By Alexis Convento, April 2015
A very special Spring Forward Pop-Up with Union x Bond comes to Sky Gallery from April 14th to May 24th, bringing together art, creative programming and one-of-a-kind events, getting ready for the warmer days ahead of us. Public events during the pop-up include a fun Saturday Swap, Drink N' Draw and a floral arrangement workshop with Starling on Bond. More events to come!
Taking over those gorgeous white brick walls during the Pop-Up is Brooklynite William Suran, a painter as well as musician, who is crazy talented and detailed, especially with his peony watercolor series, dubbed 'demons.' It isn't just about the initial beauty of these peonies, or those lucious layers of petals but more so, the process of decay in regards to wilting paired with the human body. How romantic, you say? Read on to learn about Bill, and make sure to come by Sky Gallery to see "Demons" up close and personal.
Union x Bond: Describe your artistic style, in 5 words or less.
William Suran: Focused, detailed, fixated.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm a visual artist and a musician. Since grade school, I've been interested in old master paintings, drawings and prints circa 13th to early 20th centuries. Francisco de Zurbaran, Pieter Claesz, and Juan Sanchez Cotan are a few artists that relate to what I’m doing now. I'm also in two bands (Cathy and Fixed Rope); both have albums being released this year.
I read a lot and that has a profound effect on my output. A lot of history and it's horrible moments as well as a lot of literature.
Who figured out you had an early talent for drawing?
From an early age, my instructors at grade school noticed that I had particularly good drawing skills; I was then directed to further focus in additional art courses outside of school. My brother also had an early talent for drawing, but his focus went toward playing guitar, which he’s done professionally for a long time now. Neither of my parents or my sister have visual art skills, though my maternal great grandfather was a commercial lithographer.
Your peonies almost seem to have a humanistic quality about them - they feel very much alive, even though still. Can you tell us more about your subject, the peony flower?
The peony watercolor paintings were never meant to be just botanical illustrations. I've never wanted to paint a fresh flower in bloom. To me these are live ephemera in the process of decay. I've always enjoyed watching the process of a flower wilt, and then die. It always felt like a brief analogue to the aging of the human body, so I was personifying them from the start.
I had painted flowers on my oil paintings in the past and I always saw them as portraits. They always seemed to have a menacing character to them, and that's when I started to paint them as if they were demons. In the first couple of paintings there were more obvious things to convey, such as Demon 2 having a set of teeth and a small dying man in Demon 3. I do enjoy that darkness imposed on something meant to be beautiful. Anyone else may see them just as pretty and that 's okay, but I see other qualities in them.
Why pair the word 'demon' to your peony series?
Peonies simply die and wilt like no other flower and I chose them to be that character - one that seems dark, menacing, and heavy. I started seeing the peonies more as portraits and malevolent ones at that. I was reading something on demons in various religions and learned that there were something like 3,000+ specific demons.
These paintings have so much detail in them - can you tell us about your process in the studio? How long does it take for you to complete each painting?
In May and June of every year, I shoot about 10,000 photographs of peonies in my home studio every evening from 9pm to around 1am. To start a new painting, I find an image or two that strikes me in my photo archive of peonies. I then make a composition of these images in photoshop, to then paint it.
I paint everyday, even when traveling. The smaller paintings are generally painted over about a month or two and the larger, multi flowered paintings I paint for 5 or 6 months. The multi-flower compositions (Demon 9 and 10) are assembled from individual pictures of flowers to make one cohesive image.
How did you end up working from large scale oil paintings to small scale works?
I had been working on long term large format paintings ever since attending the Kansas City Art Institute and I lost the ability to pay for a large studio and a home after a breakup, so I had to adapt to a new situation. That adaptation became working small and, being as I was going to be working at home, preferably in a non-toxic medium... watercolor. Three years ago was when I made my first watercolor painting.
Working with watercolors - yay or nay?
Watercolors are possibly the last thing I'd thought I'd make my way towards, but it's been an amazing medium to try and handle. I always thought of it as a very fragile medium, but I've been able to push beyond this assumption. I've been able to make some areas very dense and overworked as one can do with oil painting.
Originals vs. Prints - why decide to do both?
The idea for the prints came from Erin Przekop, a good friend and co-founder of Fiercely Curious. My watercolor output is small due to the time involved in making them and Erin thought they would translate well as prints. When we first started getting proofs I was amazed at the results. Even minute brushstrokes and the physical building up of paint came through. The prints are also more affordable and they've got me into many homes here in the states and abroad, in Australia and England.
William Suran's Demon Series will be on exhibit at Sky Gallery from April 12th to May 24th, during Wednesday to Friday from 2pm to 6pm or by appointment. Weekend gallery hours vary, depending on special events and events open to the public.
For interest in a Price List for both original artwork and prints, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.