INTERVIEW | LEIF LOW-BEER

The world of artist Leif Low-Beer is filled with intersections. It is where the rational meets the expressive, where structures collides with coincidences and where evolving stories wander around in pointlessness.

Originally Leif Low-Beer grew up in Toronto, Canada, but for the past 15 years he has been situated in Brooklyn, New York. His work mainly consists of sculptures and installation works, but he also does drawings and paintings. “I also enjoy a good game of ping pong,” Leif adds. Juxtaposing various materials and shapes, Leif creates weirdly familiar arrangements that draw parallels to both modern still life photography, native totems, readymades and the playfulness of the 1980′s Memphis movement. Even though his sculptures contain elements that are seemingly driven by coincidences Leif puts an immense amount of attention to every single detail of his works. We took a little chat with Leif to get a better understanding of his work and creative processes.

“The consummation is postponed or never happens” | All works by Leif Low-Beer.

“The consummation is postponed or never happens” | All works by Leif Low-Beer.

Installation at Beginnings Gallery.

Installation at Beginnings Gallery.

What made you choose your current path?
I actually studied fine art for a while, but I was turned off by all the words — the tendency to ask “why why why” before something was even started. At that moment it felt to me like too much work was made with an idea already in mind. Often those ideas had an insular sensibility — the work sometimes seemed like self-referential art for academics or for a small circle of like-minded artists. As a result, I switched to philosophy for a few years, and then switched into the commercial arts. This work eventually reminded me about the process of making, moving and exploring. It opened me up to the possibility of finding looser “stories” through process. I enjoy pressing forward while having no idea where I’m going (a place that, for better or worse, I seem to continually occupy).

In certain ways I still prefer the commercial world for its directness and honesty, but I think the potential for me to make the best things is in an open, less-directed situation. In the end I guess that the “art project” is for me a more interesting project.

“Nordic donors tend to be tall and highly educated” | Sculptures.

“Nordic donors tend to be tall and highly educated” | Sculptures.

Can you tell us about your working process?
Over the last years, I’ve come to realize more and more that I’m not really interested in straight abstraction. I’m always creating through some sort of story or pictorial space. It can be a very simple pictorial story – representing the inside, outside, and landscape around an art space, for example. There are also more complex stories – the relationship between multiple lovers, or as my most recent work was titled, “Robots of social control watch the sunset.”

“Robots of social control watch the sunset.”

“Robots of social control watch the sunset.”

I have rules for pictorial spaces and I chase stories while improvising within these rules. I often collaborate with myself over time, working on many pieces at once, putting them aside and then picking them up again later. By mixing ideas formed at different times, I’m attempting to discover new stories, to push at the edges of what I think makes sense, both narratively and visually (in the titles I usually hint at these stories, but in a fairly light way — I want the viewer to continually look and find). Technically there is not too much to tell, other than the fact that I use just about anything to make a mark. I sometimes leave both sculptures and drawings for weeks or months, shifting them and changing them, taking them apart or matching them with others before I can commit.

The practice of dictating precise arrangement has varied across cultures and historical periods.

The practice of dictating precise arrangement has varied across cultures and historical periods.

Do you have a project that you are especially proud of?
I really enjoyed working on my piece at Socrates Sculpture Park, entitled “A peach viewed at the just right angle sits perfectly sandwiched between the sill and the horizon, touching the shed on one side and a tree on the other.” I’m not sure if it’s my favorite work, but it was really nice to work on a larger scale, and to work outside (they have an outdoor studio). I was able to work towards some larger ideas about perspective and fixed-point-of-view that I’ve had bumping around in my head for quite a while now. I hope to be able to continue to explore such Ideas in even bigger formats (I’m always looking for new spaces).

Studio.

Studio.

What are your biggest source of inspiration at the moment?
I’m constantly stealing moments from things I see or that excites me. I integrate these with my own interpretations, as part of a larger context; it’s all about a collection of small moments. In general I try to see as much of everything as I can. From blue-chip galleries, “outsider” art shows to junk shops. Keeping moving (in all its interpretations) is one of the ways I continue my practice.

Performance | Thuja plicata 5 | Lions | Thuja plicata 2.

Performance | Thuja plicata 5 | Lions | Thuja plicata 2.

This approach has led to some questions lately, as I try to maintain the tension between maximalism and minimalism. In my work I naturally lean towards combining and adding and combining — many little ideas that form a whole. But I’ve been considering the possibility that I ought to let the viewer see one moment at a time. There are generalists who like to hop around formats and subjects, and then there are artists who focus on a single idea until it is exhaustively explored (Tal R vs. Chuck Close, for example). For me, this distinction loosely parallels the conflict between maximalism and minimalism. I am often happy to envision a minimalist room with simple, beautiful lines, beside a jam-packed room that has almost too much to look at and explore.

Process.

Process.

What are you working on right now? Can you show us any work-in-progress?
I’ve been getting more dense with my drawings, dealing with landscapes and depth. These are maybe more abstract than usual, but they still almost always have a story of some kind (at least in my mind). I haven’t been working on as much sculpture lately, but when I am, I’m trying to think about them in terms of being more boxy and weird. And of course my mind is always on installations.

Series of drawings done inside the museums of Berlin.

Series of drawings done inside the museums of Berlin.

I’m also working on a few more “project-y” projects, more sort of “art projects.” They are interesting I think, but I’m not really sure how full or rich they are, and I’m deciding if I want to invest time on that kind of thing.

What are your hopes, dreams and plans for the future?
l’d love to work on some more installations. The dream would be to work on some really big ones. (I’m always looking for spaces).

Do you have any piece of advice for fellow creatives?
Ummm — Just do it?

And if there’s anything else you would like to add, please feel free to include it. :)
I find myself actually kinda liking Instagram.

OK Mountain installation “It was, unfortunately, les mots et les choses (the order of things)”

OK Mountain installation “It was, unfortunately, les mots et les choses (the order of things)”

Rikke Luna (f. 1988) og Matias Albæk-Falk (f. 1988) er stiftere af idoart.dk, og driver derudover formidlingsbureauet I DO ART Agency samt forlaget I DO ART Books.