Shane Wolf is a painter based in Paris. He tells us more about his practice and new work, which will be shown as part of the forthcoming exhibition ‘Young Masters: Dialogues’ at Sphinx Fine Art, 12 – 24 October 2015.
You studied in Florence where you acquired a remarkable knowledge of the Renaissance and now you live in France, the nation which in the 19th century referred for a long time to the art of Raphael, Michelangelo and of all the greatest Italian artists of the 16th century: can we consider Shane Wolf an Italian artist? What did you induce to think so passionately over the art of our past? What did you lead to Paris?
I’m not quite certain I could accurately be called an Italian artist, but it is certainly true that my sensitivities to classical art were awoken and began developing during my years in Italy. It is very frequently commented that my work “feels Italian”, and many people claim to see the roots of the Renaissance in my painting. Personally I think these reactions are indeed rooted in the fact that I studied in Florence where the Rinascimento is palpable, where one can stroll down a small street and stumble upon Donatello or Verrochio or Brunelleschi. These influences are omnipresent, and they certainly have had a great impact on my own artistic vision.
After Florence, Paris was the clear city for me. Florence is a wonderful city in which to study, whilst Paris seemed like the place for me to become a professional. I needed a city that also had a remarkably rich past, but also a vibrant present. Paris has offered that right combination of richness and vivacity of both past and present.
The readaptation of the Renaissance art passes also through techniques: you make large use of the drawing but your production abounds with foreshortenings which refer to the great illusionist painters of the 16th century, as Correggio and Veronese. In a time in which the art is made using every expressive way, how much is important to come back to traditional techniques?
Using traditional techniques is absolutely essential to my creation. The act of drawing and painting from life is a beautiful act on its own, and it also abounds with great Humanist values. When one works uniquely from life as I do, one can better understand why the Renaissance was also a Humanist cultural shift. Those of us who spend our days and years studying the human forms in all their complexity (well, that is really not possible, but we try!) become part of the great lineage of art history, going as far back as the Greeks. I feel that this is why great works of art still speak to us so profoundly: they tap into certain fundamental sentiments and values of mankind.
And yes, fore shortenings are indeed an important part of my work. I greatly admire and respect the illusionist painters you mention (Tiepolo as well), and I also strive to challenge myself in choosing unpredictable viewpoints of the model. Not only is this a fun challenge, but it often provides a dramatic representation of the subject.
In your paintings, the main protagonist is human body. In 2014, on the French magazine “Dessine et Peinture”, you said that in your opinion the body expresses all the qualities: magnificence, power, elegance, sensitivity. Bodies often beautiful, athletic, powerful male nudes and refined female nudes are a characteristic subject of your art. What is your relationship with the body and the beauty? Like in the Italian Renaissance art, do your bodies want to express an ideal, a value?
Absolutely. The human form is the pinnacle of beauty, grace, elegance, finesse, strength, vulnerability… My entire life I have been in awe of the human body, in both male and female form. I feel that we are at our truest state of being—our purest—when nude. As during the Italian Renaissance, I aim to use the nude to express the infinitely wide range of human experience and emotion.
Was the Prix Taylor a goal of yours? Did you ever expect to win an award that has such a strong history with incredible artists like Delacroix?
When I received The Prix Taylor in 2010 during a show in the Grand Palais in Paris, it was a completely unexpected honor. The Taylor Foundation is a very esteemed, historic organisation that is very well-known within the French-speaking world and has an amazing history. When the jury placed the award’s plaque next to my name there was an immediate murmur of excitement from the crowd. Needless to say to be decorated with an award from the same organisation of which Delacroix, Ingres and Corot were part is a tremendous distinction.
So you’ve been everywhere from Fiji to Egypt. How have your travels influenced the way you make art?
Travel is education and adventure; it is risk taking, or rather opportunity taking. We don’t get anywhere without leaving our comfort zones. Learning to make a jump into the unknown and trust that you’ll figure things out (more or less) is an invaluable life lesson that I really learned while living abroad and backpacking around the world. Learning to address my hesitations and fears is perhaps the single most important way travel has influenced how I make art. After all, each painting is a journey: it has it’s moments of inspiration, of fatigue, of frustration, surprise, and discovery.
Is it “process” or end result for you?
Definitely a process, with a mere “idea” of the end result. As most of us probably experience, the end result is hardly ever what you anticipated at the onset. I’ve always been intrigued by that: the never-ending artistic roller coaster of love-hate, control-abandon and all those seemingly opposing emotions and feelings that come with it all. It is absolutely frustratingly delightful!
Artists working in any medium and from anywhere in the world are invited to apply to Young Masters Art Prize. Applications open until 31 March 2017.