For my last article, I had contacted several Sussex alumni who had gone on to become successful artists. In doing so, I got more responses than I expected. One of which was from multi-media artist Naomi Kremer who I was lucky enough to have a chat with. This is what we spoke about.
I want to start off by talking about your early life in Israel. Can you remember much from it and if so how did it impact your art?
Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question before. Well I left Israel when I was about 8 years old. I don’t know if you know any 8 year olds but they’re pretty sentient. My first language was Hebrew which is written from right to left, and I very often work on paintings from right to left. Even though English is my main language now, I still have a deep tendency to respond to motion in that direction. Another thing is that I still have clear visual snippets of memories and a sense of yellowness. Its a hot, desert country and I find myself more interested with these landscapes. I find they go more deeply into my consciousness.
Were you doing art at that age?
Well I loved to draw as a child but I also remember being very taken with the Hebrew alphabet. I remember when I first learned to write. The method then was to trace over letters so I just remember tracing this huge aleph. It still continues to interest me, its definitely part of the mark-making way that I work.
I know that from Israel you moved to New York but how did you end up in Sussex?
Thats a really long story, I’m not sure you have enough space for this story. I went to India for a year abroad in 1973 because I was with someone at the time who was doing Indian history. I left after 2 or 3 months because of a war that was going on at the time. I met an English man who had been travelling around the world. We travelled around together and after a few months of this, we met up in London. I was finishing my senior year at the London school of economics – don’t ask me why. I worked for a year and then went back to get an MA at Sussex in Art History. My tutor was Norbert Linton and he was quite a prominent art historian at the time.
What do you remember from your time at Sussex?
I don’t have very many memories, I have to admit, but I do remember Norbert’s seminars. There were only about five graduate students and we focused on the modern period. I got very interested in abstract expressionism and my thesis was about this. My work has some relationship to that, although its funny how the movement has become so maligned because of its political connection to a retrograde, very macho way of working. But I was very interested in that way of working. It was very intuitive and very additive and that’s the part I took away from it. My work is built on a series of impulses and the impulses can come from any number of different sources whether it be literary, musical, visual or poetic. All of these things come together to create something that I want to see actualised in a painting. I’m also very interested in thinking about different types of mark making and hand writing – how specific it is to each person and the fact you can’t get away from it. You can try to get away from it though, and all those ways of trying are another way the paintings come about. For example, using rubber stamps or masking or stamping letter forms and maybe even inventing alphabets. So yeah… where was I?
Can you talk a little bit more about abstract expressionism and why it became somewhat of a problematic movement?
First of all, it was a group of men and there were few women involved. It started around the cedar tavern where Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning used to get drunk. It was very macho. There were women who have subsequently been recognised to be equally great artists like Elaine de Kooning and Lee Krasner who was married to Pollock, but at the time they were very much second fiddles, supporting their husbands work. So that’s a very annoying thing to look back on. There was also a show sent out by the United States that traveled around Europe and was very successful. But that eventually became tied to American imperialism which gave it a pretty bad after taste.
Do you think you also want to stray away from a particular label?
I definitely want the freedom to work in any way that I find stimulating and in any direction that draws me. I really got involved with video at the end of the 90’s. Motion has always been fascinating and people always say there is lots
of motion in my work. I actually started making these hybrid paintings in 2008 which are paintings on which I project video. I was commissioned to do a video based set for an opera, bluebirds castle by Béla Bartók. In the process of working on that, I ended up with so much video footage. I had all this leftover footage and I was about to do a show at the Knoedler gallery in New York. I was getting ready for that show and one day I turned a projector
onto a painting and I was so surprised by the visual effect because it has a depth that you don’t get either looking at a video or a painting. Its perceptually a very interesting form and I became very interested in the fact that you can’t see it any other way but in person.
You work with a lot of different mediums. To round off, I wanted to ask if you ever find this overwhelming and if there is any advice can you offer in regards to this?
It’s both harder and easier. It’s easier from the point of view that you never get stuck in one medium because I know artists in general, in any medium talk about getting ‘stuck’ with creative blocks and that kind of thing. If you just shift over a little bit and do something a little different then you’re
unstuck. Then, when you come back to the first thing you’re not stuck anymore. But on the other hand you can be torn about which medium to choose. You really just have to go with your gut. Link to Naomie’s website: https://www.naomiekremer.com/