Conversation with Dave Hucal
conducted may 2016
The Bakery: We first met back in art school, maybe 2004/05? Through the time I have known you your work has changed quite a bit. Even from the work you had in
the 2012 RBC competition to now. Could you talk about this transition your work has gone through over the years and the impetus that directed the work to
what it is doing now?
HUCAL: The work has changed in certain ways. The work that was included in the 2012 RBC painting competition was a gestural form of abstraction, derived from observation. I would create still life compositions in my studio made out of found objects and used these compositions as a starting point for the production of a painting. However, the finished work would function independently of observation as I gradually moved away from the source material through the process of making the painting. I never intended the work to be a direct translation of this source material and only used it as a starting point. As time went on I began to feel that for me on a personal level this process was a bit too arbitrary, I think this may have been because the images left that source material quickly and didn’t indicate it in any way in the finished work. I was finding that the studio environment itself and previous work was influencing subsequent work as much if not more than any intentional use of source material.
I was and am still concerned with found, overlooked or commonly produced objects, however, I am now using them directly in the production of the artwork through a process of mono-printing on paper. These source materials include fabrics, tinfoil, paper scraps plastics etc., basically anything I can lay my hands on. Traces of these materials are left on the surface of the work as a consequence of the printing method I’m using. The unique qualities of these found materials I use are preserved and are a large part of the work. For me this is what connects the work to the world outside of the studio.
Also the method of mono-printing often leaves tears on the surface of the finished work, which gives the work a degraded surface quality. This is a quality that I embrace in this work. Because the process of mono-printing is effectively a blind one I can never see the work as I am making it. The speed implied in this process as well as the inability to see the work as its being made lends to an element of chance because I can’t always predict or control the outcome. This keeps the process alive for me and allows the unanticipated result to often indicate future directions in the making of subsequent work. Using paper seemed to be a logical choice as editing has now become a large part of
the process. Paper allows me to work quickly and also loose some of the preciousness I was feeling towards working on a stretched support. Paper also has an immaterial quality. This quality I think is directly related to the found materials I am using to produce the work. People often refer to this work I am doing now as drawings, and then switch their description back to paintings. There seems to be some uncertainty as to what category they fall into. For me explaining something in the form of categorizing isn’t necessarily that important however the connection to drawing that these works may have because they are made on paper is an interesting one to me. Immateriality and incompleteness are both qualities I associate with drawing. And I think the idea of finishing is definitely in question with this work.
This may seem like quite a jump, however it has developed gradually over the past few years. My practice is still a searching one where the idea of “finishing” is in question. The work still develops through its own intuitive logic. However it has become more procedural in its development. I’m still largely concerned with space and the parameters of a picture plain but have lost the compositional element the previous work had. The work is still pictorial in many ways with illusions to near and far achieved through a process of addition and layering in much of the work.
THE BAKERY: What is it like working without composition? I feel like a lot of us work with it, depend on it even. To have had it in your work as you did and now not have
it, how did the transition with that evolve?
HUCAL: It evolved through the process of working with transfers onto the surface of
the work. That being said though, compositional elements aren’t ruled out. I treat
composition as a found object in this work. Composition for me is something I either
arrive at or don’t. It isn’t something I’m intentionally searching for but not opposed
to and working without it isn’t really a decision but more like a by-product of a set of procedures. Structurally this work somewhat builds itself, so composition at this
point in time doesn’t feel like something I need as a starting point. Color is important for me at the moment, what I can do with a color and what type of space can color create is a question I have entering this work.
THE BAKERY: You mention before how "finishing" a work is something you question,
what is it about the idea of "finishing" you are questioning?
HUCAL: I think what’s interesting to me is the idea of completion. And what’s
involved in calling a work done or why I may think something is done and another
one is not. Maybe this is connected to not working with any intentional composition.
Because I’m not working with anything really predetermined, I could keep on going
with a work or stop abruptly, so for me by asking myself that question is a way for
me to be a bit more aware of the moves I’m making, slow down and try not to get
too repetitive. I also think that because each painting at times can reference
previous work so strongly, you could view several of them as a single work because I
think there is an echo that runs through them as a group. This for me also adds an
element of incompleteness to each work where it could be viewed as a single work,
which is my intention or part of a larger flow of work where one spills into the next.
The use of paper I also think takes away from their objectness a bit, they still are
objects of course and even though I take each work seriously and need to put a lot
into making each one, I think the quality of paper, meaning its lightness and the way
it sometimes buckles or deteriorates a bit through the process of making a work,
allows for a more immaterial or temporary read to the work at times.
THE BAKERY: Colour is important to your work and what kind of space it can create. The majority of the current work appears to have a very subdued palate. Having not seen the work in person yet, could you describe the kind of space that is created?
HUCAL: Color operates for me as a way of setting up a new variable to work with in each new work. After this decision is made, every subsequent decision is informed by it, as the work involves through its own internal logic. The type of space varies depending on the palette choices I make. For me, I find some colors seem to push me away from the work because they seem to emphasize the surface of the work and its flatness and maybe even seem a bit aggressive, pushing all the information to the surface and leaving a very shallow sense of space. Others seem to draw me
in, alluding to a depth of space. Some of the work is subdued and has a lower chroma and this sometimes occurs as a result of the layering process however I usually start with a palette of a high color key.
THE BAKERY: Could you talk about the decision to introduce the mono printing
technique to your practice? How did you decide to go in this direction?
HUCAL: The idea of using print making techniques started to come into the work slowly. I started using a few found objects or surfaces to quickly translate some information into a painting about two years ago. This was a fun way of creating a new set of variables within the work that I could respond to and I was hoping to expand my vocabulary within my work. I usually worked with translated surfaces as a starting point for a work and by doing so I created a circumstance within the work I needed to react to. I could create a space in a different way that I was used to, up to that point. It was also a way for me to free up a different set of ideas within a work and try to avoid repeating my own moves as a painter. So it started very casually and evolved from there. I really like the challenge of working with two different approaches within a work. I still often use a gestural brush mark, but coupled with an outside reference point which is just letting go of some of the control I had over the painting process, also was a great feeling for me, which resulted in less of the anxiety I was feeling around making the work.