“Cubism showed me the way…”
Paul Zimmerman in conversation with Theo Golb
Paul Zimmerman: How did you get interested in art?
Theo Golb: Art has always been an integral, natural part of my life. From the very beginning, there was music, literature, drawing, and later painting, architecture, theatre and cinema. I was an extremely curious and active child. My relatives called me the “one-thousand-questions-boy”. Thanks to this mix of curiosity, an innate penchant for creativity and, above all, the patience and determination of my Mom, I was able to preserve and, over time, develop my artistic potential. Art and creativity were and will always be my only modus operandi and modus vivendi.
PZ: Your art ranges from Cubist painting to digital works. How do decide on a particular style?
TG: My start as an artist was quite ordinary. Like almost all beginners, I plunged into figurative painting. It was a learning period, intense and instructive, producing a lot of realistic landscapes, still lifes and so on. However, I realized that my interest was not in creating images of an already existing reality. Rather, I was searching for new forms of expression, craving to create my own visual reality, my own world. It’s such a challenge!
Cubism showed me the way, and much more! It gave me an extremely precious and precise tool: instead of representing things from a traditional, single viewpoint, Cubism made it possible to analyze the subject from multiple viewpoints, first breaking it up then reassembling it in a new, almost abstract, powerful reality. It was a breathtaking revelation. To me, Cubism with its multitude of viewpoints sounds like the polyphony in Baroque music – like the counterpoint of Bach. It is well known that Cubism was one of the predecessors of abstract painting, mostly of geometric abstraction. Experimentation, exploration, discovery, and analysis are the terms that define Cubism and abstract art. Abstraction, and in my case geometric abstraction, gives infinite possibilities for emotional and aesthetic expression.
Imposing strict geometric logic and almost architectural structure gave me the greatest freedom for improvisation, resulting in one of my cycles entitled Captured Freedom. Concerning digital work… to me, this is another creative way to produce and enhance my compositions. Digital technologies allow new, really fantastic solutions, often almost impossible to re-create with traditional media. I’m exploring possibilities of interaction between traditional colours, lines and shapes within digital works. In the last couple of years, I have created compositions using both digital and traditional media. This method is a form of colouristic and rhythmic synthesis, a dialogue of acrylic patterns and lines with digitally created elements transferred to canvas or wood panels.
PZ: What is your artistic process? How do you create your works?
TG: As I mentioned earlier, in my mixed media compositions, I proceed by transferring digitally created fragments onto an acrylic context. I never strive for extravagant effects. Just the contrary: I try to work in such a way that the technical prowess does not overshadow the emotional and aesthetic expression.When it comes to graphics, I try to create harmony by playing with moving, dynamic forms and lines (arranged diagonally) and stabilizing forms and lines (vertical-horizontal).
For colour, I use two colour ranges, depending on the mood and artistic message I want to convey. I am always sincere with my paintings: I listen to my feelings and emotions, and decide on what colour to choose only when I feel it. It’s difficult to explain. It’s like music. It comes from deep inside.In any case, I aim to express only positive messages in my paintings. This is my credo.
PZ: Do you have any particular goal in mind when you create your work?
TG: I have only one goal, which is the same for each piece already complete or in progress: transmit my inner positive energy through my painting. However, my aesthetic ambitions are more complicated, and to advance as an artist, I can’t only rely on my past achievements. With each new piece, I must address new colouristic, rhythmic and compositional challenges. I detest being repetitive, tedious. So, I’m constantly looking for new solutions through effort, research, experimentation and innovation.
Playing with segments and lines, depth and flatness, motion and stillness, I intentionally create a certain level of ambiguity that allows multiple interpretations. So, the viewers are quite free to read the artistic message in their own. Finally, my works are intended for an attentive, patient eye. Don’t be in a hurry. Take your time… Clearly this is a very challenging and highly exciting job.
PZ: How do you know when a piece is finished?
TG: I trust my intuition. I just feel when the work is finished. However, after I feel that the new painting is done, I wait about 3 to 5 days. This period allows me to cool down and finally have a fresh, more neutral view of the piece. This way, if I notice any flaws, I can do the corrections and adjustments before calling the painting truly “finished”.
PZ: Has your practice changed over time?
TG: Certainly. My style has evolved a lot over time: from figurative painting through my Cubist experience to geometric abstraction. Of course, my methods and techniques have changed as well. With the discovery of acrylic and digital technologies, I have felt much more equipped, really free. It’s like playing jazz: you just have to choose a tune, and then you are free to improvise, to ad-lib. Isn’t this a great joy?
PZ: Which artists are you influenced by?
TG: Among my most important influences I must name Georges Braque, Jean Metzinger, and Aristarkh Lentoulov. My colouristic approach and my investigations of the relationship between depth and flatness were deeply influenced by Paul Cezanne and Henri MatisseI would like to mention one more name: that of the great filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. He taught me the intensity and integrity of artistic expression.
PZ: How would you define yourself as an artist?
TG: Absolutely independent. I am a very open-minded person, and I communicate easily with people. However, I am not a team player. One quote that best applies to me is from Picasso: “without great solitude no serious work is possible”.
PZ: What are you working on now?
TG: I continue to work on the two cycles that I mentioned earlier (Captured Freedom and Circle of Time). I am still into my AD compositions, meaning in the ACRYLICO-DIGITAL mixed technique.
PZ: How does the pandemic influence your work and sensibility?
TG: Sure, we are living through a very challenging, difficult time – one more test for us, not the first, nor the last… During this time, I’ve lost some opportunities to exhibit and sell because of the health restrictions. But there has been no big impact on my sensibility. But no matter what happens, the “show must go on!”