Justine Hill is a New York City based artist that is showed with Denny Dimin Gallery this year at Untitled, Miami. Hill creates fragmented shaped canvas pieces that reference ruins, creatures, and colors and patterns of her whim. As an intuitive creator, Hill sketches shapes and practices pattern making as an act of preparation but allows the pieces to come together organically. Her most recent series has ties to Sputnik, the first artificial earth satellite. Under the shapes and colors lies an interest in communication and the role humans play in creating and also breaking down their own discoveries.
Interview between Amy Boone-McCreesh and Justine Hill at Untitled Art Fair
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE ROLE DECORATION HAS PLAYED IN YOUR RECENT WORK – HAS THIS ASSOCIATION EVER BEEN A STRUGGLE?
It’s newer to me. I’m still deciding how I feel about it. It came about with the resurgence of the Pattern and Decoration shows. It was wonderful to be able to see this work in person rather than a footnote in a book with bad photography. These shows allowed me to not worry about using decorative references, I hadn’t really engaged with patterns or floral before then. I went to Bard and saw the “With Pleasure” show. It was so amazing, with so many artists I didn’t know, or was less familiar with than artists such as Miriam Schapiro and Joyce Kozloff; artists such as Al Loving, Franklin Williams, and Emma Amos. Seeing Cynthia Carlson’s installation in person was a huge treat since it’s work I grew up knowing, specifically her floral wallpaper installations.
WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF THE SHAPES IN YOUR WORK? HOW DO THEY RELATE TO THE CONTENT OF THE WORK?
The shapes are the starting point for most of the work, and how I group the pieces. There’s more landscape-oriented work, then pieces which behave like figures or creatures, and then there’s work trying to blend the two together. It starts with lots of sketching, simple line drawings to build the piece. In the beginning, I would use the shape as the organizer and then paint whatever I wanted onto it. I’m more specific now, selecting the patterns and scale, whereas early it was more spontaneous. I repeat similar patterns and shapes with all the work.
How I select the patterns is by deciding what I want it to feel like or achieve: I want this more geometric, or that more floral, or this collaged–so it’s more driven by formal ideas. Recently there are a lot of 70s references, but that’s popular everywhere now. The 70s and floral aesthetic also brought me back to Vienna at the turn of the 20th century with the Vienna Secession and Art Nouveau. The textiles, designs, and colors from that period are not that dissimilar.
WHAT ROLE DOES COLOR PLAY IN YOUR PROCESS?
My color is pretty intuitive, it moves in waves. I’ve been very into yellow, orange, and purple lately. I went through a pink phase. Now, I really want to make all brown paintings because I’ve never worked monochromatically. It’s proving to be hard for me, it could go really ugly, or really beautiful. I’m not sure yet.
YOUR PIECES RANGE FROM LARGE INSTALLATIONS TO SMALL WALL WORKS, HOW DO YOU THINK ABOUT SCALE WHEN PLANNING?
Scale is maybe one of the most important things, in all senses; how big the piece is and how big the marks that go into the piece are. How many marks do you need to turn into a pattern, etc. I like all sizes, but I lean toward larger pieces because I like to be able to stand within them.
WHAT IS IT LIKE PROCESSING YOUR WORK IN SUCH A HIGHLY SATURATED VISUAL ENVIRONMENT LIKE MIAMI ART WEEK?
I have mixed feelings about that. It’s not an ideal viewing experience. But that being said, it’s hard to rule out Miami, the art fair, and how much you get to see in a short period of time. If you are patient and process what you see over the next number of weeks and dive deeper into researching your photos and artists seen—it’s amazing how much you can recall from your experience.
WHAT OTHER PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON OR HAVE RECENTLY FINISHED?
I have a really fun piece up now at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. It was a commission for a new building on campus. They wanted the piece to face out and overlook the campus. It became the largest piece I’ve ever made at 12 x 21 ft. It was both exciting and overwhelming to work on. There were multiple learning curves. For one, it was the first time I worked with an assistant in a regular way. It was also a piece that was going to be most frequently viewed from a distance, yet I still wanted it collaged and detail oriented; this led me to darker colors to pop on the white. The color shift ended up influencing the entire shape and created a nightscape with two moons.
ANYTHING ADDITIONAL YOU’D LIKE OTHERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR WORK HERE AT UNITTLED?
The paintings at the fair come from a group called the “Sputniks”, which I started last year. They are based on the idea of human-made robots that explore and gather information. This may not be visible to anyone beside me, but the heads are also an image of a setting sun, and only when that half circle shape is connected to the rectangle does it become personified—so it’s like a horizon-turned-figure.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER ARTISTS YOU THINK PEOPLE SHOULD BE WATCHING?So many. One I saw this week also at Untitled was Michael Childress. On view were highly organized, mostly symmetric, close-to-square paintings; painted with lots of water, producing gradients of attractively saturated colors; many with a circle form pulsating out towards the edge of the frame. I enjoy the way they are painted, but it was the scientific-esque, spaceship-porthole, and spectrum forms that initially attracted me. They appear to be attempting to measure or capture something unmeasurable; and I liked that.
All images courtesy of Denny Demin Gallery