Rachel Rose is a young American artist who has worked for the past two years in the UK producing a largely abstract body of work made from untraditional materials. Recently, an exhibition entitled OFF SITE at the Rod Barton gallery in London featured her work alongside that of other young British Artists, and she held a solo exhibition in Rome, entitled ON IT , in the crypt of the Venerable English College this summer. Her use of building materials and paints give heavy surfaces that defy surface superficiality in a world where the abstract and the ideal seems to be undermined by representation at every turn. Rose has now turned some of her attention to poetry (she is still painting in New York) and plans to publish a book of poetry next year. Over Skype, we discussed art, the creative process and poetry - one of Rose's poems, AT NIGHT (2011), is reproduced below.
Q: So, as a young artist, what are the major problems you face today, in your historical position?
A: I think a lot about the history of representation, but try to use it as a material- like any other- to bring together an idea. I'm not so interested in forming a "historical position" - I'm much more into allowing my ideas to be both porous to influence (right now: Lee Lozano, Blinky Palermo and Yves Klein) and remain undefined by it. I also use "history" materially in an actual way: right now, I am working on learning 19th century ceramic techniques. But yeah, I think it's important to know about this steady articulation of ideas through time in representation - it makes what we make a choice.
Q: Would you say that you're trying to subvert the idea of historical lineage - does one have to subvert to transcend?
A: I like the idea of just working with one idea and pushing it through filters of what have come before it to develop it and allow things about it to be more known. I think there is a certain alchemic process that happens when you push together different parts of time in an image, even when that pushing together is only implied. Asking specific questions about how forms have exposed content before- without trying to subvert or transcend the lineage - necessarily does. I always find that what I find when I ask the question is a cumulated assemblage of ciphers.
Q: In this "de-ciphering" you end up producing paintings that don't take for granted the materials they are made of. In a world where things increasingly occur on surfaces like screens, billboards, etc., where do you find the ciphers that lead to such heaviness and materiality?
A: Right now I am looking at late 19th Century American ceramics, but I like things that are physical and there to be touched - the kind that are there directly and straightforwardly and penetratingly. But also - I look in poetry, which I guess is the voiding of material
Q: Your poetry is still far more bodily than the Post-Confessionalism many young contemporary poets have adopted. What interests you about poetry?
A: What interests me about poetry is that it is not material. That I know so little about it that I can acess it with the part of my brain which is totally ameoba-like, I can move and gravitate around it without a vague neutrality. I mostly like being able to use words to express things about being alive-the immediacy of feeling something and then writing something is basic and human. Poems for me are marks of what can't be said or felt but you get shines of in seconds sometimes. Like, most of the time I write my poems on my Blackberry - where the words have to be spare and straightforward and true to their material, the Blackberry keyboard.
In the matte brown of the night
I saw your blank blue and felt right
Did you want me over here
I want you there
Did you like it phosphorescent
I like it is what I meant