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If you recall, we shared Texas and NY-based artist Jay Shinn’s work previously here on the site, and I have always wanted to talk to him more about his work. It’s everything I love about art and more: geometric, minimalist, and totally unique. Jay has been a self proclaimed artist since age 7. Growing up, he spent many hours playing and working on his father’s hotel construction sites making temporary sculptures. Watching how structures came together profoundly affected his work. He now creates his own architecture, in a sense, building with a different medium than brick and mortar—light.
He begins his work on paper using pencil and marker and gradually refines it into a final idea, which he then executes using light, light tubes, or Plexiglas. He began with all-white neon pieces and has only recently begun experimenting with color.
The process is an iterative one: taking the forms that come into his head and drawing them repetitively and coloring them in to finally come to a resolution. He hangs them up on his studio wall so he can meditate on them as he works. While his geometries might feel simple, there is a great complexity in the process, noting that his work loses power if there are too many elements. I spoke with him about materials, minimalism and impermanence:
How did you discover light as an art form?
I was always fascinated by light and reflections and how they possess a sense of infinity. The abstract expressionist Milton Resnik, back in art school, told me to bring light into my paintings and sculptures. I was painting flat colors on shaped wood at the time. That comment started a conscience search for the energy found in light.
Why have you focused on geometrics?
Architectural logic of how forms support one another and fit together interested me from the beginning.
What role do mirrors play in your artwork? How have they enhanced it?
Mirrors are as much about illusion as anything can be. My work has long been concerned with the illusion of space and spatial relationships. Mirrors can remove the physical being from an object.
You also create works on paper and with Plexiglas. What’s your favorite medium to work with?
Drawing with pencil and paper is a favorite medium because it is so immediate and direct. Light is also a favorite because of its ability to transform itself into many forms quickly.
How do you feel when you take down an installation and not have a true, physical whole piece of art to take away with it? What is special to you about the impermanence of your art?
I always liked to “plant the garden”, not maintain it. I like to move forward with my work. I don’t dwell on the past. Impermanence is freeing and keeps me flexible. Dimensions should always be variable to time and the situation.
Your work is very minimalist and uses fairly simple materials like light, mirrors and neon, yet in terms of installation and depth, it’s very complex. Would you consider yourself a minimalist or a maximalist?
More of a minimalist. It is best to keep the elements simple to be as clear as I can. It is Important to me to create more with less. Hopefully the layers are complex.
Much of your work requires multiple things to harmoniously work together and interact. Do you also feel as though the viewer plays a role in this interaction? How so?
I love the viewer’s interaction and reaction both physically and mentally. This is the fun in showing the work to a broad audience. I like the work to not fit in particular categories. Viewers often ask “What is it? How is this done”? I think that is positive.
Which work is your favorite and why?
The painted projections. I still have a lot of ground to explore with these. They merge many of my concerns and become architecture to me.
How has your style and work evolved over time?
I have worked with geometrical abstraction for a long time. Working both 2 and 3 dimensionally, the two seem to be merging over time.]
Where do you draw inspiration?
The high that comes with the emotion of satisfaction of certain finished works. This is what inspires me to continue and keep the search of what lies ahead alive.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on a 12’ x 22’ projected wall painting for the lobby of 55 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
Exploring moving color through animation on wall paintings.
You can watch a studio visit with Jay here.
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