Banks Violette

I’ve been an admirer of Banks Violette for a long time. So you can imagine how happy I was when I received this email:

“Hi Nicolas, I was forwarded an email from you. I figured I’d side step the gallery, and just get back to you directly. Please feel free to send any questions you might have for me, and I’ll try to get right back to you,

In the middle of the Basel mayhem, he agreed to give an exclusive interview to Art is Alive. Ryan McGinley took an exclusive portrait of Banks and it here by illustrates this piece.

How would you describe yourself and how would you describe your art?
Don’t really know how to answer either of these questions, really. I suppose I’d describe myself as a very private person and leave it at that. As far as my work is concerned, although what I make takes a variety of different forms, there are common themes/concerns that stretch throughout the work. Performance, absence, collapse: those are ideas that are present throughout everything I make, and then there are certain formal constants that I know I’m drawn to repeatedly: weight, physicality, presence – things that I relate to very specific idea of what “sculpture” means, in the broadest sense.

Which exhibition are you most proud of?
I suppose I’m always proudest of the last exhibition I’ve made, which (in this case) would be the last show I did in NYC, at Gladstone Gallery’s new(er) space on 21st. The inverse of that is that I now have to look at that show as if it was the show I was unhappiest about. If you don’t pull apart whatever you feel comfortable with, you’ll stagnate, so it’s necessary to move forward by dismantling whatever came before.

Which was the most painful?
Again, this last show in NYC, at Gladstone. A few days before the show opened, I started to feel like I strained something in my stomach: it turned out I had been working while my appendix was ruptured. By the time I got to the hospital, I was in awful shape – this will sound melodramatic probably, but the surgeon said that if I hadnt gotten into surgery when I did, I would’ve only had a few hours left before my body shut down, and I died. That’s gotta count as most painful, right?

Currently, do you have an exhibition and where does it take place?
I have a few things I’m working towards, but since I don’t have the exact dates pinned down, I don’t wanna say what those shows might be, until they’re absolutely confirmed.

Which galleries are you represented by and why?
I’m represented by a few galleries, I guess: Team Gallery, NYC, Rodolphe Janssen, Brussels, Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg and Paris, Maureen Paley, London. I just started working with Blum and Poe, in Los Angeles, and I’ve also had the opportunity to work with Gladstone Gallery, also in NY, on a few projects and I’m extremely grateful for their support. I work with these galleries because I admire their programs, I feel personally comfortable working with them, and they’ve all been very open in their support of both my work, and myself personally.

You’re a close friend of Hedi Slimane, do you feel closer to the fashion world or to the contemporary art world?
I wouldn’t describe myself as a close friend of Hedi Slimane. I’ve met him a number of times, and he’s been very supportive of what I do, and has been for quite some time. I think he and I have a number of overlapping interests, so it seems natural we would have entered into some kind of dialogue. As far as what I feel closer to, I really don’t have a relationship with the fashion world. Not that I’m antagonistic towards it, but really: I’m closest to the art world.

Are you planning any projects with Hedi?
No, nothing at the moment. It’s actually been a few years since I’ve spoken to, or seen him.

What is your favourite album of all time and favourite band ever?
I can’t answer either of those questions. I have a number of “favorite” bands (i.e; The Clash, Burzum, Void, etc), for a bunch of different reasons, and the same holds true for favorite album. Honestly, there’s just too much music that I deeply love to whittle either category down to a single representative.

Neither. I can’t stand either band, or at least what little I’ve heard of them I’ve found really boring.

Artistically speaking, how far do you hope to go?
I think what I hope for, ultimately, is what every artist really aspires to: I want to be a part of the larger conversation; to be a part of art history.

Three words to describe the message you want to convey, if you want to convey any?
I’m not so interested in reductive answers, so bringing everything down to three words doesn’t make sense to me. Which isn’t to say that I don’t have a specific set of ideas that I want to convey, but I’m not sure I could do it in three words. Or that I’d want to try.

The press brands you as a “gothic artist”, are you really attracted to the gothic aesthetic and is it the right vocabulary to describe your art?
No, I’ve never agreed with that. I’m certainly interested in, and attracted to, a specific kind of historic romanticism but I think that very different from a “gothic” sensibility. Frankly, I’ve always found tagging things as “gothic” is A.) inaccurate, and B.) reductive.

Do you think that art is dead or alive?
As long as people are making art, its alive. Art is a communicative act: it’s a dialogue that’s sustained by the people involved with making art, and people looking at, and interacting with art.

Image: exclusive picture for Art is Alive, portrait of Banks Violette by Ryan McGinley (c) Ryan McGinley for Art is Alive