XYZ is a student-run art gallery on Main Street downtown that features shows often containing the work of Virginia Tech students and professors. Its summer showing opens today at 7 p.m., with Five Rooms, Five Paintings. The exhibit will showcase five separate works of art by Brian Tydings and will last until August 8. In pursuit of high art and the meaning of life, I sat down with Tydings to talk about his show, painting and the life of an artist.
Collegiate Times: To start, can you tell us a little bit about your show?
Brian Tydings: Ray Kass, professor at Virginia Tech, approached me through XYZ gallery about putting on a show this summer, and I was very excited. The show is called Five Rooms, Five Paintings; my original oil on canvas at XYZ gallery. Each painting will be in its own separate room, you will have the experience of viewing the painting by itself and as part of a collection.
CT: When did you start painting? How many exhibitions have you done?
BT: This will be my third solo show. I started painting when I was 19, in a horse barn studio in Colorado.
CT: A horse barn?
BT: It was an old barn turned into studio space. My space was what would have been a horse stall. So I used to gather materials from the recycle center: plywood, metal pieces off of machines, and paint with that. I put a portfolio together then went to San Francisco Art Institute. But I only attended class about five times and instead spent all my time in the studio. So I came home and got a local job. I met my wife there and relatively soon after that we were married and our daughter was born. So my wife went through college while I painted and worked.
CT: What style would you use to describe your paintings?
BT: Impressionism meets West Coast. West coast meaning, basically, you steal an idea and you rework it to make it your own. And I'm trying to do that with some of the great painters that I love. Beginning with Paul Cezanne through Willem de Kooning and trying to figure out Warhol and at the same time making a painting that Francis Bacon would be proud of.
CT: How have you developed this style?
BT: I found art through great museums and then through art history. I began reading poetry, great works of literature, viewing great films, having great conversations and ubiquitous thoughts about everything else. Then I just kind of stopped doing that and started to not think about anything at all. And then just start thinking with my eyes. Then my paintings got really good. I don't talk the way I used to talk or think about things the way I used to think about things. Now it's just showing up and making a painting. My basic style hasn't changed much over the past 10 years, but (my paintings have) become more sophisticated, and I feel that's where I want the audience to experience that level of visual ... the paintings are basically a visual experience. Paintings about me thinking about the way I feel and documenting that one brush stroke at a time. And putting that together into a kind of chorus or symphony of visual sound.
CT: Is it hard to work in a smaller town where there isn't a very big art scene?
BT: I feel like you can make bad work anywhere. So for me having no overhead was very important, so I was able to just continue to grow. The majority of the art world today, outside of major markets like London and New York, is on the Internet. You can see the shows that galleries have been putting on, you can do research on artists, you can find basically every show of importance through several Web sites on the Internet. So I would say, without the Internet, it would be much more challenging. Of course, seeing it in person is a big difference because that's where art and people really come together. So it was good to be in this place, I would encourage any artist to find a place where they can get lost and find themselves again.