deeper appreciation of the power which Art can have, both on the rest of the world as well as upon the artist creating it – which oftentimes both are equally as important and one and the same.
Art has been a lifelong pursuit of mine since first learning to read, write and walk. With my grandfather being an artist originally from Germany and both of my parents being artistically inclined the pursuit of art has been something which is hereditary for me and in my blood, both a literal and figurative sense. My usage of blood as a medium began approximately fifteen years ago as a method of directly transmuting myself into my work where the line between the artist and creation are indivisibly blurred as one singular entity.
My usage of blood in its initial stages was predominantly used as accents and highlights into the composition for symbolic purposes. Throughout the years this has evolved in volume and complexity into creating full scale works painted entirely in my own blood. From a technical standpoint my approach can be compared most similarly to watercolor. The medium requires a delicate approach and a gradual building of definition, tones and depth of shading in order to take shape. Dilution with water to achieve variation and detail is required while evolving the composition into its final state.
My inspirations to paint and to do so in a rather unconventional as well as something incendiary of a medium has always been those artists who have inspired me by their boldness in choosing to create art and live their lives by their own measure rather than confine their vision by what morals or standards of the time and societies they lived in dictated as acceptable forms of expression. Artists who were deemed as “degenerate” in the times in which they lived such as Otto Dix, Hans Bellmer, George Grosz and even Salvador Dali. My inspiration through figures such as these range beyond just traditional/visual artists but rather all figures who challenged the status quo and norms of society, including authors, poets and musicians, such as the likes of Charles Baudelaire (“The Flower of Evil”), The Comte de Lautréamont (“The Songs of Maldoror”), Friedrich Nietzsche, Aleister Crowley and the Marquis de Sade. Artists and creative beings such as these are what makes my world come alive and exciting. It’s from this standpoint which inspires me to create unique works in order to carry on their spirit.
Art has always been my pursuit and identification but the point at which I made the conscious decision to become ‘an artist’ proper was at a period in my life which had become tumultuous and changing beyond my control. The options available to me were either to fall victim to circumstance of events which at the time I considered to be traumatic and hurtful, to numb myself to not fall prey to such feelings or rather to (literally) create my own world and destiny through art in order to be proactive with where my life would eventually lead rather than to let outside circumstances dictate for me where I would end up. The pursuit of art was my drug and my salvation to choose my own fate rather than let uncontrollable forces determine it for me. It was at this point in my life when I had begun to incorporate blood into my works, which has been predominantly graphite and traditional mediums up until this time. It was my devotion to art which led to my path in life and at the time of this realization was when art for me evolved from just a hobby and casual pursuit to it becoming a lifestyle and identity through the expression of my work.
From a technical standpoint, blood is an often volatile of a medium which as mentioned previously requires a gradual evolution in order for the final vision to take form, additionally requiring a great amount of discipline and restraint in order to hone its full potential ; something which is a perpetual learning process throughout the each piece. Difficulties from a societal standpoint, as any unconventional medium which is beyond what is generally considered to be the norm is that its acceptance isn’t something guaranteed and something to take for granted when unveiling such works unto the world. Each viewer will consider merits of any work of art differently and when its form of expression challenges what is often considered to be outlying the conventions of the time, the pursuit of it requires perseverance and dedication as trailblazing any new method or mode of thought which may be considered outside of its time may not always be universally accepted. But art and my approach to it is who I am as a person so any adversity or initial reticence to accept is something which I’ve grown accustomed to encountering and it’s through this perseverance which has ultimately made me who I am and inspired me to create in the first place.
Nick Kushner, 2014.