If you don’t know Stephen Cimini, chances are that you’ll say you’ve seen his work in some editorial or luxurious space before. Depending on who I’ve talked about his art, people have described him as “the guy who paints the squares or triangles, or the rectangles or blocks”, and they all love it. I don’t think I’ve seen triangles in his work, but why don’t we let Stephen enlighten us?
What did your work look like right before painting abstract shapes? I was drifting from one idea to the next without really doing much. February 19, 1994 was a turning point in my life as an artist. It was the day I lost my right eye in a freak accident, a wake-up call. The accident got me thinking about what I wanted to do as opposed to what I thought I should do. I was always drawn to abstract art, even as a child — started focusing on that idea which goes into the next question. How did you arrive at painting your current work? I was living in the Hells Kitchen neighborhood of New York City and began taking photographs of the crumbling buildings -in Times Square — this was the beginning of the rebuilding of the area. I loved the history of layers being revealed as buildings were being torn down. New structures were jutting up around creating ever-changing geometric shapes. I began to explore texture/layers and shapes. It became apparent to me that this is what I would paint and soon coined my endeavor, architectural abstract. Much to my amazement, that concept stuck and has become the roots of my work ever since. Do you think if you lived in a different city you’d paint differently? I don’t think living in another city, an urban area would affect my work. However, if I was to move to an island or the mountains in Mexico, someplace really different, it probably would change my work — to what extent I really can’t say. What do you listen to while working? My tastes in music are quite varied. I listen to everything from Marilyn Manson to Enigma. I don’t feel the music I listen to has a direct effect on the nature of my work however it does “entertain” me while I’m busy working. How important do you think is an online presence for today’s artist? It certainly is a great opportunity to put your work out in the world. I can’t imagine any artist trying to make a go of it not using at least some of the online tools available. Can artists thrive without the brick and mortar gallery? I think it’s possible. Online galleries and sales have increased dramatically in recent years and there are some good online galleries open to artists for free. I’m not sold on going totally virtual at this point. I still like exhibiting in galleries whenever I get the chance, however, most of my sales initially come from online connections. What does branding mean to you? I worked as an art director in advertising for many years so to me branding, in its simplest terms, is about creating a consistent look for people to visually identify a product/service. With my art the branding becomes the work itself. I use consistent graphics/fonts in my promotional materials that help brand me. The photos of spaces with my art in it have become a branding element. It’s something I do consistently and is relevant to my kind of painting. In an era when artists are constantly advised to share their process, space and lives on social platforms (in order to connect with their audience), why do you choose to keep it all about your paintings? I like keeping my relationship with social media simple. It works for me. When I first joined FaceBook, some years ago, I thought it a bit odd that people were sharing what they had for breakfast. I just felt more comfortable sharing my paintings and things that relate directly to my work. Do you consider the photos of spaces with your work in it art? I think there is an “art” to placing one of my paintings in an environment. I wouldn’t call the photos fine art — It’s more of a marketing tool for me, sharing how my work enhances different environments. It’s helped me identify my niche. Have you ever considered changing your style once again? I don’t really think about it. My work has evolved a bit since I discovered this style many years ago. There is just so much to explore within the parameters I work with. This past year I did a series called pictures of something where I removed some of the shapes creating an object on the canvas. The initial idea came about by just working. It turned into a group of paintings that I exhibited. The short answer is: I just let it evolve as I work. Worst art career advice you ever got? Don’t quit your day job which isn’t bad advice if you add the word yet. What’s next for you? I’m working on a new exhibition for an awesome new gallery in Lancaster, PA for July. The paintings are coming along however when I started I had no idea where I was going. I usually get some kind of theme or general idea for a body of work before I begin. The working title for this series is The power of uncertainty. I’m also in an upcoming group show at Pleaides Gallery in Manhattan in May and will be a part of the Other Art Fair with Saatchi Art in June. Stephen Cimini: http://www.stephencimini.com/