FRANK CASTANIEN STUDIO VISIT

May 2016

It is always refreshing to meet artists who are not afraid to take risks, who venture where other’s don’t. Frank Castanien is one such artist. His metal and acrylic sculptures as well as wall pieces are something to behold singularly and together. Upon entering Frank’s studio you can’t help be be taken back by the dialogue that exists between all of his work. Enjoy.

1. How did your reclining nude series (floor sculptures) come about?

I was drawn to these materials for their malleability and seductiveness. The way I work is material based, gravitating to a set of materials and letting the ideas develop through them. When I first started working with this combination of materials the anatomy of the forms were based on variations of common geometric shapes.

Around this time I was also looking at a lot Ingres. I’ve always been fascinated by his drawings and his expressive distortion of form. Particularly, how an area of a drawing is well defined and as the rest of the line work develops around and away from that focal point it becomes more gestural and abstract.

I began to think more about the formal relationship between the works I was making and the structural qualities of his figures. This body of work was always made in relationship to the floor and as the works progressed I started incorporating the wooden structures.

2. What is the relationship between the reclining nudes and the more 2D geometric shaped wall pieces?

I think the two series have a formal, procedural, and thematic relationship. The collection of wall works is called the collision series. Each work in the series has its own title, just as in the reclining nude series. I tend to title a body of work and then individually title each piece within that collection.

This series started as a pragmatic solution to having limited floor space. At the time, I had just moved into a new studio with a friend. This studio being completely private but smaller than our previous workspace, I had no more available floor space to continue the reclining nude series. Curious as to what would happen if this work moved on to the wall, I started with one shape and then dissected it with another and went from there.

After the first piece was finished, almost nothing of the previous series had translated into the new work. However, it had created something similar but of its’ own. This body of work is all about the moment when the two shapes collide. It’s a sexually aggressive interaction, they move into each other like lovers.

It’s continuing the investigation of how to make a drawing with the metal tracking and acrylic. This series relying heavily on abstraction more so than any other I’ve made. The shapes are pulled from the figure, deconstructed into basic shapes and then rearranging those forms into new shapes.

3. Your use of black acrylic is consistent in most of your work. Why the affinity towards this material?

In a sense, it’s present in all of the work. From the inlaid acrylic in the collision series, to the heat formed acrylic in the reclining nude series, to the black text in the publications. It’s erotic, a mirror, and the void all at once. Black text on a white surface also has a similar type of quality. This all has a connection to ambiguity and abstraction. I think of it like a green screen, a space of infinite possibility that solicits psychological spaceswithout being overly specific.

The physical material itself has a range of possibilities that I’m just now really beginning to explore. It can be cut, bent, or shaped. The later can be done through vacuum forming, which is something I look forward to experimenting with.

4. Tell us a bit about the sexual undertones that you’re exploring in painting and sculpture?

These undertones are common throughout the paintings, sculptures, and text based works. All the work I’ve made in the last several years, in one sense or another, explores a moment of ecstasy.

The anatomy is fragmented, re-arranged, and invented in different ways throughout the various series. I think the writings evoke the monstrous and barbaric side of our sexuality while the sculptures and paintings emphasize the more bizarre qualities of our carnal architecture.

I think of the sculptural works as skeletal structures, with the metal and acrylic having a relationship to that of flesh and bone. In the reclining nude series, the bodies rest on wooden structures that are variations of sex furniture. While, in the collision series, this formal interaction between the two shapes is sexualized.

The paintings consist of an amalgamation of organs; in a way it’s a literal inverse of a Deluzian phrase, “body without organs” restructured to organs without a body. They use both male and female organs, as well as invented organs, to create a hypersexual space where these bodies are experiencing the moment of or after orgasm.

I think we’re all sexual creatures and our relationship to the world is sexual. Humans have developed complex cultural structures to codify and separate ourselves from the violent natural system we evolved from, which are powered by biological forces of reproduction and cycles of birth and death. I think it’s important to acknowledge the material character in us all.

5. You are also a poet (Fuckfest and Fleshed), how does poetry inform what you do?

The text-based work that I make informs the sculptures and paintings just as much as the sculptures and paintings inform the writings. To me, they are different manifestations of the same question.

With that said, music is also influence to the work. Cross-pollination is essential. The way literature can influence music and the way music and influence visual art go hand in hand. But also, for me, the act of writing, reading, seeing art, and listening to music all involve the development of a psychological space.

6. What has been the highlight of your year so far?

Every day is a highlight. Surviving the night and awaking to do it all over again. Each day brings something new: making work in the studio, hanging out with friends and living life.

7. What are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year?

The unknown. Meeting new people. Projects my friends are developing and involved in, future exhibitions of my own, eating a good meal, and celebrating each day with those who are important to me.

Follow Frank on Instagram

Visit Frank's website