in The Frame #8 - Elise Wehle - Penumbra in The Frame October 2014

Penumbra  2014
126 x 88 cm. Paper cut collage.
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www.elisewehle.com
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You suggest a conscious decision to counter our absorption into the digital age, through a time-intensive, hands-on process. When and how did this resolution manifest?
It happened while I was in college. At the time I was experiencing artist’s block. Actually, it wasn’t artist’s block because I had a million ideas for different art pieces that seemed super exciting, but I just couldn’t will myself to make any of them. I’d try and try, but every time I came home from my classes, I found myself in front of my computer or phone, and the evening suddenly disappeared into a series of web pages. During exhausting all-nighters, I’d rush to complete my art assignments right before their deadlines. This chaotic routine left me discontent, but I just couldn’t find the discipline to make art consistently. Then one day I decided to make art to specifically counteract what I was experiencing, to somehow reduce the consuming affect technology had on my life. I accomplished this by creating art that demanded a lot from my hands, and I experimented with paper cutting for the first time. I never banished my computer or became a Luddite, but by making art that required meticulous movements I rediscovered both my self-discipline and my passion for art. It was renewing and exhilarating. 

By electing to embrace a very time intensive means to make your artworks, is their some element of catharsis or meditation experienced as you work?
Definitely. The meditative affect of my artistic process is what keeps me coming back for more. Every day I crave the chance to breakaway from all the distractions and noise around me and just cut patterns for hours. I love it.  

How do you select the images which root your compositions?
I wish I had a better answer for this, but it’s a very visceral method. There is just something about the photograph that connects with me, and I get instant ideas about how I would modify it. That immediate inspiration is what tells me I have to use that photograph and not another.

The layered, ephemeral landscapes that you create seem to suggest a friction - between regularity and order, classic and modern, our 'constructed' architectural world, and the free-flowing chaos of the natural world [which we are perhaps losing connection with]. Can you explain how this engagement came about?
I believe this derives from my own preferences within my creative process. I like having elements that are out of my control.  For example I start each collage by transferring a photograph, and the transfer method never produces consistent results. In fact it often blots out the photograph in really inconvenient places, something I’d never do if I were in control. Yet the unpredictability helps me be more creative as I am forced into working with whatever happens. If my entire process was like this I’d go insane, but fortunately I regain control as I cut out structured shapes into the artwork. I like when you can see these two opposites working together within a single collage.

There's a strong introspective narrative to your artworks. The sharp, ordered apertures that you cut, create fantastic labyrinthine masks, or screens; faces and key features cut away, revealing an empty void. Can you describe your preparation and thought process. And explain the rationale behind creating these highly-patterned apertures.
I’ve always associated handcrafted pattern with an artist’s dedication. Creating a pattern is tedious, time-intensive, and at times both mind-numbing as well as finger-numbing, but the evidence of the artist’s passion imbues itself into every line and shape. I love that. I love that you can see the artist’s commitment right in front of you. I think that’s why I gravitate towards pattern. I need the validation that comes from seeing a completed pattern in my own work. As for the meaning of the pattern, I’ll leave that open to interpretation. 

Who are the artists that have influenced your artistic career?
There are so many! And I find more and more all the time. I’ll try to just name a few though. First I have to mention Donna Ruff. It was her work that first inspired me to experiment with paper cutting. Her newspaper series is lovely.  Laura Plageman’s paper manipulation taught me a lot about the potential of paper as a medium. I admire her landscapes from her series Response. The work of Emma Van Leest has motivated a lot of my current work. Her compositions are simply stunning.

Despite an apparent suggestion of decay and turbulence, your work seems to exude a sense of calm, almost deep-seated spirituality. Does theology or bygone devotional imagery have an influence on your making?
As yet I’ve never made art directly about religion, but I am a deeply religious person. It makes sense that it would impact my art. Because I see life as a trying yet richly beautiful experience, I can see how my artwork would adopt the same perspective.

Are you constructing or deconstructing?
By the time I finish the artwork I have done both. I take away from the original image through my transfer process and cut outs, and then for my final step I reintroduce parts of the photograph back into the collage. I certainly take more than I give back, but the artwork isn’t complete until I restore pieces of the original.

Which artwork has taken the most time to create? 
Genesis. It was essentially two completed artworks combined into one. I never grew tired of working on it, but it took me so much time.

How would you like to develop your approach?
I’d like to feel less limited by the rectangular shape a lot of two-dimensional art adopts. I hope to free at least some of my art from those boundaries and let it spill all over the frame.

What is more important - what you reveal? or what you obscure?
Within my art I think the two happen simultaneously, which makes it hard to pick one over the other. As I obscure the original photograph, a pattern is revealed. Since you can’t have one without the other, I consider them equally essential.



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