“I am trying to bring some magic into a very static world…”
Paul Zimmerman in conversation with Joseph Balletta
Paul Zimmernan: How did you get interested in art?
Joseph Balletta: I believe I have always been an artistic person but for many years never identified as one.I have always been fascianted by the form or design of things. At an early age I was involved and still am in music and creative writing but my passion to design didn’t come until much latter on. Strangely enough I realized that my interest in form could be translated into a desire to design when I began some courses in graphic arts .
Therein it became apparent to me that although I could accomplish graphic design quite well that it really didn’t appeal to me because it was to goal directed and of course to commercially orientated . I was searching for the essence of art or a medium I could submerse myself in to express my passionate nature beyond the shackles of the status quo social engineered realitythatwas so ubiquitous. So I would have to say my interest in art was natural to my sensitive nature as a thing I was born with. I wasn’t interested in the endless games played out by linear language of an ego gain with no creative content but only a spirit to conquer , posesss and dominate I was more attracted to a spirit of life as the fancies of the imagination that makes of nature an ever interesting and exploratory field that seeks peace and beauty the creative spark to life right from the beginning! Life itself for me is art and I believe that this perception of life has no beginning and no end.
PZ: What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
JB: My work doesn’t follow the conventional mapped out linear narrative. That is it doesn’t follow a simple already accepted story line that can be interpreted by the usual fragmentation of consciousness that linear systems present as judgements by a priviledged author or the forcing of a very aggressive physical world view on one based on a warlike conditioned will of obsesstions and compulsions that marginalized others. My canvass presents a mental world alludintg to the aspects of life that give a peaceful ground to the meditative and the sensuality of an aesthetic allegory of image that one may experience if they were to relax. Therein the fantastical, as visual experience becomes protean as given by a purely aesthetical language of concept as a non teleological form that positions existence into a time and place of the free spirit. As in architecture where the image is sufficient to enhance an experience of a mytho-poetic presence and to give one a sense of the essence of its form as a quest for beauty so it is I feel that the freedom of the imagination to enjoy the experience of creativity is not a phenomenon to be explained away by the egos submergence in political realities a much more anal and contrived universe of the violence of finality. My formats are presently more purely a structuralist approach to life that needs to be exposed as perhaps contrary to conventional will exactly because it doesn’t rely on any one given narrative. It follows that my work may be challenging because it evokes that part of our being that is of the emotions in a culture that tends to be weighed more heavily in the superficiality of a “puritanism” that says we should repress and even kill our emotions- vunerability. By perhaps centering art as a symbolic conceptualization in the infinte expressions of form and the creative part of our beings a lot of my formats are personally liberating from the sense of a past that is emotionally stunted and repressed, and has no romance or charm indeed somewhat of a nightmare for the more sensitive amoungst us. The liberating of design as an archetypical reality which I believe I do in my designs can meditate on a future that may make our beings more whole because they liberate form as good in itself as play. I believe they( my works) seek to take a snap shot of human nature that causes critical reviews to be valuable but irrelevant to the monent as a whole a wonderous gestalt by itself because it comes more naturally and less competitively. I can surmise that one experiences a challenge when viewing my formats because the action in them takes place in texts and subtexts that reference a symbology out side the conventional cues of release.One must slow down and hesitant, patient as they get locked into a managerie of images that reference meaning from as multiplicity of images which therefore seems to not have any singularity other then a mechanism for peaceful release. But I should say in this contextuality which most definitely affords faith in a free spirit at the very least both idealism and romanticism can live together. And so I think also that my work can be challenging because it doesn’t force one to be politically committed to any idealistic or romantic strophes or any other philosophy to life which is marginalizing to the liberating experience of play as most people are conditioned to do on a daily basis. My work rather merely evokes evokes commitment and so it points to life as living in a larger experience outside just our obsessions with fruitive actions. Again I would call this an aesthetical approach to life or Life as Art and Art as a search also for meaning which may be challenging to individuals who haven’t experienced this to much.
PZ: What is your artistic process? How do you create your paintings?
JB: Basically I use many of the artistic processes such as Light, Color, Texture, Shape and I manipulate persona within these techniques in order to expose how the organic and inorganic( matter as pure energy) are so extricably tied into one another even despite our unawareness of such. I use a lot of Film techniques like layering and fading in and out with color and shape to build up scenarios that appear transcendent to two dimensional reality. I come from or shape fantastic and surralistic worlds that present the dualities or conflicts between matter and energy as literary allegories similar to mythology.The aesthetics of the canvass becomes obvious by its seemless avoidance to be didactic.Colorwise generally speaking I probably extract from Renaissance lighting all the way to the colors found in fairy tales and science fiction but color is very significant to my work because I use it to pull in the observers eye towards the canvass . I do not follow any linear map or blue print that I work off but construct an environment more or less the way a master craftsman would approach designing a gothic cathedralbit by bit.I imagine structure and then execute it! I visualize a direction as I go along by faith that imagination can tease a conceptualist idea without starting out with a very tight and obsessive map. My presentation of form is always deconstructed into the question of a more expansive repose as a journey into the mystical worlds of meditation and contemplation the idea being an expose of the connection between the aesthetical and the literal as a struggle for an experience of liberation of play inside of one by a spiritual energy. A Childs playfulness is revealed as an open field of objectification that reestablishes value for the subjective and therefore honors a dignity to the individual over the collective that permits an exploration of space and time outside external constraints. I think my designs connect creativity and imagination to the physics of qunatum theory. I think I am trying to bring some magic back into a very static world by presenting imagery that projects the three dimensional world in such a way as to point to fourth dimensional possibility . Perhaps by sort of throwing together concept and passion as artistic endeavor I have also made some magic out of the dynamic tension in our lives that it exposes between light and darkness , conscious and unconscious etc,etc.I think and perhaps from a biased point of view that a real “artist” is a person that can stand up to the heat of taking on duality provoked in the conflicts of the personal associating with the transpersonal as representative of living or as the conflictual experience where drives and ethics battle but can be represented in artistic expression. So I would have to say that my process generally speaking is to imagine I can step outside of the box into an unknown space with the hope that when my space ship lands I can make sense of where I have been in a representional way that is pleasing to others.
PZ: Do you have any particular goal in mind when your start a new piece?
JB: I do not have any particular goal in mind when I start a new piece but only a feeling that I want to construct a fantastic environment, something I concieve as beautiful to the eye!
PZ: How do you know when the painting is finished?
JB: I strive for a craftsmen type perfection relative to the modalities I am using which are indeed conventional techniques. That is I do strive to create a semblance of form that waves in and out of sense and the no-sense but that is crafted in the best way my eye can see. I feel art is about creating beauty in form. I focus on beautiful colors pulling in and out of focal ranges to make sure that the tone, depth, and lighting involved with color dynamics blends together with the totality of the form while the result of the overall form as narrative illustrates incompleteness and is never finished. But Aesthetic production sort of like poetry is in the eye of the beholder.
So how do I determine when the painting is finished? This is hard for me to explain because it involves the way in how “I am seeing is evolving” what is before me which is on a digital or two dimensional plane screen moves in steps that turn into waves of three and four dimensionality. It could be a thing as subjective as “ taste” is or mysterious as life itself? As regards shapes generally I like to throw together a mismash of the architectonic with the human,transhuman, and mythological as a way of giving by an experience of the different weights and measurements to matters gravity. It appears like so much of this process is collage-like but I think it is important for one looking at my work to know that the medium drives the format which is a thing transcendent in time as it defies a precise and immediate mathematical model because it is driven by effect or form rather then function much like as the symbolism of dream states are. The ground create the mysterious while the figure is diaphanous.
This idea of constant change or movement is what drives my motivation with shape so therefore I can only know when I have the right shapes by the faith of my passion to plow ahead into the unknown until my eye is pleased. In other words things take shape by the ability of the ontology of shape itself to correspond with my own subjectivity, it spirit to reflect back an assist as an essence of aeasthetical quality to design that defies a static reality. It is a measure of sight that delineates my subjectivity and this is hard to quantify in any immediate sense!
Getting a sense for the particular style of design I employ may present a contradiction to one because it seems at least to me that this technique I use if you will attempts to transcend the two dimensional space it is confined within by presenting a metaphysical quality to image that exists outside any range of certainty as it also can bring to ones attention the physics in the relationships between parts and wholes in the context of a cosmic becoming outside any rigged objectification schemata that wishes to ground the dynamic interplay of both by the two dimensional reality that sort of boxes in the format.
So yes there is a point at which I can say that a piece I am working on is finished but only in a contextual sense that is limited by a given perception of time and place and not by the ground of this process I use which I believe alludes to a conceptual framework that expands time & space and connotates existence as a mystical experience as well. This latter idea of conceptually extending the canvass beyond a five sense tactile reality and into a nebulous conceptual reality of the infinite is frustrating because it cannot give the customary illusion of closure. This can be attractive and frustrating I think at the sametime. But maybe the essence of design is always in a future fancy, an exploratory becoming so to say as one risks play in a unplayful environment. A Creation’s finality is its agony and ecstasy, because the experience of creativity defies finality, the art work somehow cannot be finished and grounded physically but only for the moment presents imagery that can be paused in order to be seen which to my self is quite a mysterious and spacey component of existence.
PZ: Has your practice changed over time?
JB: The digital technique I have used in many pieces has grown overtime and I believe that there is a bit more that can be learned in that technique. But I have realized by working in this technique that it is only a planet in a much larger Universe and that there is a much more sophisticated work of art that lies in my future that if I can be so bold as to say may even effect the whole art world as well. But I have choosen to make this presentation a surprise. All I can say is that the technique I have used up to date has enabled me to grow in my perception of design and to see visions of future projects!
PZ: Which artists are you most influenced by?
JB: I would have to say those “Abstract Expressionists” that also present a conceptual association more akin to an environment that impregnates with “ meaning” the illusive as real. Sci-fi, Fantasy and Surrealism and other modalites are examples. The Surrealists: Dali, Magritte, etc. Bosch and all the great artists that present fantastic landscapes point towards reality as a something not seen in everyday practical movements and I think I have absorbed technique from them. Architecturally I have been attracted and still am to “Gaudi” becauee of his creative melding of the organic with the architectonic. I have been also influenced by the Reanissance Masters techniques and there use of color and lighting. I like the Russian Constructivists like Kandinsky and the metaphysical painters like Chirico. In general though I can say I have been influenced to different degrees by all styles and techniques of architecture and design as I am well educated in all those areas.
PZ: How would you define art?
JB: A defintion of art is always subjective. I think there is at least one definition that I can apply to “art” but will come off for some as somewhat traditional due to its Cartesian bias. More precisely I would say that one experiences art as portentious to a quality of individuality that is a monad or an experience that doesn’t fragment consciousness by the dual nature of our existence. We experience reality as a duality firstly of inner and outer space. If I can say so art expresses a decided preference for the inner.
This duality I am referring too alienates ones mind and body from emotion feeling, passion by imposing a plastic external authority that insists( its obsessive quality) that one has to be controlled by a time and space where matter is extremely slowed down. In plain English there is an authoritarian insistence that one needs to be collectively controlled by mass mechanical movement. This is truamatic to “individuality”. Therefore if this is so then art is also a means by which one addresses lifes contradictions as truama negotiated by the artist- the artistic as a sort of private primal scream that wakes up and expands consciousness into a flight that transcends the usual bifurcation in our existence between release and restraint a duality which always requires an authority to calibrate it. The very undemocratic imposition of culture as an imbalance between release and restraint make necessary those who would become artists (some of the more sensitive individuals) to the justice or injustice in the processes that attempt to calibrate the bifurcation but with also a desire to protest! The Living of our species up until now doesn’t understand the value of “ emotion”but art does because it experiences the existence of a child in the its forgiving quality of play in order to express in order fopr the child to replay living as hurt or trauma so that it might nuetralize it . In other words art or the artist works out repressed emotion through the symbology of artistic creation and in that sense good art has Universal human value because it can even if temporarily nullify the imperious reality of truama in our exsistence. However this experience of art that I am referring to is strained by its own necessity since it should be a natural experience and not an experience birthed by an irritated organic state of dialectical tensions. However, the lack of integration of that part of our being (emotions) to everything else in our present very materialistic culture makes art only necessary. Its provisonal reality betokens our cultures inability to encourage the creative process universally or to everyone. Maybe Art can be viewed as an individuals experience of ones connecting to the spiritual part of our being? So it would seem in this case that the meaning of art is also to be a grand compulsion of some individuals to balance a shortage of a something that should be omni-directional, protean and an ongoing experience of creativity going on all around us but on the contrary ssems to be sabotaged by a cultural hegemony that limits it. I think an even more interesting question is why are some people are willing to stand up for “ ART”as a necessary condition in there everyday existence while others are not? Or put another way why are some individuals compulsed to express the nuerosis of everyday existence or if you will our species “ existential dilemna” (duality) by and through artistic endeavor?
It appears to me that individuality or individual difference is a quantum of organic energy that is a monad or self enclosed system but a spiritual one that cannot relate to the artificial more slowed down structuralization of matter outside oneself by any of cultures conventional prescriptions . That is the externalized world outside ourselves and the matter inside ourselves cannot integrate in a non nuerotic way. The monad becomes a necessary development for the potential artist when confronted with the slowed down materialization of nature outside him or her self which can only bounce back to the organism as a reflection of our already fragmented consciousness a phenomena that experiences our fear of flying symbolized in the idolization of a gross static world or slowed down material world outside of us. While it keeps most people confused but is accepted the true artist in my opinion fights against it wants to expose it but can only do so in the symbolic language of art.
Art is Flying and implies or is also symbolic for a risk that can forebode an annhilation of our existence.”Artists “ are willing to take this risk. It is always an existential risk because in its beginnings it provides no conditional or conventional language maps.
Perhaps a more “ Romantic” meaning of art has to always associate with a persons alienation and separation from the tribe in order to bring back to the tribe a missing piece of the puzzle hence the direction of an overdeveloped monad in order to caccoon the individual into the fiery (* that coming from the element of fire”)passion of expression of the repressed emotional content which desperately wants love an urge expressed diffderently by all of us. One can imagine that the isolation and alienation that the cacconed individual experiences is worth it because He or she also experiences but for that moment an experience of liberation ,wholeness and balance to there existence as well, a sort of self love the first step in order to transcend ones narcissism. Art is an expression of abundance in the face of scarcity that can point others to hope. Perhaps having said all this one can furthermore state that the meaning of art is a sort of sacrifice of the individuals self preservation instinct in order to point out that Life itself is transcendent to its enthrallment to “ survivalist strategies”and can also be aesthetic- playful that life can also be sacrificed to individual exploration in order to bring back to the tribe the value of individual difference as an expansion of the whole and not the prick of disaster. It can be viewed as the ultimate sacrifice. The idea-that one dies to find love no matter how immature is essentailly the ultimate Romantic tragedy as escstatic.
Art defined as a Cartesian monad grapples with the existential problem of the expansion of consciousness by bodies that are restricted in a quotidian sense to an illusion of time and space by the politics of “Culture”. Art understood as a self contained “monad” highlights arts complicity to re-iterate the Cartesian idea that there is an ontological difference between the inner and outer realities but its experience also can quicken one to hoping that there is also an integrated balance between them in the future (as a becoming).
Art as a strike of lightning for a moment sacralizes the individual and his or her Gods as the entity that should have the final word to expand time and space by presenting images in a two or three dimensional ground that can only hang out in space while at the same time alluding to a universality to life as a connection of archetypes metonyms and metaphors- etc a truly disembodied spirit which can land.
So it is my opinion that the meaning of real art must be revolutionary as well in its transecendent quality because it is also a hope that the cartesian ontological assumption isn’t fixed for an eternity and the artist will not have to be suspended in space “forever” but also has an escape hatch in an evolutionary sense to a future with others on this earth in union of a higher community.
PZ: What are you working on now?
JB: Right now my mind wants to take me to a future where environments will be more organic,conscious ,and creative. I imagine my next project will be to create environments for future worlds that will be fantastic,spiritual and can take us into outer space safely. I must say that I really think my canvass may be expanding, bursting to go further into space and time but this may be even too fantastic even for myself?
PZ: How does the pandemic influence your work and sensibility?
JB: The Pandemic is challenging to me because it forces people to really look at themselves and there is two ways people can respond therein. They can either run away from themselves and repeat the past or try to look at the pandemic as an opportunity for all of us to become better human-beings. I feel that artists have a great opportunity now to inspire people to appreciate art more ,to bring art into the living of everyday experience so much more as the therapy it is for more people a healing process!