Selz: When did you know that you were going to become an artist?
Jayavant: In an academic context, the decision to become an artist didn’t happen until my very last years of undergraduate school at the Ohio State University. I had been planning on being an English/ Creative Writing major but found myself taking art classes whenever I could; eventually acquiring my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting/ Drawing.
S: What types of art classes?
J: Studio and art history classes with an emphasis on theory.
S: What type of work were you making?
J: In 1996/97, I was building large scale, (six by eight feet), canvases and was strictly an abstract expressionist oil painter. I was experimenting. When it was time to find my focus, I scaled down the work drastically and even removed paint from my vocabulary. I had been taking a printmaking class and as a result my prints became more painterly and my paintings became
more constructed. I continued building my own stretchers with sturdy canvas and made tiny collages on paper. Instead of paint I implemented different materials such as string, fabric, wax, pins, photocopies of such materials, etc. I was trying to renegotiate and redefine what painting was to me.
S: What artists inspired you?
J: At that time I was looking at Agnes Martin, Eva Hesse, Cy Twombly, Mark Rothko, Alberto Giacometti, Gerhardt Richter, Phillip Guston, and Louise Bourgeois. I particularly developed an affinity with the work of Robert Ryman as I was trying to detangle this arena of painting. Obviously, the Abstract Expressionists and the Minimalists were important to me. Once I moved to San Francisco and began graduate school at the California College of Arts and Crafts, I was exposed to Lucio Fontana, Richard Tuttle, and Ellsworth Kelly.
S: What about the German Constructivists?
J: Yes, a connection with the Constructivists makes sense, but I also viscerally respond to things that don’t necessarily corelate to the type of work that I make. Demolished buildings, the things in my apartment, the street, the sky, night and day, and literature are all things that inspire me.
S: When did you get into the type of work that we see here?
J: Around the fourth and last semester of graduate school. Prior to that I had restricted myself to plain white paper and worked within the white/ white or black/ white contrasts. I was mainly tooling around with making subtle but non-flat sculptural drawings. I didn’t want to be distracted by the power of color and preferred to concentrate on the more conceptual aspects of space within the pieces and the physical environments they inhabited. Once I was satisfied with the results of these practiced restrictions of light, white, black, and wall, I opened myself up to color again. The use of color allowed me to express another level that I could not reach in its’ void. Since then, the color has become one of the most important factors of the work.
S: Yes, indeed. As I look at them, the color is the essential factor and the shape follows the color. The shape is it’s support. The color defines the form and the form defines the color. The color here is not an afterthought, like when someone makes a sculpture and then paints over it. In looking at this piece in front of me, I have different experiences at different angles because of the fusion of concave/ convex, the layered color, and the surface. The paper is both organic and architectural. Sometimes it resembles stones, elements in nature, steel, etc. The small scale and subtle nature of this work lends to their modesty. These pieces are so delicate that I’m scared to touch them.
J: To touch them is to alter them. Although they are more durable than they appear.
S: These are color shapes: post minimal abstract sculptures with color as the central component. A revolving door of shape and color. Each piece holds a matter of surprise and the unexpected for the viewer. These works are formal but have much variation. It is intriguing to follow the shape, the color, and the variations in paint and surface. Each piece is tactile and has its own personality. They are complex and also calming. They deliver complexity in a subtle way.
J: The conundrum and success of this work is that it really can’t be explained away.
S: These works are mysterious. With art it seems that everything has been done. Is there anything original? But I have not seen this work done before. The modesty of your works are quite opposite that of the current art market, yet they have an impact on the viewer despite this modesty because of their complexity of form, color and content. They have a unique presence that reflects your own. It is apparent that extensive thought goes into each element of the work. How long does it take to make an art work?
J: I’ll spend anywhere from a week to a few years wrangling with
a piece. I never know what to expect from start to finish. I find it easy to have clever ideas and grand agendas for art works and this is exactly what I want to avoid. It just isn’t interesting to me nor does it hold my attention. I want to make art works that have longevity; art works that can be re-experienced over one’s lifetime.
S: All of the elements of shape, color, and thought make these pieces visually stimulating. They make a statement in a quiet, understated way.
J: They are subversive in their quietness. Dare I ask, but in your opinion, is my work important and/ or valid?
S: I find your work intriguing and evocative. It’s intriguing to follow the elements of the shape itself and the painterly surface. One can revisit these pieces and be stirred by their calming nature and timelessness. They are special and they are like you. And of course this work is important and valid. It has a sense of wonder and mystery. This work has not been done before. Continuity and relating to previous art are essential and this body of work is taking the next step into twentieth century sculpture. What is your next step?
J: I’m confident to say that I really don’t know. The connecting link to all of my work has always been the process itself and my physical and mental attention within it. I’ll continue to work within constraints and abide by my process.